03 September, 2011

1969 Chevy Corvair Monza – The Story Continues: Leaving my husband, surviving the DMV, and dying on Orchard Road

I moved out of the US in 2006 and every summer since, I have experienced the phenomenon of ‘expat woman migration’ in which large numbers of expat women vanish for the summer months and I sit twiddling my thumbs waiting for fall.

This summer, having finally become the wiser, I planned a migration of my own—and booked my flight ticket to the US a full three weeks before MHH’s. This was a big deal for one of us.

‘MHH, how would you feel if I went to the US a few days before you?’

‘Sure, that’s fine, honey.’

‘Are you sure? Because I don’t have to go early. It might be nice to travel together.’

‘It’s really okay.’

‘Okay…you know, if I went a week and a half before, I could be there for my niece’s birthday…’

‘Yeah, that’s fine.’

‘Really?! You would be fine for that long without me?!’

‘You might not remember this, but I actually used to live on my own before we met.’

‘Yeah, I guess…you know if I went three weeks before, I could go do this thing with my sister…’

‘Potato Woman, just go.’

So after filling the freezer with pre-cooked meals and reminding him at least five times to water the plants, I went.

My 1969 Corvair, licensed and ready for summer driving
Getting the Corvair out of storage and licensed was my first order of business. My brother-in-law John took me down to the DMV, a very generous gesture as anyone who has ever been to the DMV or DOL will know.

Here is what I learned from this experience: it is pointless trying to register a car if you don’t actually have the car with you; it is difficult starting a car when the battery is not connected; a wretchedly busy DMV is vastly improved by entertaining brother-in-laws and nice employees. 

Since the Corvair had been sitting for a while, I had Rick (Fobes Automotive) check it over, and he said it was good to go. A couple days later I had it back at Rick's for a new fuel float, but he had that fixed in short order.

One day as I was cruising into town, the Yellow Bomb decided to die at a red light. I turned the key—nothing. I turned the key and pumped the gas as Rick taught me—nothing. The light turned green. The guy behind me honked, and I got out of my car.

‘THE LIGHT’S GREEN,’ he mouthed, making wild pointing gestures at the light.

‘MY CAR DIED,’ I mouthed back, pointing at my car and drawing my finger across my throat.

‘OH.’ Getting the point, he maneuvered around me while I tried the key once again.

To my surprise, the engine chugged to life, so I gunned it around the corner into the Gem Stop parking lot before it could change its mind about running. It is there that I sat concentrating really hard about what one does when one needs a phone but doesn’t have one. I concluded that I would need to Interact with Real People.

Inside the Gem Stop, after doing some Interacting, a customer offered to loan me his phone. No one answered at home. No one answered in my dad’s office. I returned the phone.

The cashier offered me use of the store phone, a clunky device sprouting Wires and Cords, and as these mysterious strings were rather short and restrictive, the guy had to stand holding the Phone Base and dial for me while I leaned over the counter to reach the Phone Receiver.

Dad finally answered and gave me some advice. The cashier wished me luck as he stashed the stringy phone back under the counter.

In the end, I replaced the battery.

Here is what I learned from this experience: when your mechanic recommends getting a new battery, you should not wait for the current one to die; Les Schwab batteries do not fit 1969 Chevy Corvair Monza battery boxes; Car Quest batteries do fit, they install for free, and they know that Corvairs have rear engines; having a mobile phone is useful, but Interacting with Real People is really not too bad.

Coming up: MHH comes to the US and we go driving! 


Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, you were probably so patient and polite throughout the whole ordeal....I would have been cursing, yelling at the person to stop honking at me, and then feeling as though I would throw the antique phone through the window if my Dad did not answer right away....or I would do that all in my mind and keep my Canadian composure in check! Way to get 'er done, Miss. Margie!!!!!

Potato Woman said...

Yeah, and now that I think about it, that guy should have helped me! Oh well. The phone thing was just funny though--I wish I had a picture of it.