Car Fever: Worse Than the Flu

Encarphalitis.  This disease, more common among men, is known colloquially as “car fever.”  There’s no known cure for either of the two major strains—newitis and useditis–except to spend a ton of money. Both variations of encarphalitis are dangerous, but the symptoms of useditis are particularly virulent.

Since Bruce Bleat is all about truth and transparency, I will admit to being a non-infectious carrier of useditis.  I probably have newitis, too, but I don’t have a high enough credit score to inflame the virus.

A re-occurrence of the disease is imminent when I find myself staring at a particular brand/model of car.  The early symptoms resemble what afflicts an eighth grade boy asked to judge a cheerleader camp (the technical term for that malady is lotsa-infatuation).  When I see the car, a dampness moistens the brow, the heart pounds, and I am drawn trance-like to and car lots.  In time the dream vehicle is identified and the symptoms of diminished eyesight and confused thinking appear.

On the hazy frontier of my consciousness, a man with large, yellowed teeth enters my space.  This would be a good time to run, but my feet have grown roots.  I am now a prisoner of war.  The used car salesman speaks:

“Greetings, my friend!  My name is Bob.  And to whom do I speaketh on this fine day?”  (Why do they always seem to talk in a King James dialect?)

I’m smitten but trying to act disinterested, so to keep him off balance I only give him my name and social security number. ( Okay, that was a mistake, but I know he’s going to need both eventually to secure financing.)

“So I see you looking at this beautiful 1977 Pinto,” says Bob.  “What a sweet set of wheels, eh?  Just came on the lot this morning.  What’s your time frame on buying a car?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Just out looking, today.”  (Does he notice that I just wiped sweat off my forehead with a beach towel?) 

“If you’re interested, I can grab the keys and we could take this little beast for a test drive?”

“Well, maybe.  Do you know how many miles it has?”

Not so sure, but I’m guessing around 300,000–but all driven on smooth pavement on sunny days by a retired mechanic–treated this car like his only child!”  (Salesmen don’t use that “little old lady” bit anymore—so lame!  I mean, who could possibly believe that line anyway?)

Bob gets the keys and ushers me behind the wheel.  We drive the city streets, and then I wind the little metal love-child up on the Interstate.  (This car is everything I’ve ever dreamed of, but I have to not let Bob know that I’m interested.) 

Back at the lot, Bob extracts the keys from my clenched fingers, and with that amazing denture-powered smile asks, “So Bruce, can we do a deal on the Pinto today?”

“Well, I don’t know.  Could I take a look at the engine?”  This is a telltale sign of useditis—wanting to see the motor.  Inexplicably, Bob opens the trunk first, and I stand staring into the cavity.  My mind is mush.  I forget where I am.  All I can think is…I want her.  “Is this a four cylinder or six cylinder?” I ask.

Toothy-smile Bob chuckles and says:  “Well, Bruce Buddy, let’s go up to the front of the car and see what’s under the hood!”

I’m toast—with butter and jam.

Turns out it’s a four cylinder.  I point and count, “One, two, three, four.”  I sound like Lawrence Welk striking up the band.

The next thing I know I’m sitting in a Bob’s small office, sipping a delicious and free Folgers latte from a small Styrofoam cup.  I notice that Bob has a large King James Bible on his desk.  (I love this guy—he’s obviously a Christian.)

“So Bruce, what’s your budget—can I send you home in the little pony–HAH, HAH?”

(I’ve done my homework; these Pintos are selling for about $4k.  Max.)  “Well, maybe with my trade-in, I would like to stay at about $4000, Bob.”

Bob’s demeanor collapses.  A look resembling fear or terror rises like a storm on his face.  I have definitely disappointed him—Bob looks hurt, even offended.  “Bruce, that Pinto is in really good shape.  We have a price of $9500 on it.  I can go try to squeeze the boss, but I don’t think we can give more than $750 for your vehicle.  That leaves us pretty far apart, I’m afraid.”  He sighs, shakes his head, and taps the cover of the Bible.

I’m devastated.  All I can think about is the little old lady mechanic who loved that Pinto so much she only drove on sunny days.  I can’t let her down.  What am I to do?  [To be continued.]

 Next: “The Fever Breaks”



A Prayer for “Mr. Revenge Porn”

Sometimes I hate love. 


