I went in to the Xtra West office one recent Friday at 2:30 pm, to pick
up my cheque from last month. These details will become relevant as the
following story unfolds:
My car was parked on Davie Street, right in front of the Fountainhead
Pub. The aforementioned establishment has quite a large sidewalk patio.
It was a Friday. We were in the playoffs. It was hot outside.
When I got back inside my car, it would not start. I had chatted
outside with some fine ladies, drank half a cup of coffee and smoked
two cigarettes. It was now 11 minutes to three, and the lane I was
parked in was about to turn into a rush hour tow zone, and I was stuck
I already knew what the problem was, as it had happened a few weeks
back on my way to teach a class; my starter was going. The last time it
happened, I whacked my starter with a hockey stick and it worked fine
for another three months or so, an old trick I learned from my
consummate handyman father. But here I was again.
I was wearing a dark blue-flecked polyester wide-collar shirt, a light
blue checked polyester jacket and my new jeans. I work at home, usually
in my underwear, so Friday is my dress up day. Office workers
everywhere are whiling away the afternoon in casual jeans and T-shirts,
but Fridays I put fancy clothes on before sitting down to work. I don’t
know why. It’s just what I do.
So I removed my new jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and dug around in my
trunk for something to bash my starter with. I found, under my travel
tackle box and roll-up camping chair, a fish club. It looks like a
miniature baseball bat, and it was a gift from my Yukon godsons, always
a very practical bunch. Perfect.
When I stood up and walked around to the front of my car with it, I
heard a voice call my name.
“Ivan, is there anything I can do to help you? I’m not half as useless
with these situations as I might look, you know.” It was Darlene, the
Ambassador’s Wife, in the ever-charming flesh, lisping over the railing
onto the sidewalk. I never recognize her right away sans wig and
“Thank you, Ambassador’s Wife, but it is just my starter.” I tip my
invisible cap to her with my fish club. “It has a bald spot on its coil
or whatever. Bashing it sometimes can be effective.” I explain all this
because I like to believe everyone might be interested in mechanics, if
offered the opportunity.
“Lucky for you, you happen to have a miniature baseball bat in your
“It’s a fish club,” I explain again, for reasons stated above.
“Whatever is it for?” She shaded her eyes from the sun with long,
“It’s for clubbing fish,” I said, matter of factly.
“You carry it with you all the time?” She smirked at me, as did now the
older fag with creased trousers, and the guy with the free draft beer
sitting with him at his table next to the sidewalk, and the semi-circle
of softball dykes beside them.
“I have all my camping gear with me all the time,” I said, which is the
god’s truth; I do. It is the reason I endure the flak I get over
driving a dark purple Ford Taurus station wagon. I can be always ready
for anything in this car. It is what the spiritual essence of camping
is for me. Being ready. For anything.
A large round of guffaws emanated from the patio. Lesbians, I could see
them thinking, are so tool conscious. I am a stereotype.
“You mock me now, but wait until you need something.” I could feel the
blood in my face, and my ears were glowing pink. “Where will you be
when you need a ratchet set, or a battery operated latte whipper?
Coming by the old station wagon, that’s where.”
With that, I promptly rolled my sleeves up again and crawled under the
front end. I wailed on my starter with the fish club, slid out, and
tried to not touch anything in my car with my now filthy hands. Much to
my chagrin, there was then the added embarrassment that the fish club
fix didn’t work. My solenoid still clicked helplessly from under my
hood. I went back to my trunk for a bigger tool. By the time I crawled
under my car for a second time on Davie in rush hour with a small ax
and hammer combination, I had quite a crowd gathering. Bang bang bash
This also did not work, and now my knees were dirty, too.
The trousered man said it was my battery, and then added that Fords
were a piece of shit, anyway, and that what I needed was a Chevy. It
was my starter, and what I needed was a tow truck. The softball dykes
wanted my phone number. They made their friend tell me they thought I
was cute and offered to buy me a beer. I could have gotten a blowjob
from the single guy with the Jack Russell; I could tell by how he was
looking at me and my axe, but I didn’t have time to explain to him what
he would actually be getting himself in to. The tow truck driver was
sweet and let me smoke in the cab all the way home, if I lent him one.
What did I learn from my little incident last Friday, just after three
I learned that when it comes to mechanics, an ounce of new starter is
worth a pound of tow truck, and that I am glad I have BCAA. I also
learned that if ever I am to find myself lovelorn, I will drive down to
Davie Street on a nice day and feign car trouble. I will then pull out
anything that could be mistaken for a tool, lift up my hood and proceed
to feign knowing what to do with it. This would not be half as
effective on Commercial Drive, as broken down cars and queers with
tools are more commonplace, but it sure works downtown.
I’ll just have to remember not to wear my Friday clothes.