When performing an expert u-turn on a small suburban street in the middle of the night, watch for curbs. And small animals. But mostly the curbs because the small animals have sense to get out of the way even when finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. You will pop a tire and end up calling someone to bring you a jack at three in the morning.
It happens to the best of us.
Out on my newspapers a few weeks ago, I curved my way through these mean streets. It was a week day, no drunk college students stumbling around out of rental houses yelling "Goddamn come back here you bitch and unbreak my heart." People were asleep and proud to be so.
My Toyota Corolla is named Mabel. I named it that the same way I have named every car I am in control of for extended periods: I yell encouraging thoughts to them as I coast to the gas station while the gauge tilts towards the end and a name comes. I have named every car this way and can not wait to win the lottery and never have to name a car the same way again.
All but the first car, of course. That first car was the Grey Lady, named by my father because he likes to give names. He has a dozen or so goats with names like Oreo and Oprah and Oscar. Oscar is a baby and bites and Oprah likes to yell. Oreo has a creamy center, I suspect.
My father named the Gray Lady because the car is gray and drifted along the streets like a regal body should. At least when he got the Oldsmobile in 1983. Fifteen years later when he dropped the keys in my hand and said, "You can't break her," he had customized some of her more delicate parts.
The Gray Lady had a light switch to turn on the windshield wipers. Two speeds: stop and wipe. On late and rainy nights when I had driven a long way, it also had a blanket in the back seat because I do not have a death wish. She also had a horn, if you can call a random button connected to a small squawk box installed above the front right tire. I used it once and still remember the ungodly sound crying forth from that nobel lady.
The following vehicles were Ruby, Opal, Pearl, and Chet. I had a thing for jewels that I am just now noticing writing those out. The cars sort of matched each jewel. Ruby was a red Buick. Opal had a gold color that got a little paint on her one day. Pearl was a solid black, and I'm pretty sure named after the ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. No one ever accused me of having a great imagination.
And of course, who could forget the jewel of the mountain lands, Chet. Legend has it the sacred stones of Chet were worn on the royal crowns of ancient Mesopotamian rulers. Chet ingots have been mined all around the world and used for many dark purposes, often in compasses. Chet was a Pathfinder who caught fire one day because radiators do not like transmission fluid and the manufacturers made a mistake. RIP by good friend who took me up mountains.
I got Mabel about two years ago. She got me across the country three times, around the bayou and mountains. She has been with me every night with the newspapers, loyal to a fault. I try to take care of her and keep her oil right and cleaned every few weeks. Sometimes I fail her, though.
The night a few weeks ago I took that u-turn too fast and clipped a curb I had never clipped before on a street I had driven for months. I hurt my friend, and she cried out in the soft whisper of air escaping a hole in her tire and my heart. Then when I got her up on the jack, the street was unlevel, and she slipped off. I think there's some metal bent somewhere because she whines a little now.
I promise I'll get you taken care of, Mabel. Just get me through one more month like all the friends I've had before.