Mark Dodge Medlin

Car trouble

Somewhere in Washington state

I am not mechanically inclined, especially when it comes to cars. I’ve never even changed my own oil. But at least now I can change wiper blades and headlights. When I was in high school, I couldn’t even do that. One time I was on some kind of road trip with a few other guys. We were riding in the Gray Ghost, a beat-up old monster owned by my friend Dave.

The Ghost developed some kind of trouble, so Dave pulled over and raised the hood, exposing the orange air filter cover and a lot of other grease-covered metal surfaces. Another motorist stopped by, and he seemed to know a bit about cars. He, Dave and maybe one or two others were discussing the situation, while my friend Jim and I stood off to one side, sagely looking under the hood without any idea what we were seeing. Finally Jim, in a voice that I think only I heard, said, “I think it’s the big orange thing.”

I don’t remember what the Ghost’s actual problem was, but to this day, whenever life throws an insoluble puzzle at me, I know what the trouble is. It’s “the big orange thing.”