The Scarlet Letter Day (with apologies to Nathaniel Hawthorne)

It’s an old car with a lot of mileage. Some cars need more work than others and, as a previous owner of high-mileage cars, I know some inspections can be iffy at best.

As parents, we do a lot for our children. Loyal daddies and mommies are aware of the things Wife and I do for our miracles of Christ. Sometimes the things we do take a little longer than others.

One child needed their car fixed. It’s hard to do when they’re at school all day. I got the car after taking The Oppressed and The Boy to their school. After dropping them off, I stretch my legs for a nice morning walk to pick up the car. From there, it’s off to another garage for a sticker.

It’s an old car with a lot of mileage. Some cars need more work than others and, as a previous owner of high mileage cars, I know some inspections can be iffy at best.

This car fails inspection. Emissions. There’s a leak out of the exhaust. A neighbor who knows cars looks underneath and assures me the problem isn’t a big one and there’s a great place nearby that can get it fixed for us. My neighbors selling point? It’s a garage with a bunch of guys smoking and talking cars. Well, I quit smoking over 10 years ago, but if a car place is good enough for my car-savvy neighbor, by jump-start it’s good enough for me.

A rejection sticker on a car that failed inspection.
The Scarlet Letter

I take the car to get repaired. Job is done and I am on my way back to get the sticker… and it fails again.

No problem I tell myself. They offered me two options and I took the cheaper one. Maybe I should have taken the option that required more work and time. Shame on me. I go back to the garage that did the work and ask if I need a new part. They look at the car. People are visibly upset. There’s nothing wrong with the parts. They’re trying to get me to have work done at their garage so they can overcharge me. Stay there, they tell me. Have a seat. People are going to get to the bottom of this. One guy grabs the phone and asks for the phone number. He knows the place. Everyone knows the place. He just needs the phone number so he can talk to “them”. What’s he going to say? Should I follow him? Should I go live? Fight! Fight! Fight!

I don’t know what happened I just know I take a seat and wait for the saga to unfold. I also know they have donuts because the guy behind the desk takes me to the garage and presents a box of donuts. He offers me one. I accept because it’s been a long, harrowing morning and I’m worth it.

A white car sitting in the driveway in the morning of early autumn.
Off the bench and ready for action.

They look at the car. There’s some more work that needs to be done but they don’t see anything that would make the car fail inspection. Oh well. Hopefully, it’s something that we’re fixing now and won’t have to worry about for even longer now that we’re addressing it. And, did I mention they have donuts?

Nothing happened between the two garages. I thought there would be some drama. There was no drama. People just wanted to know where this place was that failed the car. I’m a little disappointed. I thought there would be a little something to spice up my morning.

I’m there for a little longer. Maybe an hour. The car comes back out. I pay for the work and return to the first garage for another attempt to pass muster. The car goes in. I hold my breath. Do I dare to peek inside? I do. I see the scarlet sticker removed and replaced with a sticker that passes inspection. Good boys and girls get stickers in school. This car was good and got a sticker. I feel like I’m standing on the podium as the National Anthem is playing while the medal – I mean sticker – goes on and the car is backed out. I thank the nice men for their time and drive home to tell Wife about my donut.

Prince of the Road

Being a foster parent gives you numerous challenges everyday. There are things to deal with for school. There are doctor and dentist visits. Meetings with social workers. Another wrinkle being a foster parent can bring is a change in the order of milestones.

Our children range in ages from 17 to six. We will be celebrating a driver’s license before we will celebrate graduation from elementary school. We will help prepping for a high school final exam before dealing with middle school orientation. Things like these are perfectly normal for a family that doesn’t exactly do “normal”.

One of the Gaggle has their learner’s permit. This person has made Wife and I proud. They have shown initiative in their life and work. They looked for and got a job. They sought out how to get their permit and they are looking into driver’s ed.

The child and I have been out on the road getting practice and experience whenever we can. They do well most of the time. Then again, there was this one time…

I fancy myself an amateur craft beer and bourbon critic. One time nearly became a “Four-finger Night” as a neighbor likes to say. We were driving around town. The Gaggle had a few rounds behind the wheel under their belt and kept improving. We were making our way home. On our right was one of those glaring-red stop signs. Painfully obvious to me right away. Somehow, the Gaggle didn’t see it until we nearly passed it. Being the diligent person and stickler for rules, they slammed on the breaks as soon as they recognized their folly. I exclaimed an expletive and put my hands up to shield myself from the dashboard in case the seat belt didn’t work.

The Gaggle apologized. I reminded them to keep their eyes open when driving. They promised to do so and thanked me for the advice. As we continued our way, the route called for a left-hand turn. Unfortunately for our driving novice, this was one of those clearly visible streets that somehow remained hidden until you were halfway by it. Most people would continue on and make the next turn and make their way back to it. Not the Gaggle. Our driving dynamo saw the nearly passed street, slams on the brakes, and cuts the wheel for a hairpin turn that would make Vin Diesel proud. If they ever start casting for “The Fast and the Furious 17”, I think I’m signing the Gaggle up for it. Wait. They haven’t made part 17 yet. Have they?

We continue. We’re almost home, much to my relief. I think the car’s relieved, too. I instruct the Gaggle to make a turn. Maybe they were thinking about the turn they almost missed. Whatever it was, they make this one a little premature and we’re on the left side of the road, practically on someone’s front lawn. I thought I heard a mailbox scream and a lawn gnome reciting a prayer. I tell the child the laws haven’t changed and we’re still driving on the right side of the road. He apologized and literally rights the situation. We get home. He apologizes again before we get out of the car. We get inside the house. People inside ask how it went. We both say it went great. I poured a bourbon.