Our van died this week. The transmission had a funny little hiccup on Sunday -- hardly noticeable -- and then three more hiccups on Monday afternoon. I dropped it at the shop on Monday night after what I thought was a case of the hiccups turned into booming borborygmi that threatened to strand me in the parking lot outside the Boy Scout meeting. I shut it down and said a prayer, after which I was able to exit the parking lot and drive it to the shop. When the maintenance guys tried to test it out the next morning, it stranded them in the middle of the road. Oops!
A transmission rebuild would cost more than the van is worth, so we're in the market for a replacement vehicle. Four years ago we bought an 8-year-old Odyssey, which served us well until the booming borborygmi episode, so we were looking for something similar this time. There was an 8-year-old Odyssey on Craigslist, and my husband made arrangements to meet the seller at 7:30 at a tire shop in an industrial neighborhood. Right afterward, he remembered that this conflicted with a meeting he'd thought about attending at church. "You could just go without me," he suggested.
My instant response: nope. Not happening. He looked puzzled. "Elwood," I said, "I'm not going to an industrial part of town after dark to meet an unknown man from a Craigslist ad." I said, "Women don't do that."
I don't think I'm a fearful person. I'm not bothered by walking alone in my neighborhood after dark. But there was absolutely zero chance that I was signing up for that combination of risks: heading over after dark to a street full of empty lots and closed businesses, with the purpose of test-driving a vehicle while accompanied by a strange man -- who's been soliciting contacts from minivan purchasers (mostly moms, yes?) via Craigslist. I thought, "What if I were a single mom? What does my friend Jenny do if she needs to test-drive a car? Am I overstating the case when I say 'women don't do that'?"
There's a big spread here, I think-- women who don't like to walk alone at night even in the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, and women who are braver than me as well. There's a big spread among husbands, too-- mine has always been certain that I can take care of myself. (Sometimes too certain, actually.) Long ago I had an acquaintance who told me that her husband wouldn't allow her to pick up a purchase from the house of a man I knew -- even in broad daylight, even with my assurance that with Moses out of the picture this guy was the meekest man on the face of the earth. I'm not sure I can type the phrase "My husband won't let me..." without my fingers seizing up (phew! made it!), so that was surprising for me to hear. (This seemed to be a happy marriage, so please comment gently if you're commenting on that.)
We test-drove the car together and it went fine, but my husband was still surprised afterward when I told him I would have been extremely uncomfortable doing it alone. I don't care how nice the owner seemed; Ted Bundy made a particular point of seeming sweet and vulnerable. And I know there are very few Ted Bundys in the world, and I'm pretty confident in my ability to cause substantial pain and distress to anyone foolish enough to accost me, but I would have to be facing down a hair-on-fire emergency to think it was a reasonable choice to meet a strange man in a dark and lonely place.