The next time you catch me responding “nothing much” when someone asks what’s going on, would you kindly whack me upside the head? Hard?

When I say such things the god of adventures apparently peers down, says “‘Zat so?” …and presses the SEND key.

Like today.

Jumped into Max the car at lunch, intending to run a few errands, and got exactly three blocks: Max choked and died at an intersection. I tried again, drove a couple blocks more, and he passed out halfway into the shopping center parking lot.

That’s where I met Andy, first of many kind strangers I met today. Andy works at Les Schwab Tires, saw me frantically trying to get Max out of the street, and took over. He and a buddy pushed Max into an empty garage bay, popped the hood, and shook their collective heads.

“It’s not the battery, there’s something wrong with the fuel line, or maybe the computer,” they said regretfully, “Do you have a good mechanic?”

Yup, about 45 minutes due north. Called AAA, discovered I’m covered for towing up to 100 miles, so I arranged for them to pick up the car. Then I called Steve the mechanic.

“Uh-oh,” he sighed, “Sounds like the same thing Max had a couple of years ago. You better tow him over.”

Andy brought me a cold drink and settled me in with a magazine, no charge. I sat down to wait for the tow truck. The last time this happened, I waited four HOURS for a tow, so I prepared for a long haul.

Joe and his tow truck arrived in less than 30 minutes. He cheerfully backed up to Max, winched him up the ramp, and patted the passenger’s seat. “Hop in!”

He loved his job, Joe said, as we sailed majestically down I5. “I mean, ANY job is a good job these days, but I got a good boss and in 30 days I get half of my medical insurance paid for. That’s better’n most of my neighbors, lemme tell ya.”

“Only problem I got is this one guy at work. He doesn’t wanna work, always askin’ for time off, coming in late. So the boss takes me off part-time and gives me that guy’s shift, fulltime. Now he’s bellyaching.

“But ya know?” he said, glancing my way, “it’s like you either wanna work or you don’t.”

“Does he say why he needs all the time off?”

“Yeah,” said Joe flatly, “‘Cause he’s a wiener, that’s why” and changed the subject.

We arrived at Steve’s, I thanked Joe warmly for showing up so quickly, and he grinned. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Cynthia,” he said, shaking my hand, “I know you don’t need no more grief with this car but if you do it’d be nice driving you again.”

And smiling, I pushed into Steve’s waiting room, where the news was bad.

“The diagnostics are all over the map, it’s idling too fast, idling too slow, the gas isn’t getting in right,” said Steve, “Same damn thing with these older Maximas, and they’re a bugger to reprogram. I’m going to try the cheap stuff first,” he says, shaking his head, “but I don’t like the looks of that computer.”

Drat. Right about now Max’ chief attraction, i.e., that he’s paid for, is rapidly losing ground to my need for reliable transportation.

“One thing’s for sure,” Steve warned, “You can’t drive him like this. I called Enterprise and they’ll pick you up in a minute–you’re going to need a rental car for at least a couple of days.”

That’s how I wound up driving back to the rental place with Jessica the car rental lady. We went through the preliminaries, I picked out modest transport, and she said “You’re all set. Now all I need is your drivers license…”

I handed it to her, and she gasped. “Oh no! Uhm…did you have a birthday recently?”

“Last week,” I said, puzzled, “So…?”

“So your driver’s license just expired and I can’t rent you a car. I’m soooooo sorry.”

Great. It’s 4:30, I’m stranded in the Enterprise rent-a-car, I’ve got dinner guests coming in an hour and a pressing need to drive to work in the morning. Still, Jessica looked even unhappier about it than I, and that’s saying a LOT.

Then her face lit. “I know!!!! I’ll drive you over to the DMV and we can get your license renewed!!”

Huh? “Jessica, it’s already 4:30 and I think they close at 5…”

“So we’ll hurry,” she said firmly, “Let me just tell my boss I’m leaving the office for awhile.” She ran into the back, and came out quickly. “Do you have your passport or birth certificate on you?”

I stifled a sarcastic response. “No, why?”

“Because my manager said they just changed the rules at the DMV and you need one of them to renew your license….I tell you what…your house is on the way. I’ll just drive you by there first, you run in really quick and get your birth certificate, and then we’ll get you to the DMV.”

I couldn’t believe she offered, but I was game if she was. We dashed home (or as close to dash as you can get in rush hour traffic). I ran in and grabbed my birth certificate–how lucky that I cleaned out my file cabinet last night and LEFT MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE OUT ON THE DESK!–and was back outside in maybe two minutes.

We peeled off down the road, arrived at the DMV at 4:56PM. The man at the front desk was about to lock up, but stopped. “Can you come back tomorrow? We’re about to close…”

I gasped out my adventures to date and he chuckled. “Well, I’m sure not going to be the one to stop you,” and opened the door wide. He and another DMV guy reviewed my documentation, helped fill in the form, and took what has to be the world’s worst portrait of me.

At 5:01, I rushed out of the DMV with a brand new driver’s license. Jessica cheered and we drove back to Enterprise rent-a-car.

Jessica’s just graduated from college and took this job “to help me get some work experience before I get my MBA. Well, and also,” she blushed, “because MBAs are REALLY expensive.”

I suspect she already has what she needs to be successful in business–the MBA won’t get her as far as what she’s just done for me. We finished up the paperwork, and ten minutes later I’m driving off in a rental car.

I get home in time for my dinner guests and find they’ve fixed ME dinner instead of the other way ’round. Carol, Emelia and I feast on roasted fresh vegetables and pasta in a garlic sauce.

So it’s been a pretty great day.

Thanks, everyone.