My hood is up in the parking lot of Target at 9:45 pm on a Tuesday night. I’ve had my license for 2 months, and a car for less. The engine is smoking, the car is radiating heat, and I stand there wishing I had someone to call to come get me. Anyone at all, at that point. I could call my parents, but they’re busy with my sisters and couldn’t drop everything to come get me. Besides, what would I do with the car? If I didn’t figure out how to get it home, we’d have a problem. I was on my own.
Since my car’s radiator leaked for awhile, I knew the coolant was either low or empty. When the smoke started blowing across the windshield while I drove, I pulled into the parking lot, turned off the car, and popped the hood.
Around then, a couple of guys came over to see if I needed help.
“No, I’ll be fine. Thanks anyway.” I replied, tried to get them to go away. I knew it was late, and I’m a girl, and the odds of 3 against one were not in my favor.
“Are you sure? Do you know what you’re doing? I know my way around an engine real well.” One of them said, while another echoed “Yeah, do you know what you’re doin? I mean, you’re just a girl. We can handle this.”
That set me right off. “Oh. Wow. I see. I’ll figure it out. You can all just stop lookin’ at me like I’m in a zoo, and head back to your car. I’m fine.”
The third dude finally chimes in “Hey, lady, chill. We were just tryna help. Don’t get so hysterical. We’re gone, jeez. C’mon, guys.”
Once they left, I sifted through my car for a bottle of water, because my dad told me water is a substitute for coolant in the summer - it’ll keep the engine from overheating. I found a half-full bottle of water in the back of my car. I went into the glovebox, found the car’s handbook-manual-thing, and looked up where the coolant tank was under the hood. I stared at the mess of engine and parts and cables and became uneasy, because I did not want to screw up the engine. I had a point to prove, now - my pride was on the line. Sure, I’m “just” a girl, but I could manage myself. Once I distinguished where the radiator was, right between the wiper fluid and the power steering fluid on the left side of the engine, I shook myself a little to get it together and poured the water into the radiator.
It came up to minimum level required to function, and I shut the hood. I waited for the engine to cool a bit more, tested the heat level by placing my fingertips on the engine- warm, but not scorching. I turned the car on, and the temperature gauge returned to normal. I sighed in exhaustion but began to grin, as I laughed in relief. I had solved the issue, and while it doesn’t seem like much, I felt that much more independent. I, satisfied I hadn’t turned into some damsel in distress under pressure, have become assured in fixing unexpected problems.
Figuring out the logical mechanics of the car made sense. I want to go into engineering, and looking at something and understanding how it works is one of my favorite feelings. I like to fix machines with my hands, work, get dirty - be able to do things. Alone with an issue like that made necessity the mother of invention, and this lesson has helped me solve so many problems since.