Once upon a long time ago, shortly after the invention of the wheel….
One day I had to take my car in to a garage to have some work done. Back when ‘Customer Service’ was still a proven fact, and not a forgotten myth, the apprentice mechanic drove me to work and took my car back to the shop. He, or someone else, was supposed to pick me up at 5:00 PM, when both our firms were finished for the day.
About 3 o’clock, my phone rang. They had dismantled the car, but a couple of necessary parts wouldn’t arrive till early the next morning. I would have to leave it overnight, and find a way home and back in the next morning.
Home was almost 10 miles across town on a hot August afternoon. Walking was unthinkable. Transit would mean over an hour, three buses, and still a good walk to the house. I approached DORIS, a ditzy clerk, old enough to be my mother. She lived on the same side of town, but normally took a road parallel to mine.
Sure! She could drive me home. She was also taking Ethel, who lives near me. At 5:00, we all left the office, and headed for the parking lot. Doris handed me a key chain, and said, “When I’m in the car with a man, he drives.” A little strange, but, Okay.
I know she drives a crappy Dodge Dart. The keychain she handed me was quite masculine – a blue rabbit’s foot, one die (dice), and a Ford key. She saw me looking at it questioningly, and said, “I had to take my car in too. I’m driving the son’s car.”
When we got to her spot, there was a new(ish) Mustang. I climbed in and fired it up, and saw a couple of reasons why she wanted me to drive. Gearhead son bought the ‘Tang with the stock 283 cubic inch motor, but had got ahold of, and shoehorned in, a gigantic seven liter (427 C.I.) engine with 4-on-the-floor transmission. I was raised on standards, so I was good to go.
As I backed up and pulled out, I found yet another reason. While son had installed the big motor and tranny, he hadn’t (yet) put in power steering or heavy-duty front suspension. Here was an engine as big as Mount Rushmore, sitting over extra-wide front tires. It was like trying to steer the Titanic with a canoe paddle.
Once I got it going more or less straight, on the road home, the conversation turned to language. How could it not? I was in the car. I mentioned that the first thing I had learned about German when I arrived, was that there are no silent letters.
I had asked a German-speaker about an Amish dish called ‘schnitz und knepp.’ I confused her by pronouncing it ‘nepp.’ This is when she told me it should be ‘kenepp.’ We had recently hired a new, young engineer, named George Kniseley. When he came around to introduce himself, he pronounced it ‘nizely.’ I told them that, properly, it should be pronounced ‘kenizely.’
Doris said, “Who??”
“The young engineer we just hired. He sits upstairs, across from Bill, our chief engineer.”
“Oh, him!? I’ve been calling him Kinsley (kins-lee) for six months, and nobody’s said a thing.”
That’s okay, Boris….uh, Doris, I’m sure he doesn’t mind. 😕