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Pins And Needles: In And Out Of The Box

...That’s me, as snug as a bug in a rug. Unflappable. Tootling through time; let the swivel-heads gape. Not everyone can handle in a single glance, an olderish woman driving a vehicle obviously meant for a kid...

Gloria MacKay delights in her grayish-beige cracker box car.

I spend over 1,200 miles a month in a grayish-beige cracker box car, my body as circumscribed as a saltine in a shot glass. I am as comfy as a trundled baby, or a wily wiener dog I once knew; when he rolled up in his blanket he turned from a big buttinsky to a brown blob of contentment in half a wag of his tail.

That’s me, as snug as a bug in a rug. Unflappable. Tootling through time; let the swivel-heads gape. Not everyone can handle in a single glance, an olderish woman driving a vehicle obviously meant for a kid. True, it does come with a nook in the console to plug in one’s iPod … I use it for breath mints.

My four previous wheels were under a gas swigging, upholstery frayed but still rather sumptuous, four door, large to the point of being unwieldy, baby blue (with a fading metallic patina), rusty-bottomed station wagon. Lingering remembrances of crab pots and forgotten bundles of newly mown grass only added to its ambiance.

For almost nine years I loved that car like a mother loves a teen-aged son, but it never made me feel as snug as a bug in a rug, and if it had I certainly would not have put it that way. Those were the years my writing group discovered I was the Figures of Speech queen. My alliterations stung their tongues like a mouth full of bees, while the power of my metaphors knocked off their socks. Similes? As sweet as syrup on pancakes.

It wasn’t me, it was my wagon, I disclaimed. I think when I drive and when I get home I write what I think. When one maneuvers a vehicle that needs better than half a block to parallel park, encroaches white lines on both sides of the parking stalls at the mall, and changes lanes like a slug caught in a trail of ants, she’d better be thinking ‘outside the box’ — a trendy term touted by therapists as though they created the freewheeling mind. (This expression began simply as a nine dot puzzle: Draw dots in a three each way grid and connect them using four straight lines without lifting your pencil: to succeed, one must think outside the box.)

My mind would kite out the door and scope the territory every time I started up and shifted from park to reverse. Somebody had to do it. The two side windows at the back of the wagon were the size and shape of cashew nuts; I couldn’t see my way down the driveway even if I went eyeball to eyeball with my rear view mirrors.

Forward? No problem, once I decided to sit on a pillow so I could see over the top of the steering wheel. My mind could float with butterflies, sting with the bees, for all I cared. By the time I got home to my computer I was so outside the box my fingers could scarcely stay on the keyboard.

One sunny afternoon a few autumns ago my son, Craig, dropped by. For some reason he ended up backing my station wagon out of the garage and down the driveway.

‘Good grief, Mom,’ he hollered (or something like that), ‘how in the blazes (or something like that) can you see out of your blankety blank car?’

‘It is a bit of stretch.’ I decided not to mention the pillow.

‘How long have you been driving this thing?’

‘I don’t exactly remember. The paperwork is inside somewhere.’

‘Good grief!’

I was wrong. Not about my cracker box — after six years I know its ins and outs better than I know my own. It does keep me as snug as a bug in a rug, or as I say to my writing group, as wee as a bee in a pea. (Can’t be trite and stay queen.)

There’s just one thing I’ve intended to ask my son … whether that music thingy I can buy that plugs into the console comes with a manual … but I already know what he’d say.

‘Good grief.’

As I stride through a parking lot I click my remote and watch my baby, almost lost in her stall, quietly light up and blink. She’s nothing like a teen age boy. More like a girl about twelve. You know how cute they are at that age. Nothing in the rear, not very much up front, but very, very cool.


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