Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Saturday, July 06, 2013

In which we have an adventure--

Although this blog is a books blog, I can't resist talking about the occasional ridiculous event. Yesterday my husband and I and our eldest went out of town to look for a used car, as Ben is moving back to North Carolina. I had researched places in the region and picked one I thought was especially informative and had prices that seemed quite fair. My husband has a great sense of direction, so I didn't pay much attention to where we were going...

We get there; I mention my surprise at finding that the online cars were already sold. There's one that's in the right price range. I don't feel that it looks quite as substantial as I thought that price range would look. In fact, it looks like a little blue tin can and reminds me of my family's Opel Kadett from a zillion years ago, when I was a mere sprat of 15. I have never even heard of the model. The brand is vaguely familiar. We chat with the salesman, and Mike tells a funny story about his grandfather buying a Cadillac, and how it caught on fire on the way home.

We get in with the friendly, large salesman. We head out, accompanied by the noise of several lawnmowers. We go a mile or so and then veer toward the interstate. I always find it a wee bit disconcerting to be driven about by anyone whose diapers I recall changing, and so I jumped a bit at a loud, ratcheting noise when we moved vigorously to the left.

A wisp of smoke passed my window. More wisps. Or was it steam? I write DUBIOUS on my printout of cars and show it to be husband. He looks at the word for a moment as though considering and then looks at me. He is wearing sunglasses so I can't see his eyes, but I know what he means. Then more and more wisps sprout from the hood, and I start to wonder if we should stop, and all leap from the little blue car. I wonder how quickly the salesman can leap, as he is wedged into the rather small passenger seat with little space to spare.

But we putter on with the not-terribly-musical noise of lawnmowers, the right side of the car streaming with smoke or steam. I am glad Ben cannot see all that whatever-it-is too well from the driver's seat. In the distance, I make out the car lot. Finally we are back! The car dies halfway into the parking spot and will not budge.

How'd you make out, the manager begins to say as we are enveloped in clouds. The little blue dragon car steams--it is steam, not smoke--mightily, oozing scarves all along the hood's edge. I start to laugh but manage to control myself. Then we all laugh, taking turns and trying to be polite in between. Mike says he must have jinxed it with the Cadillac story. Then they drag open the hood, and whoosh! steam geysers into the sky. Ah. It's the water pump, snapped right off.

We are all very friendly, but Mike and Ben and I pile into my little Corolla and zip off. We stop at the next car dealer, just to walk around and stare at the cars, even though it's too late to talk to a salesman. As we are walking, I begin to grasp what happened. The thought creeps into my head that there was a reason none of the cars were on the lot--that the place we went was entirely the wrong spot, that this is not the right road. I laugh. And I laugh some more. I hold hands with my husband and laugh it all out. Nearly. Every now and then I laugh again.

I feel absurdly happy.

We survived!

We find the right place at the very start of twilight, somewhere in the country and surrounded by fields, and there are most of the cars that I had looked at online. We like an Accord and an Alero, which Ben likes especially because . . . well, it is red. This morning we go back and test drive them both and then put down a deposit on the silver Honda.


  1. I'm impressed that you all had a good laugh over that steaming car and getting lost adventure - and it made for a great story!

  2. I suppose that I could have gotten annoyed, but somehow I thought it was a riot! Which was better than getting peeved...

  3. This reminds me of the RED Opel Kadett I drove as a teenager. My father thought my mother would like driving it around town as a "zippy" alternative to the yacht-sized Plymouth. She did not, and we were stuck driving it to school, which displeased the Opel so much that it would stall on winter mornings in the middle of intersections. I suspect when my father took it to the used car lot to be sold, it performed much as this blue tin can you describe. Thanks for a hilarious story.

  4. Yes, my little blue Opel Kadett did not like winter at all! I took it off to Providence, R. I. when I went to grad school, and I met hordes of nice people whenever the little blue bug needed a jump, which was most of the time from October through April.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.