Friday, January 22, 2021

My Car/My Covid Self

My car and I are experiencing Covid in parallel. Not “together” because mostly, I don’t go anywhere so I don’t drive anywhere, but we’re still tied up with each other, both liberating and traumatizing each other.

Sophie tells us that the Covid experience is markedly different if (1) you have a backyard and (2) you have a car. I am incredibly grateful to have both. So my car meant I could Get Out and About. I was free! Thank you, car.


I’ve already explained here that this is a car with gizmos, that it has “features” that are supposed to enhance my driving experience. That’s what happens when you replace a 1998 car with a 2017 car.

One of the “features” of this car is that it goes dead. When I go away for a month, it is dead when I return. But with Covid, the car was going dead every other time I got in it. We were Tim was constantly jumping it.

When I take my car into the repair shop, I tell them I am a woman who mostly drives alone, so it’s up to them to make sure my car will NEVER break down, never leave me vulnerable in some dark, deserted place. That works. I have only had very reliable cars.

Until mine started going dead. A lot. Mostly, it went dead in the garage, but then it went dead at the grocery store.

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: Both of us are having trouble leaving the house. No matter how much we may want to be part of the world, we’re retreating. We just don’t go.

Apparently, according to the battery man, I have to drive my car enough for it to recharge the battery. Driving it once a week, maybe to the grocery store five minutes away for pickup is not enough. I have to drive it at least eleven miles.

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: It seems that neither of us is getting enough exercise.

So I take a Big Excursion to Target, which is only 7.3 miles away, but I stop at the library and keep the car running during curbside pickup, so I think that counts. I happily find birthday cards for my sister … and in the parking lot, my car is dead as a doornail. It is dark, cold, and far from home.

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: We are both traumatized, paralyzed with anxiety.

I ask the friendly Channel 2 News anchorman who has unluckily parked next to me if he would jump my car. I pull out my handy dandy jumper cable case with the instructions on the outside.

Nothing doing. I phone Tim and stand in the now-vacant space next to my car, waving away all the other people who want that space and who think I am an asshole. I explain and one guy offers to jump it.

 “No, thank you, my husband is on his way.” (I want my husband!)

Tim conquers 7.3 miles of rush-hour and bad weather, arrives, hooks up the cables, and sits with his engine running, giving my car an infusion of energy. I vibrate.

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: Little by little, both of us calm down and can now direct our nervous energy toward Getting Home. We can start. The clock in the car is now two hours behind. I am not sure what day it is; my car is not sure what time it is.

Once home, Tim says, “Tomorrow we can take your car in.”

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: Now that we are safe in the garage and safe at home – kissing the ground! – we are not leaving.

Days go by, and I eventually take the car into my trusty Subaru mechanic. J-T tells me that these newer cars have so many security features and special electronics, that they are always draining energy. The little red light that’s always blinking is the sign that the car is monitoring itself. If you don’t drive it enough, it won’t recharge enough to be able to start up.

Barbara/Car Covid Parallel: I am constantly ruminating over every little issue, monitoring my mental health and my awkward social interactions. Now I know that my car is doing the same thing! Are my fluid levels good, what about my tire pressure? Did I embarrass myself on that Zoom call, how can I feel purposeful again?

But J-T has a solution: he installs a little Battery Minder in my car. Kept plugged in, it sends a little trickle of energy to my car while it sleeps. My well-rested car is now happy and eager to start up and go.

I need a Battery Minder.

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