That’s what my car used to be. Until 90 minutes ago.
Zelda Maleficent Jolene Fitzgerald and I became best of (car) buds in 2013, after my grandmother’s reliable and sweet Ford Taurus, Ruby, was totaled by an idiot driver who was too cool to stop at a red light, I guess. Zelda was born, a metal, Korean-made phoenix from the smoky ashes of Ruby’s airbag.
Zelda, unlike Ruby, is metropolitan. She’s chic. Like her namesake, Zelda Fitzgerald, she sees no boundaries between where she is and where she wants to go. Her middle names come from the Disney live-action remake, “Maleficent,” which spoke all-too-deeply to me about the character development and personal growth that challenges a woman who’s had her power stripped from her. And “Jolene” is my favorite Dolly Parton song. Hence. Zelda Maleficent Jolene Fitzgerald.
And suddenly, today, she was no longer a fat ass. As of 1:02pm today, she has no rear bumper.
Merging onto Los Angeles freeways is probably tantamount to the coming-of-age ceremonies in Medieval times. If you make it successfully, you are a full human. If not, you die. So merging onto the 5N freeway from the curvaceous 110S freeway has always been an act of bravery, requiring steely nerves, not for the faint-of-gasoline pedal. Alas, my time had come to endure what countless drivers have before me—the fated big rig collision on one of the most dangerous merging lanes in Los Angeles County.
I don’t completely blame him—he didn’t see me, so he didn’t slow down. Zelda is such a sporty gal, so she really sneaks by sometimes. I merged, with enough space between us, but the big rig was just too big. My rear bumper came off with a heart-crushing sound and a lateral movement like swiping lipstick off my lips with a tissue. And suddenly, the bumper was gone. A part of her lies on the side of the 5N freeway, a witness to the Los Angeles metro scene until a lonely city worker comes, picks it up, and takes it to be recycled. A part of Zelda, now sucked into the Circle of Life, never to be seen again. Perhaps the metal will make its way onto another car, maybe a luxury car. I hope she’s reborn onto Rodeo Drive—it would make Zelda’s legacy sweet.
Oh, but the day did not end when the officer said, “Adieu.” The day had to continue. It was, after all, only 1:30 in the afternoon.
I filed my insurance claim on the spot, like a good little insurance adjuster’s daughter. I wrote down the information, the claim number. My stomach sank a little at the deductible I’d have to pay, but such was the adult life, full of paying for things you really wish didn’t cost you anything.
I drove my bumperless Zelda back to my parents’ after affirming that I’d be able to borrow one of their cars for the time that my gal was in the shop. Once I got to my parents’, I breathed a little sigh of relief as I plopped down my computer bags onto the couch. No one was home—they were all out gambling at a casino, party animals—so I strategized the cars I’d have to move to borrow my brother’s blue Elantra, moving it from its last place in the driveway to the first.
But as I walked back outside to retrieve more bags from Zelda, a gust of wind blew through the porch, changing the air pressure inside the house, and the front door shut.
I pressed down on the latch of the front door, knowing full well that I had NOT unlatched it and that it WOULDN’T open, but perhaps hoping THIS time I might have just pressed it hard enough to where it opened on its own. Maybe it knew my struggle and would just open out of pity?
I went to the back gate, where to my dismay, I found the lock latched. I was standing outside my parents’ house, with my car keys, and no way of getting into the house again.
Or so I thought.
“No, there’s got to be a way . . . I’ll make a way . . .”
I drove Zelda up to the veeerrryyy edge of the gate without hitting the gate, stood on the hood of my car, and reached over the edge of the gate. I unlocked the padlock, hopped off the hood, and swung open the gate. Barrier 1, done! I drove Zelda back onto the curb to make room for the other cars I’d have to move.
Walking to the backyard, I tried the back door. Drat! Locked. But I was not defeated! God knows I wouldn’t surrender!!!
I glanced at the windows and spotted one without a screen. Was it . . . it was unlocked! It stood next to the air conditioning unit, but it was too far from it for me to safely stand and push myself inside. I’d need something to stand on to hoist me onto the windowsill.
“Think, Jackie, think . . . ”
I saw a set of folding chairs by the patio and immediately knew what I had to do.
I grabbed the nearest one, but was worried about the efficiency of climbing through a window with a long maxi skirt. So of course, I tore off my skirt like a cabaret dancer, stood on the chair, and pushed up the window.
The window wouldn’t stay open, so I glanced around for something tall and steady with which I could prop it open. I looked inside and saw my mom’s cookbook nook. I grabbed the tallest one I could maneuver reaching, vertically standing it up to hold the window up. I pushed one leg through the window. The book dropped, but just in time, I grabbed the window with both hands, and held it above my head as I swung my other leg through. Then I gingerly closed the window.
What an absolutely terrible 90 minutes of my afternoon! But everything was okay. I was safe and unharmed, the claim had been filed, and eventually my car would be fixed. I stood up and took a breath of gratefulness that I was okay. And then I realized I wasn’t wearing my skirt. I unlocked the back door and went outside to grab it from the swing where I’d placed it. Hope the neighbors didn’t see!