Funny Story: Cars Are a Boy’s Thing

Cars are a boy’s thing. And as much as that hurts my inner feminist to say that, it’s better than the alternative of perhaps admitting I have a disability of the brain.

Complex programming, computers, science, maths – no problems.
Learning foreign languages – Comment allez-vous? Je voudrais une bier, s’il vous plait.
Cars – err… where do I refill the oil again?

Should I ever be caught out in a group of male friends sharing an animated conversation that starts with “Mate… you should’ve seen the fully sick Nissan 350Z that was hooning down the M4 yesterday.” The best they could hope for from me is slightly squitty expression, while I hurt my brain trying to imagine what one looks like.

Yet my ignorance is not from lack of trying.
I’m 25 years old and have been a driver for seven years. I’ve had dad run me over the basics of car maintenance numerous times. I’ve had boyfriends and brothers point out all manners of cars and tell me their names, makes, model and detailed specs. But nothing sticks.

I am not a bad car owner. While it requires call centre assistance from dad, I check the oil regularly and always have it serviced when it’s due.
Also – I’m not a bad driver. The dints in side of my car are not my doing.

The ‘troubles’ started with a mad drunk on a bad hair day. My mild-mannered car was waiting for me to return in a car park outside the local pub, when an enraged drunk bodily smashed through the pub’s front window and picked a fight with my car. Probably over a girl. My car got a few good shots in as well.

I think that’s when my car started hanging out with the wrong crowd, y’know, the sort of people who you find congregating in McDonald’s carparks way past midnight.

Next, it stole away in the midst of the night from our Leichhardt home with a bunch of unwashed youths, and went for joyride.
I didn’t sleep all night, tossing and turning over the horrors it might be getting up to, wondering where it was, if it was safe and warm enough. Oh runaway, come home.

A call from Manly police came the next day to say they had found it. ‘Probably in a McDonald’s carpark with a pack of cigarettes’ I thought, as I caught the bus up north to retrieve the delinquent.
I told it how very disappointed I was as I drove home, sitting amongst the finger print dust and smudged CDs. (The youths had stolen off with the player, but had decided that Jimmy Barnes was not fully sick enough, and nonchalantly ejected him onto the passenger’s seat.)
I installed a car alarm and imposed a curfew.

Not long after, we moved to a fancy suburb and I stopped worrying about my car’s errant ways as it made new friends amongst the porches and the clean-shaven 4WD’s.
I relaxed and began to sleep well at night.

And then… one morning I walked out to my car, and found it in a compromising position.
It’s screw-in petrol cap was missing. So, in fact, was the petrol door. Vanished without a rusty squeak.
After a bit of ranting and raving, I summoned my trusty sidekick – my partner and a male. My car was getting out of control. This was going to need a man’s heavy-handed tactics.
“Right you, to the wrecker!” he shouted as we bundled in and drove off.

Feeling like the parent of a ‘problem child’ on Parent’s Night, I could feel my stomach sinking.
Mechanics, auto electricians and other various car people make me nervous. I am morbidly afraid that my pathetic lack of knowledge of caring for a car will be exposed – and manipulated into a hefty bill.
Staring up at the wrecker’s gate, I noted with some relief that the sign read “AfFORDable spare parts.”

Walking inside, I mentally repeated to myself that I no longer drive a Laser, and I need to ask for a petrol door for a COMMODORE, lest I make an embarrassing slip of the tongue.
Exuding the exterior of a small woman that I hoped looked right at home in the surrounds of greasy, sweaty petrol cave, I stood, waiting for the staff to notice me.
At last I caught the attention of a mechanic wearing the standard uniform of a dirty blue singlet.
I approached with a million-watt smile and sweaty palms.
“Hi! Do you have a petrol door for a Ford Holden Commodore?” I chirped.

Gulp. Oh my God. I hope he didn’t hear me….
After a short pause and smirk, he asked “Round or square?”
I looked at my stupefied partner, who was backing away slowly. “Ah…” he said.
“It’s square” I said.
The smirking grease monkey looked at me: “Are you sure?”
“I’ll check, but I’m pretty sure it’s square,” I said, vividly recalling the endless times I’d opened it to put the petrol in.
The greasemonkey escorted us outside. In silence, we stood staring at the gaping hole. A perfect circle.

I allowed my partner to secure a new door in place before scuttling off home in shame, with our tails between our legs.
With a weary glance at my trusty sidekick, and a sigh of relief, I stepped out of the car and heaved the door shut.
Twanggg.
Half of the rear bumper hung swinging in the breeze.
“Cars are a boy’s thing,” I said to him.