My mother-in-law was a good sport. She didn?t complain about my driving, or my husband?s for that matter. She was just happy to go along for the ride. And she was pretty good about being on the receiving end of a good prank. We used to have some adventures?one was the ?errand from hell.? It was a cold winter day?I think it was in 1998. My mother-in-law had some serious health problems, and one of her challenges was living with diabetes. She lost part of her left leg, and the disease affected her eyesight. So that day, I took her to the eye doctor for a check. The temperature dropped, so after her appointment, I took her to lunch. When we were done, a bad snowstorm was underway.
We live in Washington, D.C. Now, everyone knows that Washingtonians aren?t always the most proficient drivers in the snow (unless you?re a Midwestern transplant, and then you are obliged to openly mock us). Basically, we panic, strip the grocery store shelves of the holy trinity of supplies to necessary ride out a snowstorm?bread, milk, and toilet paper. But I digress.
So Eleanor (my mother-in-law) and I hop into my husband?s 1987 Chevy Blazer and start the arduous journey home (icy and snowy streets, no snow plow or treatment). We?re about a ? of a mile into our journey, and the truck dies. Oy. So I get out of the car, look under the hood?like I know what I?m doing (although I am a firm believer in sexual equality, there are certain household responsibilities that fall under the purview of gender?car maintenance is my husband?s kingdom). Enter the good Samaritan.
The good Samaritan tells me that he?s a mechanic, and he wants to help the stranded women on the side of the road. He pokes around under the hood, and finds out that my husband has a can of ?Engine Start? in the truck. Let?s just say that I found out later that ?Engine Start? is highly flammable when applied and the carburetor backfires. But I?m ahead of the story.
Mr. Samaritan asks me to start the truck while he applies the ?Engine Start.? Next, the engine combusts and there?s a raging fire. Mr. Samaritan begins to use a rag to try and smother the fire, but ?Engine Start? is on the rag. So, it?s ?Rag Start? too, eh? Panicking, I get out of the truck, take off my snappy winter cap and try to pound out the flames. Then I notice my mother-in-law, still strapped in the passenger?s seat, trying to get out of the truck. I drop my cap (which is now also on fire), and haul tail over to the passenger side, rip open the door, take off her seat belt, and proceed to carry her (hopefully) a safe distance from the truck. But wait! Her wheelchair?s in the truck and threatened by the inferno. So I hightail it back to the truck, pull out the wheelchair, slap her in it, and race up the street!
By the time I can refocus on the truck, Mr. Samaritan doused the fire. I guess he gave up on the rag technique. I was pretty happy that all?s well that ended well. My husband? Not so much. Lessons learned?
Before letting a Samaritan work on your car, always ask if he is a shade tree mechanic or a licensed mechanic (and not by Budweiser).
?Engine Start? bad.
Mr. Samaritan, well meaning, but not so much.