Sunday, February 12, 2006

Windshield Washer Fluid Elves

When I get my oil changed, they fill my windshield wiper fluid resevoir. For a long time, in my old car, a tiny little 1990 Toyota Tercel, I got the oil changed every three to four thousand miles. I planned to run the car until it completely fell apart, and I had heard somewhere that if I changed the oil more often, it would last longer.

I'm not good about maintenance, actually. I was quite dutiful about car maintenance, but when it comes to things like watering plants or dusting regularly, I'm really bad. I'm forever thinking I've just done it when actually I did it three weeks ago. But I'm not a particularly heavy user of windshield wiper fluid, I guess, because over the years, since I started getting my oil changed so regularly, I don't run out.

When I got my 'new' car (2001 is still 'new' to me) I had learned that unless you live in some place like Mexico where grit is a problem, changing my oil every three thousand miles wasn't going to have much affect on the life of my car. There was a study about it using taxi cabs, and then they talked about it on Car Talk, so it had to be true. I stopped worrying about it. I might have noticed at some point that I still didn't run out of windshield washer fluid, but I didn't think much about it. Maybe the resevoir in the Subaru is big, or maybe I just don't use that much.

A couple of years ago, my husband remarked that he had checked the oil in both the cars and filled the windshield washer fluid.

"I don't ever run out," I remarked.

He gave me a funny look, and then he said, "That's because I always check it and fill it when you get low," he said.

I don't know which surprised me more, that I didn't know he was doing it, or that he had been doing it since 1991 and had never mentioned it to me. I mean, if I had been doing it for him, you can be sure I would have been mentioning it, just for the spouse points if nothing else.

Bob, the Windshield Washer Fluid Elf.


Anonymous Mark "Pitman" Pitcavage said...

This is utterly off-topic, but I just made this post in an on-line forum where I have a quasi-blog (more just a folder for conversation, really). Maureen, I thought you might appreciate it.

- - - - -

Man, I feel very melancholy. I chanced upon a Google result that was a Wikipedia article. I don't even remember what it was. But I noticed something on Wikipedia I had never noticed before--a "random article" link. So I hit that a few times. Got "Bad Axe, Michigan," and "Prince Mohammed Airport" and several other entries, then I chanced upon an entry for an obscure software company. I hadn't thought about software companies having entries in Wikipedia, so on a whim I typed in Infocom, which was the company that produced the first computer game I ever played (Zork). After reading that, I read the Zork entry, and that led me to the entry on the Amiga computer, which I owned at one point, and from there an entry on Amiga games.

Thinking about my Amiga, which I owned from roughly 1990 to 1994, made me think about one of my major pastimes during the period 1991-1996, which was the on-line computer servie GEnie, to which I was so devoted that I basically didn't watch any television at all during the first half of the 1990s. All that time was spent on-line instead (my computer was not in a place where I could be on it and watch tv at the same time, just in case you were wondering why I didn't try that :grin: ), mostly on the Gaming Roundtable and the Science Fiction Roundtable. In the latter, I met many many science fiction and fantasy writers, became friends with quite a few, and through that ended up writing a number of sf book reviews (including two large multi-book review columns in the Washington Post Book World). It even led me to having a published science fiction poem, of all things (yes, I bet you did not know you were conversing with a published poet, heh heh).

So I checked and sure enough, Wikipedia had an article on GEnie itself, a star-crossed network if there ever was one. At one point the #2 computer network, behind only Compuserve, it did not survive because General Electric Information Services, which ran it, viewed it as a stepchild rather than a true source of income, and refused to spend any money on it, even though it was very popular.

Reading the article made me very nostalgic for all my old friends from GEnie, only a few of whom I have stayed in contact with since I dropped out in 1996, ten darn years ago. Moreover, a link in the article pointed to a page featuring a transcript of the last hours of messages on the Science Fiction Roundtable in dec 1999. The people there--mostof whom I had exchanged hundreds of messages with over the years--representing the last survivors of the SFRT (GEnie had experienced a massive dropoff in membership; the reasons why are too long but the Wikipedia article explains it all)--were waiting and chatting while the operators of GEnie shut down the various roundtables one by one. It was this chilling sense of approaching doom, kind of like Hal being slowly shut down in 2001 a Space Odyssey as chips are removed from him, or Jim Carrey's character losing his memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The people there could see the various rt's being shut down and knew that they too would eventually be shut out--forever--in a strange sort of death.

I really, really miss the Science Fiction Roundtable. That was an incredible group of people.

February 12, 2006 10:15 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...


Yes, there was something extraordinary about GEnie, probably having to do with the size of the community, the novelty of the medium and a bunch of other stuff. But it was great to be there.

How are you doing? You should start a blog!

February 13, 2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I remember that shutting off of the lights at GEnie...every fifteen minutes I'd check back in, hear the increasing echoes in the halls, make "Anyone still here?" noises. It was melancholy, but curiously satisfying to be there to the end.

February 13, 2006 11:25 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Maureen, it's amazing you don't get more funny looks than you do!

February 13, 2006 3:43 PM  
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March 24, 2009 1:55 AM  

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