My Mr. Fixit and a helpful stranger

I am lucky enough to have my very own Mr. Fixit. My husband Eric can fix all sorts of things, from a snapped drum mount to a cantankerous oven.

The sad thing is I totally take it for granted, to the point that when my 16-year-old mixer died a couple of months ago, I was genuinely shocked when he couldn’t just take it apart and fiddle with it a bit, then make it work again. He told me I fried the motor in it (I was just making cookies, honest) and that the part to fix it would cost more than replacing the darn thing.

I do take his Mr. Fixit-ness for granted, but Friday I was extremely grateful for his mechanical abilities. I was coming back from a bond hearing in Jackson and talking to him on the phone when my SUV (I call it Johnny) started misbehaving. Poor Eric had to talk “Justine” when I tried to tell him what was happening. Luckily, he has experience.

“Well, I have to write this up and do the other thing, then I’ll try to escape a bit early,” I told him. “Oh, wait, Johnny is being weird!”

“What’s weird?” he asked.

“He’s being all hurky jerky and the RPM needle is going all wonko,” I explained.

Makes perfect sense, right?

“Wait, what is it doing?” he asked.

“I just told you!”

Big man sigh.

“He’s going but not going and that needle is all over,” I explained. “Eric Clapton is fine, though.”

To Eric’s credit, he understood immediately that even though Johnny was being difficult,the CD player was working correctly.

“Well, see if you can nurse it back to Worthington,” he said.

I tried, but Johnny was slowing down, and Eric has always told me not to just tromp on the gas when I think something is broken, so I didn’t. I managed to get to the Heron Lake exit on I-90, then decided that if I was going to get stuck on the side of a road, I would rather not have that road be I-90. I took the exit. Just as I got to the top of the hill, Johnny died. All sorts of warning lights were coming on, the needle was still being all wonko and the hurky jerky had continued. I tried to start him again, but he didn’t want to stay running. I called Eric.

Big man sigh.

“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Now, here I am, stuck on the side of the road at the top of the I-90 exit. I had the flashers on and the hood open. I always feel the need to open the hood and look inside on the off chance that some very obvious thing, preferably with flashing arrows and little signs saying “fix this thing,” will be sitting there. Since there were no signs or arrows, I just idly stared at the motor, noting the dirty spots and wondering why they are always black and not pretty colors like pink or blue or yellow or green.

While I stood there, several vehicles passed by and I noticed more than one person staring out their windshield at me. One male driver was careful to point me out to his wife, who was riding shotgun in his vehicle. A man in a pickup slowed down to get a close look. Several semi trucks whizzed by. But no one stopped.

Until one semi-truck pulled off on the Heron Lake exit and came to a stop right next to Johnny. I saw the door on the driver side of the truck open, but couldn’t see the person getting out until he slowly came around the front of the cab at the speed of a glacier moving across a continent. A little old man, about 304 years old, slowly shuffled over to the side of my car.

“Are you having trouble?” he asked politely.

I explained the situation, letting him know my husband was on the way. The little man questioned me about what kind of things my vehicle had been doing before it broke down. I told him about how Johnny was hurky jerky and the needle was wonko, but that Eric Clapton kept singing. Since the little man didn’t have much experience at speaking Justine, he just gave me a curious kind of look and asked me if he should wait until my husband arrived.

“Are you nervous here by yourself?” he asked. “I can stay if you’re nervous.”

The little man was about five feet tall, weighed approximately 25 pounds and would probably fit in my glove compartment, so I really couldn’t figure out exactly what he would do if something happened that would truly make me nervous. Since it was windy at the top of the interstate exit and I was afraid he would blow away unless I put rocks in his pocket, I let him know I would be fine. He was unsure about leaving me there, but I convinced him that my husband was only moments away.

Then the sweet little man pulled his truck onto the entrance ramp for I-90 and stopped. He spent several moments tightening the straps on his load of big metal shiny things on the semi trailer, keeping a careful eye on me the whole time. He didn’t leave until I got back in my car (I was feeling rather windblown).

Eric got there a few minutes later and took a look at the motor. He apparently found nothing odd about the lack of color under the hood, and was seemingly unimpressed by Eric Clapton’s ability to sing through adversity. He decided the radiator might be low (even after I told him the hot and cold needle wasn’t wonko), so he opened the back door and dug around until he found a couple half full bottles of water (I’m a compulsive water drinker), then attempted to dump some in my radiator. It was full.

Then he wiggled stuff and made man noises like “Hmmm…” and “what about…”

Eventually he got in and started Johnny up. It was kind of a betrayal on Johnny’s part, because I had tried to start him several times while I was waiting, but got no cooperation. Johnny knows Eric doesn’t like him much, but still started for him. Men.

Well, we got Johnny back to Worthington, Eric sent me back to work in his car (which has no name) and called me later to say he had fixed mine. Something about wires falling over (they do that?) and melting together and yada yada car part car part thingamajiggy.

I actually got home in Eric’s car a few minutes before he got home in Johnny. Then he showed me what had been broken. There were all these wires that escaped from whatever it is that car builders put them in so they don’t touch hot things and melt. Since they had escaped, they had touched hot things and melted.

On the bright side, it blew pretty much every fuse in my car, so Eric had to replace them all. The automatic mirror adjuster thingies and the little button that make all locks go down at once now work for the first time in two years.

You know what the really weird part is about the whole thing? The wires that all melted together were pink and yellow and blue and green. Eric sorted them all out, of course, because that’s what he does. He just fixes stuff.

My own Mr. Fixit.

I am hoping for a new mixer for my birthday, though.