Instant Recipe to Cook a Car: Just (Don’t) Add Water


It was night. It was cold. It was wet.

It was in the middle of nowhere, and I would be stuck there for the next hour. That’s what the roadside assistance company said.

This wasn’t how holiday homecoming trips were supposed to go. And what made it all worse, was the noise. The loud, incessant noise. Not from the car’s bonnet—which was smoking quietly on its perch at the shoulder of a rural road—but from the car’s backseat, where two preschoolers made it clearly known that they were sick of being in a car at all, thank you very much, let alone one that was going nowhere.

Also, there was a roast dinner waiting for me at home, with Husband’s signature roast potatoes—a delicious achievement he mathematically and scientifically developed to its culinary apex. The perfect roast potato.

I imagined them cold and wrinkled. That’s how they’d look when I’d finally see them.

“Mummy, wanna gettout’a car!” yelled a child. One of them, or the other. By the time a child has reached that degree of entropic despair, one screech sounds much the same as another.

For myself, I was glad my sister was with me. Practical reasons for that would come later, but initially I was just glad for her witness and inclusion. Misery loves company, and all that. Or at least, it likes to have a clear head to see the way out. And I didn’t have one of those, myself. Yes, I was glad she was in it with me.

Then I was glad she had a powered cellphone, as the battery on my own was almost out.

Then I was glad I had someone else to hold a child so both of them could have time out the car they were so sick of. (I later wondered if so many passersby would have pulled over to check we were alright, if we weren’t such a despondent sight—two women, each holding a small miserable child, stranded in the cold miserable rural darkness.)

Then I was glad she was happy to chat with the truck driver while we waited for Mum to arrive—we needed Mum to pick up the kids, as the truck could only take two adults in its cab. My sister’s talk was positive and energetic, which made me feel less close to the bottom of a pessimistic pit.

Then I was glad she was on hand to aid transition of car seats and children to Mum’s car.

Then I was glad that she was willing to chat to the truck driver during the ride. I was too distracted to talk. I was looking out the back window of the cab to my sad-looking yellow lancer perched on the flatbed, its hazard lights still blinking intermittently. Like glistening car tears.

Then I was glad she let the driver leave my car on her front lawn. My insurance covered rescue and delivery to the nearest town—which was hers, not mine. She said we’d leave it at her place, then she’d take me and my stuff the rest of the way to my house, we’d have roast potatoes in whatever state they’re in, and we’d make a game plan the next day. After a glorious sleep.

Yes, I was certainly glad to have had her with me…for all those practical reasons, and besides.

…That all happened over a week ago, and there hasn’t been a happily ever after for my pretty yellow car. His motor was diagnosed as cooked, so it will need to be replaced. I’m told that’s typically thousands of dollars—a lot of people just elect to buy another car, rather than replace a motor. Insurance won’t play any part, as the incident was due to mechanical failure rather than theft or being hit by a rampaging dragon. (Actually, they might not cover the dragon thing, either.)

My mechanic’s still collecting availabilities and price indications from suppliers, regarding a second-hand engine. Once we have that, Husband and I will have to make a decision of whether to buy another motor and its installation, or another car.

According to every mainstream national car sales online resource, there are currently no yellow, automatic-transmission station wagons (or other models with boot space for a double pram), available in our price range anywhere in New Zealand.

Which means if we buy another car, odds are high that it won’t be yellow. And that makes me sadder than anything else about it.


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