One moment all is right in the world. I'm driving down the highway like any other day, finished with work, focused on the road ahead like a thousand times before. Responsibilities and troubles are on hold as I listen to the tunes on the radio.
And then, there it is. A disturbance. A noise. A noisy disturbance. Birthed from a whole slew of events and car part transactions with the road that I never knew a thing about.
It cannot be my noise.
I am not ready to be responsible for a noise.
I roll the window down to investigate — to be sure. It's hard to claim ownership of a car noise when in the buzz and humdrum of rush hour traffic.
My left ear leans outward, straining for a clue, straining for a sign, for evidence, anything that would reveal to me that it's not my noise - that I am free.
During this stage of a potential car noise, say a rumbling, clicking, or clacking sound, my eyes start to wander and suspect the cars around me. That car over there looks old, and battered, and noisy. If any car should have a noise, it should be that car. Not mine.
A moment ago I hadn't a care in the world, and now my eyes are rummaging through traffic, scouting and scanning the peripherals for cars worse off than my own.
The back of my mind is forecasting a huge inconvenience, time, money, and frustration to be suffered because of a severe lack of automotive know-how. I start looking at other drivers to see if they're looking at me.
Do they know that I have a noise?
What are you looking at?
Don't look at my car.
I can't have a noise right now.
The window is down, and I'm still straining for the source. Aha! Look, there is a much shittier car than my own right behind me. It must be their noise. What an old pathetic car they have — it probably has noises all the time.
I experience relief; a lightness replaces the tension in my body, and I can relax. I turn the music up; I breathe.
I am the person I was before the noise entered my life. My life is even better than before the noise because now I'm a person who thought they had a noise but no longer does. Get it, got it, good.
Now I'm almost home. What is that? Dammit. Is that a noise? How can this be? What are the chances?
There is no denying it now. I hear that noise, and I know that I am linked to it. It is mine to process. Mine to acknowledge. Dammit. It IS my noise. It's time to get angry because I don't think, in my opinion, that I deserve a noise.
Not right now.
This is my transportation box. It takes me to my place of work every day. Frankly, I need it to be noiseless. Why is it not noiseless? I'm shouting now. It's sinking in. I have a noise. Life must temporarily come to a halt.
I've made it home without incident. The car is parked on the street, and I'm outside watching it make the noise. I have a general idea where it's coming from. I could point to it if I had to.
It's not going away, but it doesn't seem as bad as before. I shut the car off, restart — like a computer. Okay, now turn it back on. Oh. There it is. There's the noise. Shit!
The noise is a rattle. Something is undone underneath and investigation requires a flashlight. I'll also bring a wrench because if it's a bolt then maybe I can tighten it, maybe.
I have the tools. I'm under the car; it's uncomfortable. Is this even safe? Are these parts hot? I touch them. Nope. Not hot, that's good for me. I have this wrench now. If only there was something to wrench.
Maybe that thing, the thing over there, probably not. It becomes clear that I will not be needing a wrench. What a story that would've been. Matt used a wrench. Matt tightened a bolt under the car. Don't worry everyone, the noise is gone. Good thing I had that wrench.
I get up off the ground. This is silly. I don't know what any of these parts are. My body hurts from the cement. Let me stand next to the car again and look at it.
There's an awful lot of rust on the rear door. When did that happen? Wait. Is this? This is not my car. Look. I see a girl in the driver seat looking back at me.
How did that get there? I have lost my mind. I have almost used a wrench on someone else's car.
She rolls down the window.
"Do you need me to move?"
What a nice person she is. Here I am, inspecting the underside of her car with a flashlight and a wrench and she's offering to move. I see my car now. My car is parked ten feet in front of hers. I point. We nod. Our cars are the same.
I explain the situation and try to speak when it's clearly not my turn. I laugh, silly me. Mumbles. Okay then. Sorry about that. By the way, do I give off the impression of someone who knows how to use a wrench?
It becomes clear that I am not qualified to diagnose a noise, much less be in charge of fixing it. But where to take it? I can't relax until this noise is gone. I know I don't like the last shop I took it to. They were mean. They overcharged me, I think.
Anyway, I found a new place; they have a phone number to call when you have a noise. I call. Someone answers. Hello, I have a noise. Do you fix noises?
There is a trip, I explain, over the phone, with the auto repairman. I'm taking a trip this weekend, and I need the noise gone. I know I sound desperate but can I come in the morning? This noise came at a very bad time, you see, there's no time for a noise.
They are gruff. I am not. I have a beard but I work at a desk, it's obvious. Our lives are a bit different. I have noise. They fix noise. That is what separates us.
Three seconds pass and the repair man has found and diagnosed the noise. See, the exhaust is rattling. I did see it. Did I know that yesterday? There were suspicions, I think. This is good, right? The exhaust is rattling.
We can stop it.
Can we stop it?
I think so, he says.
Let me put it on the jack and take a look.
Luckily, there is no waiting room at all, so I'm free to continue acting as awkward as possible, which is a lot. I'm wearing a puffy jacket. None of the repairmen are wearing puffy jackets. I'm not sure they know about them yet.
My backpack is full. Let me lean against the wall of the shop, I can be casual like this. How long does it take to fix a rattling exhaust? My laptop is in the backpack. I better not lean too hard on the wall of the shop, what if it hits the laptop? I'll stand up straight.
OK. Nope, you have to lean back. You cannot casually stand up straight in front of a wall; you look like a lost idiot. There's really no waiting room?
I'm not prepared for this. I was prepared for a waiting room. Or a coffee shop. My bag is filled with things, ready for an urban campsite. I pictured myself hunkered down, my coat off, typing out work.
Look, see how busy I am? I can't just stop doing things because of a noise. Let them fix the noise and I'll sit here and do my work. But I'm not. I'm standing in a parking lot, half-leaning against a shop wall.
There is only the chatter in my head.
You're all set.
I'm all set?
Rusted bracket, he says, replaced it.
I don't hear a noise anymore. I don't have a noise anymore. It's gone!
I can be that person I used to be, again, before the noise, but this time for real. There is a trip, tomorrow. The repairman asks the boss how much for the fix.
Twenty dollars for coffee money, he says. They're all nice about it. At that moment I realize this is an auto body shop, not a facility for noises.
What a deal, though. Twenty dollars, no noise, a trip tomorrow. I give the man my thanks and a little extra. He's done me a solid. He could have told me it wasn't worth their time, that I was in the wrong place.
But he knew, he saw the puffy jacket, he helped me out. Now I have no noise, and I feel much, much, much better.
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