The number eight in Chinese brings good fortune, I learned from the scheduling of the Olympic Games. That is why they began last week on the eighth day of the eighth month in the year 2008.
I am not Chinese, I am not an athlete and I live on the Vineyard, not in China. So I should not be surprised, I suppose, that little good has happened to me since I turned the calendar page to August.
My car has stopped running. My Tisbury Great Pond sailboat has lost her tiller. Chasing a mouse, my two cats slammed against my glass china cabinet door, putting treasured items of family memorabilia in dire peril when the shelf on which they stood fell against the door.
The eights clearly are not on my side. I take superstitions very seriously and never walk under ladders, (Also sensible, since a ladder can fall.) I shake salt over both shoulders with both hands when it spills (I never know which shoulder or which hand I am supposed to use so I take no chances).
So when I learned that the eighth month of a year with eight in it was supposed to bring good fortune, I was delighted. Certainly this meant that the vegetables in my garden would grow. They have and the deer have enjoyed them.
I looked forward to happy sailing adventures on my 12-foot Edgartown beach boat, Bluebeard (though she has had many misadventures in the past).
I was sure that my blue 1988 Chevy Corsica that had just been released from the garage with a 2008 computer installed, would at last drive like a dream.
A friend and I cheerily set out for Vineyard Haven on the first Saturday of this month. The car sped happily down State Road. We parked in the Stop and Shop parking lot and did various errands. We climbed back into the car to return to West Tisbury and turned the engine on. It sounded like it was flooded. We waited 15 minutes and tried again. It still sounded like it was flooded.
Now this is not just any old car. I prefer to call it a seasoned car, one with an impressive background. It came from Seven Gates Farm. And now that it is seasoned, it has acquired an unmistakable look. I never miss it in a crowded parking lot. Years of sun have blistered its blue paint, producing an unusual polka dot surface.
The stopping and starting affliction had presumably been addressed by the installation of the computer. But as we turned the car on and off in the parking lot, it was evident that was not the case. After half an hour of waiting, I took out my AAA card to call for a tow. My companion took the card in hand, read it and blanched.
“What now?” he said. “This card expired July 1.”
I blithely suggested calling triple A anyway. This time, the eights were with me. Perhaps it was because he had called an 800 number.
The telephone receptionist in Providence agreed to honor the card, even though it had expired. Maybe the mail had been late with my dues payment, she suggested and I readily agreed. We would have a tow within an hour.
Since it was one of those hot, sticky days of this summer, my companion returned the pint of Starbuck’s coffee mocha chip ice cream that he had just bought to the Stop and Shop freezer. He had a receipt and they said he could reclaim it when the tow truck came. Being an impatient sort and with an errand still to do at Cronig’s, I said I would walk there while he waited. He said he thought that was quite a long walk. I said not at all — forgetting that I would be walking uphill.
Cars passed me as I trudged along and I hoped someone I knew would offer me a ride. But no one did, even though I was wearing my designer broad-brimmed pink sun hat. I did notice lots of things I never pay attention to while driving. I saw that there was a shelter for plants outside Morrice the Florist’s. I noticed there was a diving swordfish painted on the side of John’s Fish Market. It looked lovely and cool splashing out of the water and made me wish I was in the water. I passed a flower stand and wished it was a lemonade stand instead.
When I returned, the tow truck was still not there. The police, however, had come by to ticket the car for overtime parking. Happily, my companion (who had just gone back into the Stop and Shop to check on the status of his ice cream) emerged in time to explain our predicament. The police tried to jump-start the car, but that didn’t work either.
Finally the tow truck came and ignominiously dragged my blue polka-dotted car back to West Tisbury. Fearful that the truck would not make it down the narrow lane where I live without knocking down trees and fences, I suggested that the car be taken to Mid-Island Repair.
But the AAA driver said since it was after 5 p.m. and Mid-Island was closed, he wasn’t allowed to do that. “They’ve chained the entrance shut,” he said. How unlikely in hospitable, laid-back West Tisbury, I thought, but the driver refused to go to see if there really was a chain across the entrance. (There wasn’t.)
My next thought was the parking lot in front of the town hall. He mumbled that if he left the car there, it would interfere with the VTA buses. I said it wouldn’t if he positioned the car correctly. He finally agreed to that, depositing the car, me and my companion there.
Happily, by morning and before the police were up to complain about my choice of overnight parking place, the car had cooled off and ran again, long enough to get to Mid-Island. There it now sits awaiting further examination. Much as I want the car repaired, I wonder if it might not be wise to wait until September to work on it. By then, I trust, my karma will be better.
The next day I thought I needed the restfulness of a sailboat to assuage my worries. I called Martha Moore and asked if she was up to a Great Pond sail on Bluebeard. She agreed that it was a fine midsummer Sunday afternoon idea, so I set off toward Deep Bottom Cove, where the boat is kept.
It would have been my first sail of the season. I dreamed it would be cool after the heat I had experienced the day before on my State Road walk. It would be pretty. We would sail up to the beach, drop anchor and swim in the ocean.
We found Bluebeard bobbing prettily at her mooring. We found the rudder, life preservers and pump in the shed where they are kept. But a tiller was nowhere to be found. We searched the grass and weeds where Bluebeard had been left for the winter. We checked everywhere in the shed. We swam out to the boat to see if the tiller might have been left there. No luck. All we could do was ruefully pump out Bluebeard.
My August good luck also included taking a house guest to the hospital emergency room at 2 a.m.
The only right thing that has happened this month is that, miraculously with a ruler, a level, a yardstick and a five-foot length of board cabinetmaker Peter Palches managed to lift the fallen shelf in the china closet. And nothing broke.
Of course, things could have been worse. The china was saved. My friend did not require a lengthy hospital stay, The polka-dot blue car did not falter to a stop at Five Corners at rush hour. Bluebeard still rides the waves, if tiller-less.
I do hope starting the Olympics on the eighth day of the eighth month in the year 2008 brings great success to all the athletes. But I am looking forward to that first day of September.