Just Warming Up.

Source: gifer

When I was a kid we had a next door neighbor, Mrs. S., who’d go out and start her car in the morning and rev the engine vigorously fifty or sixty times, before she’d go back in the house and leave it running. This disturbed my father who was almost always asleep when she did this but, because Mrs. S.’s driveway was right under my parents’ bedroom window, and since whatever car Mrs. S. drove had an engine that was apparently indistinguishable from a Harley going full blast, he’d be forced out of bed whether he was ready to get up or not.

I never asked why Mrs. S. insisted on revving her engine first thing in the morning, waking up people and wasting gas, but then I was on the second floor and insulated from the noise. And as an adult I finally figured it out, and understood why it kind of made sense and, recently, even did it myself. Maybe you already know why she revved her engine first thing in the morning, and if I said she moved to Nashville from Wisconsin and mostly did it during the winter the reason should become obvious. I did it after we had snow followed by a fairly warm day followed by more cold so the car had a nice thick coat of ice. I went out with the scraper but it helped to have the car running so it could warm up and revving the engine a bit helped, well, accelerate the process. 

Mainly, of course, it just helped to have the engine running. One chilly winter Sunday when I was eight, after church, a friend of my parents gave me his keys and a quarter and asked me to start his car so the heater would be warmed up when he got in. I was eight and had never started a car in my life so I turned the key once in the ignition and turned on the fan so he got a nice blast of cold air when he got in his car and I got to keep the quarter.

I didn’t rev the engine fifty or sixty times because it wasn’t really necessary, but it wouldn’t have been so bad if I did. Our driveway isn’t near anyone’s bedroom—our bedroom is at the other end of the house and our neighbors’ bedroom is at the other end of their house, and my parents moved to Florida so their bedroom is approximately seven hundred miles away, so that works out well. The important thing is letting the engine run for a few minutes made it easier to scrape off the ice and snow, and what I couldn’t reach on the very top of the roof slid off by itself. Then when I got in the car it was nice and warm and the radio was already on because I’d left it on, but the best part is I found a quarter in the dashboard.

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9 Comments

  1. Allison

    Once when I flew home from a trip, my car was in the Econo lot at the airport covered in snow. It was probably 9:30 or 10 at night, and I had just thrown my bags in the back seat and prepared to deal with the car when a guy in a massive pickup truck pulls up, starts using a long handled brush, and whisks off my car for me. I barely got out a “thank you” before he was back in his truck and drove off. It’s one of those “that’s so Nashville” moments that I will never forget.

    Reply
  2. Allison

    Once when I flew home from a trip, my car was in the Econo lot at the airport covered in snow. It was probably 9:30 or 10 at night, and I had just thrown my bags in the back seat and prepared to deal with the car when a guy in a massive pickup truck pulls up, starts using a long handled brush, and whisks off my car for me. I barely got out a “thank you” before he was back in his truck and drove off. It’s one of those “that’s so Nashville” moments that I will never forget.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s pretty amazing. Sometimes we get these surprising gifts from strangers. Once when I was in Indiana I was trudging through some deep snow and stopped to help a guy whose car had gotten stuck. Nothing close to whisking off a stranger’s car, though, although I do always try to clean any snow off the car before I take it out on the road so I don’t accidentally blow snow onto someone else’s car.

      Reply
  3. markbialczak

    Yes, Chris, I pump the gas pedal twice, start the car, make sure the controls are on heat/defrost, then go about my snow brushing needs. It’s a necessary routine up here in Central New York.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I can imagine it’s necessary in New York, especially where you have longer winters and colder ones too, although I’ve heard of it being even worse farther north where, in some places, people have to use freeze plugs to keep their engine blocks from cracking.

      Reply
  4. mydangblog

    I have an remote starter on my car that lets it warm up for 8 minutes–but I always forget to set the fan to high, so half the time, I might as well not bother! At least you got to keep the quarter:-)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      As useful as the remote starter is it seems like it should also automatically start the fan. Designers always overlook little things like that. Anyway getting to keep the quarter was nice but I blew my chance to ever start his car again, which would have meant more quarters.

      Reply
  5. ANN J KOPLOW

    Michael and I discussed whether to do this earlier today and I decided not to start the car and leave the engine running. Somehow, I don’t want to do ANYTHING I don’t have to that might contribute to global warming. And Michael did a good job getting the ice off the windshield. Of course, the rest of the car looks like a lemon popsicle, assuming there is such a thing. Thanks for a very cool post, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Someone else told me that revving a car’s engine when it’s cold is a very, very bad idea, and I’m with you on not contributing to climate change. In fact going forward I may just think of ice on the car as nature’s way of telling me not to drive anywhere.

      Reply

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