Not So New Nova

I didn’t mind hoisting a collapsed baby coach, a baby, diaper bag and purse on and off buses, up to and down from elevated platforms, and in and out of trolley cars. I folded a week’s worth of dirty laundry for three to fit in a shopping cart, and hauled the load uphill to our local laundry mat. Losing my post-pregnancy baby fat while getting chores done at the same time exhilarated me.

Clean clothes folded and back in their drawers and closets, I returned to the shopping center up the hill to food shop. Steadying a huge box of Pampers atop the jam-packed cart of survival supplies for the coming week, I always arriving home with no broken eggs.

I put many miles on my sturdy Graco coach. With our daughter along for the ride, I walked to local shops to buy other essentials, and to my mom’s house for visits. If an odometer spun on that blue buggy, it would’ve turned over.

Then we moved from the city. Almost overnight, I got a driver’s license, drove over a bridge that opened for large boats to pass, and up the boulevard. That same city looked different from behind a wheel than from a bus seat, where I had safely witnessed accidents and an arrest through the bus’s deluxe-sized windows.

I was a married mother, worked full-time and cared for our home. So why did I shirk from the responsibilities of driving? Driving’s a must for busy mothers and makes life easier. Right?

Not in 1988 when operating a green 1970 Chevy Nova. The thing crapped out on me in parking lots, on the bridge, just over the bridge and starting out from any Point A. Each time, after a push from another driver, including the police once, or some magic my husband did underneath it, I chugged on.

While driving to my second shift job, most vehicles headed in the opposite direction, on their way home from day shifts. Traffic was even lighter when I left work, driving home through sleeping neighborhoods. These lucky facts lessened my odds of being in someone’s way and backing up traffic when the testy Nova broke down.  

I didn’t believe that the cost of insurance and the upkeep of an automobile was money well spent. Maybe if we could’ve afforded a car that wasn’t almost as old as I was, I’d have felt differently. But for our child to escape the mire of the same city schools I crawled out of, we had to move to an area with limited public transit. I guessed those late shifters without cars swam across the river, and under the bridge that was closed to foot traffic at night, to get home.

My confidence as a driver budded a few weeks after my latest incident. Would I actually experience transporting myself to work and home each night without fear of a breakdown? I started to feel empowered inside the fading green Chevy with its stinky fumes.

Until a cloud hissed in front of me from under the hood. I was near the turn off for the bridge. If I could only get over it, I’d at least be in my new home state for damage assessment.

The few cars that passed me, waved and pointed. But I didn’t stop. Not in the middle of the boulevard!

The white smoke thickened and my visibility dropped. I missed the tricky left turn to the bridge and kept going, afraid to stop in case the car wouldn’t start again. I finally found a gas station and pulled into it. Somehow I had exited the boulevard and was in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I couldn’t call my husband to come get me because our 4-year-old daughter was asleep. He’d have to wake her and bring her with him.

Making sure my official-looking badge was still clipped to my blouse, I approached the gas station hut on its island surrounded by pumps, and asked if they had a phone. The attendant didn’t speak English, but pointed to my left.

I scanned the gray, empty, non-residential streets. A public phone hung inside its extended, tri-sided frame across the intersection. Adrenaline still at high pumping power, I power walked to the pay phone.

The dial tone in my ear answered my rushed prayer. I noted the cross streets as I punched in Mom’s number that I had memorized as a child. She was sending my brother to save me. I got back in my car that had stopped streaming smoke and locked myself in as Mom had instructed.

A man knocked on my window a minute later. I lowered the window half an inch to hear what he asked.

“What’s wrong with the car?”

I willed my voice not to shake but sound as official as my badge appeared. “I don’t know. It was smoking. My brother’s on his way.”

He ducked under the hood and then came back to the window. “A hose is cracked. I can clamp it so you can get home.”

My spider senses tingled as he scanned the inside of my car through the window. His too sweet smile and prowling eyes lingered seconds on me. He clearly didn’t work at the station because he hadn’t come from the hut or pumps.

“That’s okay. My brother’ll be here soon,” I said, and wound up the window, staring straight ahead at my open hood.

I thought he'd left, but he reappeared and stared working on my car.

I cracked the window again and said, “I don’t want you to get hurt working under there. It might still be hot.”

He came back to my window and said, “It’s fixed. I clamped it.”

“Oh, thank you.” Could he really have repaired my car? “I’m sorry I don’t have any money to pay you for your help.”

“Well.” He grinned and again his eyes swaggered to the interior of my car. “That’s okay.”

He walked away. Time tick inside me as I breathed; one, two, three minutes maybe.

Movement reflected in my side view mirror. That same man led a group of men. I heard their course language as they headed towards me.

I hoped the man in the hut wasn’t a friend of theirs and would call the police if needed.

You may have guessed that my lone cavalry arrived. My brother screeched into the station. I became hysterical, not improving the situation in which my brother was now involved. He shut the Nova’s hood and I followed him to the bridge.

“Yes, he’s home now, honey. Are you alright?” Mom asked when I called her from my side of the bridge. We continued to chat until we both had settled our nerves, then said good-night.

My husband was impressed the next day with the stranger’s handiwork. But he told me not to advertise my disability next time by keeping the hood opened while waiting for assistance. I entertained the thought that the man who helped was a good Samaritan. But in my husband’s strained face staring back at me, I knew the stranger probably fixed the car because he and his friends didn’t have one, or they wouldn’t have walked to the station. This is where my story ends, and I thank God and brother.   





  1. That was suspicious, but at least the man fixed the car, but why did he bring his friends back. Glad you stayed in the car

    1. Yes, very suspicious. And very scary. Thanks, Marie.

  2. Thank God for our angles here on earth.

  3. I'm sorry you don't have better luck with your cars. At least you have supportive family to help you out in cases like this.


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