This is a continuation of the cars and me trilogy.
Many people may suspect or have their theories of why my first marriage ended. The reason for the ending of relationships tend to be complex, I squarely place the blame on cars. Let me explain and see if you do not agree. It all started simple enough. We each had our cars. I was a poor student and she was a lab tech so by my standards she was rich. My car never had gas; in fact I remember on one of our first dates coasting down from the top of Chehaw Mountain (the highest point in Alabama) because I did not have enough money to pay for gas, something I only realized as we set out for our return. So we coasted down the mountain of twisty roads. We were young and thought it was somehow romantic to not know if we had enough gas to make it home. Later in our marriage our car broke down in some god-forsaken backwoods of Georgia. The one mechanic who worked out of his home’s garage did not have the part to fix the car, which meant he would have to travel to the big city to retrieve the part. This determined we would have to stay overnight in the god- forsaken town. We saw a hotel in our future; the town saw a truck stop’s rent-a-room by the hour in our future. It was our only option.
The foam we slept on was not exactly soft. The room was not exactly bug free. The noise of truckers was not exactly quiet. And the door to the room was not exactly secure. To make matters worse the diner under the ‘hotel’ put the greasy in greasy spoon. It was the only vegetarian option or should I say option in town. Being vegetarians we ate fries that, although we did not ask, were not vegetarian, and a salad which supposedly had lettuce and a tomato. We went to bed hungry. I slept with one eye open watching the door, knowing that somehow this was all a plot to rob and kill us. Unlike the Chehaw Mountain venture neither of us found this romantic. The times they were a-changing.
The men on her side of the family were famous for their handiness. They were part mechanic, carpenters, engineers (her brother worked on several Apollo spaceships), electricians, plumbers, and the list could go on. I was a theologian wannabe who had no discernible gifts in any of the above arts. I was constantly a disappointment to her family as they were amazed at my ineptitude at all things handy. This all came to a head on a cold and dark night in Louisville, KY. My six-months pregnant wife was scheduled to go to work that evening. The weather forecast said freezing temperatures were coming to town. I knew I needed to flush out the radiator and put antifreeze in to ensure the car worked for my pregnant wife. It was the least my male in-laws would expect from me. So I put on my heavy coat and gloves and went to flush out the radiator and add antifreeze. I successfully emptied the fluids from the radiator and was ready to put the plug back in the radiator. My hands were freezing. I tried for several minutes to put the plug back in the radiator so I could fill it with the antifreeze. But I could not; my hands needed defrosting. I went into the house of our next door neighbor, another young couple, to warm my hands. I warmed my hands and went outside once again to plug the radiator. On my third time back in their house trying to thaw my frostbitten hands, my wife was there waiting for the car. It was time for her to leave for work. I explained to her why she could not, but I assured her that I was going right out and would finish the job. She impatiently rolled her eyes. Thirty minutes later I returned. I was an icicle and had not plugged the radiator. It was then she gave me the look that only a future ex-wife could give. She, all six months pregnant of her, brushed by me and said with total disgust ‘I will do it’. The couple looked worried. She was back in in five minutes to announce she had fixed the car and was going to work. Our couple friend snickered and my future ex-wife shook her head in disbelief.
The final evidence was back when we lived in the inner city of Louisville. I was working as a minister with the homeless and living semi-communally in the center where I and others worked and lived. We lived across from the biggest government housing project in Louisville. It was a nice place with a drug buy walk up alley and a drive-up drug street. One night well after midnight (which technically means it was morning) I awoke to the most horrible screams of “do not kill me” coming from outside the building. I looked out the window and saw five to six men with bats chasing another man across the street, meaning to do him harm. I looked at my future ex-wife and said, as I placed my pants on, to call the police I had to stop this. We lived on the third floor and so I flew down the stairs and shoved the steel door open to confront the men who were trying desperately to harm the stranger. I immediately told them to stop and that the police had been called and were on their way. The men with the bats surveyed me carefully. I parted them and grabbed the man who had rolled under my car for protection and told him to go in the center. I said “men I do not want any of you to get arrested.” I told them they needed to go back across the street. They said he owned them money. I said they could collect some other time. The police were coming. After a brief stare down they left. I ran back into the center and found the man frantically sitting on the stairs. He did not want to be there. But I also noticed he did not have a scratch on him. I waited patiently for the police. After several minutes of waiting and holding the victim captive, I told him I needed to go upstairs and see why the police had not arrived. I went to our apartment and found my wife sound asleep. I woke her and said how long had it had been since she called the police. She looked at me with no shame and said she had not called them. I felt faint. “You mean I was facing off five angry drug boys with bats and you did not call the police?” She said, “No you call them yourself” and rolled over and went back to sleep. I called the police. I went downstairs. As I expected the victim had fled. I now stood in the street and waited for the police, who soon arrived. They arrived and I walked out to the police car and told them what had happened and said I guessed there was nothing for them to do anymore. They were about to leave as I turned to look at my recently purchased car that the victim had slid under to protect himself from the bats, and gasped as the whole side of my recently purchased car was bashed in from the bats. My car had been mugged. The victim was unscathed because my new car had protected him. The police were indeed needed. In the next few days I tried to convince the new insurance agent that the exclusion clause for riots was not applicable. It was a mugging, I exclaimed, not a riot.
Amazingly my future ex-wife blamed the assault on the car on me. This accusation and the lack of a certain phone call should have been enough of a sign to know she was my future ex-wife, but it would take a few more years before the eyes of my young self were opened. So now you have the evidence set before you and I am convinced you will agree that the divorce was because of cars.