I was in bed. It was Sunday. I had made my personal statement, and it was this: “I am not getting out of bed without pancakes.”
There was some spirited discussion before a settlement was reached, some promises were made, and my wife headed off to the kitchen. She popped her head in a minute later. “No butter. I’m going to the store.”
I turned over on my side. I could wait for butter. The butter would go, meltedly, atop the golden brown pancakes. Yummmm.
A minute later the phone rang. My wife was exercised, mightily. “Come down to the car! Now!”
“Ants!” she shouted. “Ants everywhere in the car!”
I lay there, caught between the iron pincers of a paradox. If I got up to go investigate the ants I would have broken my vow not to get out of bed without pancakes. If I didn’t get up to investigate the ants I wouldn’t get the pancakes.
I lay there and wondered what to do. Finally her voice became too insistent to ignore. “Okay,” I said. “I’m coming down.”
I went down to the parking garage where she was standing. Little lines of ants were marching down the charging cord and disappearing into the car. “What do you think?” she asked/demanded.
I studied them for a minute. “They are working a pretty good paceline,” I concluded. “But there appear to be quite a few wheelsuckers.”
This earned me a storm of anger, but before I could suggest that the ants would be better off with a double rotating line than a single one, I noticed a giant smear along the pavement, spreading out from under our Chevy Volt in a massive pool that branched off into tributaries throughout the neighboring lady’s parking space. Neighboring Lady was a clean freak.
It was a Valdez-sized spill. “Honey,” I said, as she gesticulated towards the ants. “Did you happen to notice this oil spill underneath the car?”
“No,” she said, glancing with mighty disinterest at the coursing rivulets. “Is that why the ants are coming?”
“I doubt it,” I said.
A few days earlier we had taken our car to the fine folks at Martin Chevrolet for an oil change and a tire rotation. I thought the tires were rotating fine, but they recommended it so we took it in. It might have been a coincidence, but it sure seemed strange that the oil that had heretofore all stayed inside the crankcase a few short hours after being worked on had now sprung a leak.
It was a Sunday so they were closed, and rather than drain all the oil onto our parking lot I drove down the hill, parked it in their service driveway, and let the crankcase empty on their concrete, not mine. I dropped off the key and rode my bike home. As I rode, I considered how many trips I’d made to the dealer and reflected that each time I’d put my bike in the back and ridden home. This Chevy Volt really had been eco-friendly.
The next morning they called and apologized. An evil genius at the factory somewhere had given them a defective gasket and the gasket had caused the leak and they were terrible sorry. Terrible, terrible sorry. Presumably the defective gasket had gone so far as to install itself, but I said nothing.
I picked up the car and they were sorry some more, but not as sorry as I was because when I got home I had to douse the entire parking garage with Simple Green and scrub like a madman for about an hour. Afterwards we went to Hollywood to entertain a guest. Hollywood is like hell minus the amenities. The worst part was the Chinese Theater, where an insane homeless vet lay on the sidewalk with a sign asking for money, and a few feet away two gentlemen were selling “One dollar water!” at the top of their lungs.
Each time they said, “One dollar water!” the vet would shriek, clasp his ears, and scream at them to please shut up, he couldn’t stand it, even though you could barely hear the vendors over the crowd. One of the vendors, realizing how disturbed the homeless man was, intentionally cried “One dollar water!” over and over, cupping his hand so that the call targeted the crazy dude, who with each cry would roll into a fetal ball and thrash himself on the pavement.
All around, Chinese tourists took selfies in front of the Chinese Theater, which was a fake, white entrepreneur’s imitation of a Chinese building.
We got back into the car and raced down the 101 at five or six miles per hour. Suddenly my wife shouted, “The ants! The ants are back!”
“Technically,” I said, “they weren’t ‘back’ as they’ve never gone anywhere.”
This struck the wrong note, a D# in the key of C as it were, and we began to argue about the ants, with me blaming her and with her blaming me.
My eldest son said nothing, but from the safety of the backseat he took out his phone and googled “ants in my Chevy Volt.” It turns out that this is a common manufacturing defect. Ants like electricity, and Volts have lots of electricity. It is a match made in heaven except for the passengers, for whom it was more like a divorce made in hell.
The ants didn’t bite (much) and we got home without any more excitement. I insisted that the ant pogrom be kept to a minimum, as ants are people, too. The spill had dried out nicely and my neighbor thanked me for scouring up the oil.
In less than 48 hours I had reduced my carbon footprint, been gentle to smaller, vulnerable animals, and cleaned up a major environmental disaster. I knew when I bought it that the Chevy Volt was going to make me greener. I just didn’t know how much.
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