An article in a local paper tells the story of a young man who runs a website devoted to “revenge porn.”  The way this works is that if a person becomes disgruntled in a relationship (usually the guy), and he has nude still or video pictures of his ex-girlfriend, the “revenge porn” website will publicly post these photos, along with other pertinent information.  This means that the girl not only has the shame of gawking-stranger eyes, but also the danger of her identity and contact information revealed.

How humiliating…and disgusting?  I want people who so viciously hurt others in jail.

And my next thought is:  In this time of easy dissemination of words and images, who would ever give anyone such skin-suit photos?  No nude pictures=no revenge porn.

But this “bleat” is not about how heinous some sins are.  It’s about the disturbing but non-negotiable requirement of followers of Christ to love rather than hate people they detest.   At times it would be a relief to let your outrage against unlikable people flow as an angry river.  You know, the “thems” of our world deserve it, right?

Why does Jesus have to show up with some annoying advice like, “’You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”’ (Matthew 5:43-44).

Oh, man, Jesus, what are you thinking?  Have you not heard about “revenge porn”?

Actually, Jesus knows all about revenge porn–and all the other open and hidden sins.  So this requires that if I happen to bump into “Mr. Revenge Porn Website Entrepreneur,” I have to find a way to—gulp–love the jerk.  That could mean a number of things, including pleading with him to stop this outrageous offense against women—and men.  Loving him might mean sending money to the attorneys who are trying to legally shut down this Internet crud.   And I can pray for him—not to be eaten alive by worms, but to find a new way of life that causes him to exchange hate for love.

For sure, though, it means that if we meet, I need to be gracious and respectful of Mr. RPWE.  No “you jerk” talk.  Maybe I should buy him a cup of coffee?  Because the truth is, Jesus loves him far more than I can imagine and died for his sins, just like he died for mine.

Such love doesn’t come naturally.  Kind of like hanging on a cross didn’t come naturally.  This loving calls for some unnatural—let’s say, super-unnatural help.


The White Walleye Gift Exchange

The Comb-Over Brotherhood’s (COB) annual Christmas party and White Walleye gift exchange, as always, was held at Charley Doot’s house in Pequot Lakes.  Truth is, most members of the COB really enjoy this non-official gathering, because Charley is not allowed to unveil any of his terrorist plots against hair product manufacturers, wig makers, or big-hair wives of TV evangelists.

Wives and girlfriends are invited to the party, but not “significant others.”  Two winters ago, some wannabe trend-setter inserted “significant other” on the invitation, which resulted in Bernie Mustad bringing his mother, Bernice, who temporarily entertained the crowd with a jazzy rendition of “Jingle Bells” on her harmonica.  Her gig wore thin after an hour, though, when the par-tiers realized this was the only Christmas song she knew.  As guests stuffed tree tinsel into their ears, Charley lured Bernice to the garage for “a peek at the lutefisk barrel,” and when she turned her back, quickly locked the door.

Such disharmony is rare at a White Walleye party, which usually is a benign evening of snacking on Scandinavian delicacies like lefse, pineapple chunk jello, spiked coffee, and–if Harley Fog’s wife, Dawn, can get her weird baking appliance to work—krumkake. (Think this is a joke?  Google  “krumkake” or check Wikipedia.)

The highlight of the evening comes around 8 p.m. with the White Walleye gift exchange.  Since this is the COB after all, hair or “hair-not” is the gift theme.  For ten years running—this year was no exception–the coup de grâce gift has been a raccoon tail, affectionately labeled the Triumphant Trump Rug.  Every winner of the gift exchange takes home this prize–handsomely displayed under a glass dome–to a prime spot of honor for the next 11 ½ months.

Other exchange gifts drawing chortles this year included a giant styrofoam comb the size of a chain saw, a five gallon jug of Dep gel, a gift certificate for hair straightening at Emily’s Beauty Salon, and a t-shirt reading “Don’t Stare at My Head.”

The reluctant host, Charley, could not wait until, in his muttered terms, “the whole foolishness was over and we can get back to plotting.”  Charley did slip in an announcement that at the next COB meeting he would divulge details on the group’s summer bus tour to Mt. Rushmore for, how shall we say without parting (wink) with any secrets, “short-range reconnaissance.”

After everyone had left, the yard sculptures were deflated, and all lights dimmed, Charley rolled over in bed and asked Mrs. Doot:  “Do you hear a harmonica somewhere…playing ‘Jingle Bells’?”