Oct 3, 2011

What men are for

From Cryptonomicon:

And so when it came to anything of a practical nature [Grandma] was perfectly helpless, and probably always had been. Until she had gotten too old to drive, she had continued to tool around Whitman in the 1965 Lincoln Continental, which was the last vehicle her husband had purchased, from Whitman's Patterson Lincoln-Mercury, before his untimely death. The vehicle weighed something like six thousand pounds and had more moving parts than a silo full of Swiss watches. Whenever any of her offspring came to visit, someone would discreetly slip out to the garage to yank the dipstick, which would always be mysteriously topped up with clear amber-colored 10W40.
It eventually turned out that her late husband had summoned the entire living male lineage of the Patterson family--four generations of them--into his hospital room and gathered them around his deathbed and wrought some kind of unspecified pact with them along the general lines of that, if at any point in the future, the tire pressure in the Lincoln dropped below spec or the maintenance in any other way lapsed, all of the Pattersons would not merely sacrifice their immortal souls, but literally be pulled out of meetings or lavatories and dragged off to hell on the spot, like Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. He knew that his wife had only the vaguest idea of what a tire was, other than something that from time to time a man would heroically jump out of the car and change while she sat inside the car admiring him. The world of physical objects seemed to have been made solely for the purpose of giving the men around Grandma something to do with their hands; and not, mind you, for any practical reason, but purely so that Grandma could twiddle those men's emotional knobs by reacting to how well or poorly they did it. Which was a fine setup as long as men were actually around, but not so good after Grandpa died. So guerilla mechanic teams had been surveilling Randy's grandmother ever since and occasionally swiping her Lincoln from the church parking lot on Sunday mornings and taking it down to Patterson's for sub rosa oil changes. The ability of the Lincoln to run flawlessly for a quarter of a century without maintenance--without even putting gasoline in the tank--had only confirmed Grandmother's opinions about the amusing superfluity of male pursuits.

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