A year ago this week, I learned a valuable lesson.
See that steering wheel there? Take a close look. Notice the two slits on either side of the horn.
That slit on the left? It’s just slightly narrower than the width of my wedding ring. The slit on the right, though? In what is perhaps the most insidious design flaw ever to befall the toyota brand, it’s ever-so-slightly wider.
You might be able to guess where this is going…
It may not come as a surprise when I tell you: I’m a bit of a fidgeter.
And ever since Brent and I got engaged, I’ve developed this pesky habit of playing with my ring. I roll it in my hands, spin it on table tops, and slide it up and down my finger.
“You’re going to lose that thing,” Brent tells me with some degree of frequency.
Last year, as I was driving home from school the day before Thanksgiving, I absentmindedly began rolling my wedding ring along the left groove of the steering well. It sat so comfortably in there, snug but not constricted, with just enough give to slide smoothly from top to bottom, bottom to top.
“Hmm…,” I remember thinking when I became aware of what I was doing. “I wonder whether the right groove works just as well.”
Seriously, who has such thoughts?
I shifted my grip of the steering wheel from my right hand to my left, and with the free hand began to slide the ring up and down the inset.
Except the ring didn’t slide. Instead, in less time than it took for me to realize what was happening, it slipped right inside the steering wheel itself.
I looked at it in disbelief (yes, I was still driving home, on a dreary afternoon in Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving traffic). Did that really just happen?
I spun the wheel. I could hear the ring rattling inside. I looked for a trap door. There was nothing.
I called my carpenter-contractor father who knows how to fix anything and everything and, quite conveniently, lives around the corner from us.
“Hi Dad. Are you home yet?”
“Just pulling up. What’s up?”
“Um… I have a little bit of a problem…”
I explained what had happened and met him a few minutes later on the curb outside my parents’ house. My dad stared at the steering wheel for several seconds before admitting defeat.
“I was thinking of taking it to the dealer,” I said helplessly.
“Yeah…” He thought for a moment. “Try Roanoke first,” he said, referencing the mechanic that takes care of his truck. “Tell them you’re my daughter.”
I drove the two miles to Roanoke, pulled up outside, and walked in to the greasy shop.
“So,” I began as the man looked up from his logbook, “I’ve got a great story for you to tell around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow…”
I recounted the episode as he stared at me in wonder, and then we walked out together to inspect my car. The mechanic examined the console carefully and decided that he couldn’t help me.
“I hear it in there,” he said, “but with these newer cars, I think you’ll have to take apart the entire system. I’d go straight to the dealer.”
And so back in the car I went, ready to drive the remaining five miles to the nearest Toyota hub.
But then I noticed something. When I moved the windshield wiper arm up and down, I could feel the ring rocking back and forth. I pulled over and peered underneath the wheel.
There it was. My little wedding ring, peeking out from the rubber. I tried to stick my finger in to grab it, but I couldn’t quite reach. And then, in a moment of pure genius, I grabbed my sunglasses and used the arm to finagle my ring out of the steering wheel death grip.
An hour after it began, the crisis was over. I called my dad with the good news, and briefly contemplated not telling Brent, who was at that moment on a plane to Florida to spend the holiday with his family. But of course, the moment he called to tell me he’d arrived safely, I spilled the beans.
We laughed. He teased me. And then we forgot about it.
Until last week…