an apostrophe induced panic attack
“Something’s wrong with my car!!!” I wailed in a loud voice. I had stopped by the house to pick up Rosario and was standing in the kitchen chatting with her and Dad. If there’s one thing I detest, it’s car trouble – it stresses me out. I tried really hard not to get queasy at thought of how much brakes cost, but it didn’t work. I cringed.
Dad rolled his eyes. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s the brakes!” I pouted in my typical dramatic fashion. “Well at least I’m pretty sure it’s the brakes.”
“What makes you think it’s the brakes?” Dad asked, attempting to assess the situation.
“There’s a grinding noise, but I only hear it on the passenger side in the back, so I think it’s only that one. I first heard it on Saturday. All of a sudden, it was really loud. Don’t you think that’s kind of weird? And I don’t hear it all the time.”
“It was really loud.” Rosario confirmed.
“Nope, it can happen suddenly,” Dad explained. “So do you hear the grinding noise just when you hit the brakes or other times too?”
“Just when I hit the brakes, but not every time.”
“You only hear the noise when you hit the brakes and you think it’s the brakes?” Dad sounded exasperated but amused. “Cecilia, what else is it going to be? You need new brakes!
“Well, I don’t know!” I cried. “ I was pretty sure it was my brakes, but what if it wasn’t? There’s a lot of stuff under there! So… why is only one side making noise? Does that mean the other brakes are fine”
“Nah, if one is bad, the other ones gonna need to be replaced too.”
“Other ones? Other ones?! As in all of them or just the rear brakes?” I was on the verge of freaking out. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do all four at once. The family purse would not be happy with me!
Dad saw my look of panic. “I said ‘the other one’.”
“No, you said ‘the other ones’.” Then it dawned on me. “Wait! You did say one’s, but you meant apostrophe s! I thought you meant plural.”
Dad shook his head.
I started to calm down. “Sorry, Dad. I didn’t realize you used a contraction.”
Dad looked at Rosario. “Do you know what a contraction is, Rosario?” he asked patronizingly.
Rosario has been following our conversation with great amusement. Of course she knew what a contraction was in the context in which we were speaking and was slightly annoyed at Dad’s insinuation, so she answered in all seriousness, “Duh! That’s what women in labor have – contractions. You know, he-he-hooo and all of that. Geez, Dad!”
At that point I probably would have benefited from breathing exercises too. My amazing imagination had already turned a simple brake job into needing new wheel bearings, shocks, struts, a muffler, transmission, control arm bushing (whatever the blazes that is), windshield wipers and all the other car parts I’ve ever heard of, and then Dad’s invisible apostrophe made me think I was going to need all four brakes replaced. I would have cried myself into a stupor if the grammatical misinterpretation hadn’t been quickly corrected! I really hope the mechanic’s estimate is nowhere near my imagination’s summary of the situation, or I will be in serious need of Lamaze breathing.
UPDATE: It was just the brakes. I was right. And only the rear brakes (I think the mechanic called them shoes) needed replacing. I thought about asking to see the shoes first – I wanted to make sure they were at least cute shoes – but I thought better of it and let the mechanic do his job without interruption.