Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll begins the new year with thoughts on a few dead things in “I’LL TAKE ‘THINGS THAT ARE DEAD’ FOR $200, ALEX.” She writes:

STARTING WITH MY BATTERY

So, last week we talked about my Email suddenly deciding it had never heard of me. Then, while trying to be part of the Podcast with The Big Boys, my connection failed. But wait, there’s more! At the very time that last week’s column appeared, I was offering to take my housekeeper’s teenage son to choose the enchiladas for a late lunch. We both got belted in to my Hyundai in the garage. I depressed the brake and pushed the starter button. The brake would not really depress, which was unusual. Pushing the button caused every bell, whistle, and light in the dashboard to flash in an annoying, fruitless manner, but no sound emitted from the engine.

If there’s one thing an ex-Minnesotan can recognize besides the nasal drone of a fellow Minnesota-speaker, it’s the sound of a dead battery. Who knew that extreme heat is every bit as tough on a battery as extreme cold?

The PT jumped the car. Of course he had jumper cables in a neat little carry-all in his truck. The PT’s garage is cleaner and better organized than most operating theaters in hospitals. And he owns EVERYTHING that could possibly be needed in an emergency – extension cords in 6 different lengths; all manner of irrigation doodads; a generator; a chain saw; a wide variety of ladders from a two-step to the one that inspired “Stairway to Heaven”; and a 100-lb anvil he inherited from his granddad. You never know when you might be called upon to shoe a horse, come the Zombie Apocalypse.

Eduardo reluctantly got out of the car, Lunchless in Copa, and went home with his mother. The PT followed me to AutoZone where the mechanic verified that my battery was not just “pining for the fjords” as the Monty Python sketch about the dead parrot implied, but that it had, indeed, “gone to its Maker,” and was now a “late battery.” He expressed some surprise that it had lasted for just over four years as its normal lifespan was two years. He sold me a more expensive one, supposedly good for five years.

It took well under 5 minutes to install the new one and I was on my merry way, considerably merrier than a few minutes earlier. I did reflect on how changed my circumstances were from the time we had the battery stolen from our ’68 Mercury in 1976 – in January, in Minnesota – when we had mistakenly gone to a wretched movie at a multiplex with money we had probably found in the couch. That madcap outing cost us $50, which was a giant blow to our budget. This battery cost $160, installed. I would have preferred to buy another pair of boots, but it was no real problem. Hey, I had probably sold that in books – Ammo Grrrll Hits the Target, in case you have forgotten — during that week, thank you contributors very much!

One of the worst things about being poor is that it is just so stressful and damnably inconvenient. Being “comfortable” is so much easier on the nervous system. Too bad so many of us have to reach late, late middle age before we achieve that level of comfort, but better late than never.

ANOTHER DEAD THING — COURTESY

Is this even a value in America anymore? I still hang with salt-of-the-earth people from the Old School. Several friends – despite my begging them not to – still compose handwritten thank-you notes for casual dinner parties to which they have also brought a hostess gift! Gentlemen of my acquaintance, including the famous novelist Max Cossack, still carry heavy items for the women in their lives and even open doors. In total fairness to gentlemen, it was not men who killed chivalry – it was women. If you’ve been screamed at and called sexist enough times for the small courtesies your Mama taught you – especially in the South – eventually you will cease and desist.

I remember my mother told me, “On a date allow the boy time to come around and open the car door for you, but, if he’s already in the restaurant ordering, best to just get out and go in.” Mama was nothing if not practical.

I hear horror stories of nobody RSVPing today even for big expensive weddings, and then showing up for the reception dinner costing $150/plate with several extra relatives.

People talk and text in movie theaters, which is Reason #22 why I never go anymore. Having ruined that experience, they have moved on to text and phone at funerals, symphonies, and in heavy traffic at 80 mph. (Time for one more repetition of my favorite bumper sticker: “Honk if you love Jesus. Text if you want to meet him.”)

Teenagers wear ballcaps at the dinner table and flip-flops to the White House. People of all ages, but especially young people, have passionate relationships with their phones, while ignoring real people right in front of them.

Geezers have always resisted and complained about the incremental cultural changes that depart from mythical Good Old Days. I get that. My own maternal Grandma thought everything went to hell in a handbasket when women and girls started bobbing their hair and wearing pants. (Whatever a handbasket is, beside a receptacle for us Deplorables.)

And then, lo and behold, in her mid-80s, Grandma up and cut off her waist-long braid that she wound around her head, coronet-style, and secured with odd hairpins, and got an Old Lady Perm! Grams gone wild! She never wore pants, though. Dad’s mother either.

Does any of that really matter? What if the absence of (un)common courtesy, what we used to call manners, is like Mayor Giuliani’s broken-windows policing? If courtesy is “broken” or “dead,” is the next logical rung on the long descent into entropy, spittle-flecked confrontations with professors, shouting down invited speakers, an elderly Oscar-winning actor shrieking “F Trump. F Trump” at an awards show, or a hideously unfunny “comedienne” calling a member of the First Family the C-word while another one carries a bloody severed head? And where, then, does it end? Countless times I have thought, “Well, this is really the worst,” and Mr. AG has always said, “Nope. There IS no bottom.”

I plan to let my hair grow and start wearing dresses again just in case Grandma knew something important. Hillary only wears pants-suits. Coincidence? You be the judge.

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