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Around the Bend: Weird weather not a Civic virtue

I have a confession: December’s unseasonably warm weather was my fault.
This summer I purchased an old, unfashionable Honda Civic that gave me no trouble (other than the mild bruising of my ego) until the first really cold morning in November, when the shifter got stuck in park.
I turned the car off and back on, I jiggled the gearshift, and I leveled expletives at the Honda Motor Corp., my rotten luck and, for good measure, my husband, who probably would deserve it at some point that day. I even went in the house and came back out again to repeat the procedure, thinking maybe I just needed a “do-over.”
When all those failed, I called my mechanic. The problem was, he explained, most likely a faulty brake switch. If the shifter doesn’t know the brakes are on, it won’t release. He told me how to use the secret shift-lock override button, accessible through a slot on the console.
It didn’t work.
The mechanic, sighing, said he believed me.
Later that day, when the temps rose into the 40s, I tried moving the car again, and the shifter worked. I figured it had cured itself, in spite of the universal truth that bad things don’t just go away by themselves.
The weather stayed above freezing for a few more weeks and the car shifted fine.
“Cool,” I said to myself. “A bad thing just went away by itself.”
Then, on the first really cold morning in early December, the shifter got stuck — apparently frozen — again. And again, it made a full recovery during the subsequent balmy afternoon. I brought the car to the garage so the mechanic could replicate the problem in the morning. But he couldn’t; Mother Nature saw to that.
She engineered a December unprecedented in its warm temperatures. The weather stayed in the 40s and 50s for days — but only when my car was in the shop. The mechanic would start the car each morning, drive it around the lot and call me to tell me — in an increasingly patronizing tone — that it was working fine. Again.
But every time I took it home, the temperatures would plunge overnight, leaving me stuck in the driveway the next morning. As soon as the day warmed up, I’d bring the car back to the garage and the entire state of Vermont would again enjoy several days of mild, non-shifter-freezing weather. For weeks, Mother Nature giggled uncontrollably.
My brothers-in-law, all automotive experts by virtue of their Y-chromosomes, insisted the problem was my brake switch or my inability to drive an automatic — it couldn’t be the cold. My mechanic didn’t dare say the same thing, but every time I drove into the lot I’d see him bang his head on the service counter.
Despite the pleasure it was bringing her, even Mother Nature knows when a practical joke has worn itself out. Once she saw that a good portion of the population was actually enjoying the dry, gentle winter, she decided it was time to bring temperatures down to a more seasonable level.
I was able to get the car to the garage just in time. The next morning, a bitter one, the mechanic (a) found that the cold weather really did cause the shifter to malfunction and (b) promised he would stop referring to me as “that nutjob in the Civic.” He replaced the shifter and the car’s been fine ever since. (My brothers-in-law have been uncharacteristically unavailable for comment.)
You wouldn’t think Mother Nature would mess with large-scale weather patterns just to have a little fun with me. But this wasn’t the first time. Last spring I vowed to hang out my laundry every single day, and what did we get? The rainiest spring on record. She’s a card, that one.
I feel just terrible that her hijinks at my expense have thus far ruined winter for all those Vermonters who love snow, and I want to make amends. I know just how to do it, too: I’m announcing publicly that as long as the winter continues snowless, I’m going to start walking to work. The only thing that can possibly stop me is a series of heavy snowstorms that hinder traffic and cause the road shoulders to pile high with snowbanks.
If Mother Nature reads this column, that should do the trick. 

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