Friday, February 17, 2006

I Did A Man Thing!

So far there have never been fully-fledged rumours - at least none that have ever filtered back to me - but some have been mistakenly under the impression that I... how can I put this delicately? Bat for the other team. Swim up a downward flowing river. That I'm good with colours.

You know - gay.

Despite saying the dreaded sentence, "not that I have anything against 'em", I'm really not. I'm a big fighter for gay rights and equality and am horrified at anyone who genuinely thinks that they don't deserve equal treatment, but I've just never looked at another man and got the familiar trouser tingle that I get with, say, Tyra Banks or Jennifer Love Hewitt. Ye-e-e-e-essss.

That said, I'm not what you could call a "man's man" in the traditional sense. I don't go hunting, I don't chew tobacco, I own "Ultimate Kylie", I can't recite sports results (I'm not even really all that interested in sports outwith of British soccer), guns don't interest me... an ex-co-worker of mine was perplexed at my raging heterosexuality after I replicated the dance from the Village People's "In The Navy". Another ex-co-worker took my perceived homosexuality as read after we had a conversation extolling the virtues of a campy Australian soap opera that was a favourite in the gay community. But, and this may be the bone of contention for some, I don't know or care anything about cars. (not that gay people don't know about them, but you know fiercely straight men... if you're not grunting at power tools or excited about attending some sort of car show, you're automatically a lisping, chiffon-wearing queer) I get in, turn on the ignition and it goes - that's the extent of my technical knowledge. That's all I want to know. I couldn't give a tinker's cuss about what 'torque' is, what a car's horsepower is, whether it has a hemmy, a homey or some honey or how fast it can go from nothing to sixty. If it wasn't for the fact that my car dings and switches on a light, I probably wouldn't even remember to put gas in. That's how much I don't care about them. The little "oil change" sticker that the last garage I went to helpfully attached to the windshield is so old, it's printed on parchment and says "Prithee - thou art next scheduled for thy oile change on ye eighteenth daye of Julye in ye year of our Lord, fixteen hundrede upon fixety feven", and it's from "Pepys Road Motors". (oh man, that's the obscurest joke I think I've ever told! Intrigued? Scroll down to the end for ye explanation.)

Whenever something goes wrong with a car of mine, there are usually people smarter than I around to lend a hand. From diagnosing problems to jump-starts, I rely on the kindness of strangers and friends and relatives to keep me from blowing myself up/electrocuting myself/getting my hair caught in the spinny parts of the engine, so imagine my surprise and horror when I found out that the battery on the car Mrs Spike had been driving had gone flat and that it was up to me and me alone to jump it. In the dark. By myself. Oh crikey.

From what I had seen when I needed the help, there is some sort of order to putting the clips on. I'm familiar with electronics enough to work out that red is positive, black is negative and never the twain should meet unless you want to look like Don King, but there were still too many questions that needed answering before I was even going to attempt to try it. Does the working car need to be running when you attach the clips? Do you do it red to red then black to black? Should I be wearing rubber gloves and rubber shoes? How long should either car run before it all takes effect? So, one quick phone call to my infinitely smarter father in law who - used to my cartoonish stupidity when it comes to practical matters - explained it to me like a three year old, which I need, and I was armed with the knowledge. All that I needed was to shed the fear of actually doing it. See, I know a bit about electronics. I know that the shock you could get off of a battery required to run a car is significantly larger than the warm tingle one experiences when a 9-volt battery is pressed to the tongue, so I was apprehensive about it all and spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how I was going to connect the clips to the battery without letting the other ends touch. It certainly didn't help matters that my moral cheeleader, Mrs Spike, stayed indoors to take care of the kids whilst I hummed and hawed about how it should work. If something did happen, it might be ten minutes before she peeked out to see that I was charbroiled.

But I did it. I placed the unconnected ends down on the ground, one on the road, one on the grass with the curb keeping them apart, and set about clipping the clips to the battery. Now I've got bony girl arms and weak hands (see also: rumours, first paragraph), so this was difficult to achieve... but I did it. Then, newly paranoid about the now-live ends of the cables setting fire to my lawn, I gingerly picked them up and connected them to the dead battery, wincing the whole time and bracing myself for sparks, explosions and my entire life flashing before my eyes. Instead, the lights in the dead car came on and it started first time, sounding as healthy as it has ever been. Huzzah! Happy with my success, I stared proudly at the two cars working together and basked in the glory that I had actually done something to fix them! I FIXED A CAR!

After a time, another niggling question came to mind. What order should the damn things come off? See - this is now a worse situation than before, because now there were two live batteries I had to deal with. How do I deal with the live ends not touching when I have to disconnect the other side? And do I need rubber gloves now? So it was back on the phone with my father-in-law who confirmed that there was no cryptic order for the clips to come off, but just to make sure they don't touch. Somehow, I managed it.

20 minutes in the car listening to the radio later and the car was back to its former glory. I triumphantly strode back into the house, took off my shoes and waited for the wave of testosterone to wash over me - prepared for the fact that now I was a guy who fixed cars, I could fully expect to transition into a camo-wearing Nascar fan who pops a woody anytime someone mentions firearms. Instead, I put on a Barbara Streisand album and watched the Style network. Hey - change never comes overnight.

Pepys Road Motors: As those of you who enjoy olde English literature will be aware, Samuel Pepys was a wank-happy, 17th century diarist who provided first-hand accounts of several important historical events in his private diaries. 'Peat Road Motors' is where my dad bought at least one Lada in the early 80s; a tank-like Eastern European car that cost half nothing new. They've all gone now. Lada became a successful brand in Russia and Peat Road Motors has long since gone. You can watch a tv commercial for them by clicking the name, though.