Last night I had to help with the car.

I only helped for about 20 minutes. And it was my car. So I am obviously not to be pitied here.

Things are often more fun if you are working with someone else. I like to work on crafts with my kids, to cook with my husband, and to brainstorm with colleagues. Even housework is more fun with someone. So I do believe that my husband should have someone to work with when he is doing car repairs.

Preferably not me.

For one thing, there are communication problems. English is my native language. My husband believes that this should mean that I can easily read the car repair manuals. I have been unable to convince him that “Adjust the neutral start switch” is completely meaningless to me.

Nor do I have the kind of visual/spatial intelligence required to connect those blurry pictures of engines with anything in the real world.  He does have this kind of intelligence, as does #2 daughter. For people like this, the helplessness of people like me as we peer at the engine and try to recognize anything in the picture is not easy to understand. In fact, the neutral start switch is not in the engine, but I assure you that I was not the one who figured this out.

My husband is blessed with skill at fixing things. My position on this is that he can fix anything — if he wants to. Therefore, anything that remains unrepaired around our house is something that he does not want to fix. From his point of view, it is difficult to go buy a part when you do not know the name of the part, and it would help a lot if I could just tell him the name of the thing. I do not disagree. I just know that there are lots of car parts, and I do not actually know the names of any of them beyond, oh, “steering wheel” or “tire.”

We have a wonderful little book called the Ultimate Visual Dictionary. It tells you the names of all sorts of things that most of us cannot name, including not merely the eight-way D-pad, but also the operculum. If you know what a thing looks like, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, you can look in this little book and find out what it is called. It does not work the other way.

The other thing about car fixing is that all the things you work with are so unappealing. Of course I enjoy working with my hands. But I like to work with things that are soft, pretty, and smell good. All car parts are ugly, dirty, and smelly. Not to people who like working with cars. There was an old movie in which Ginger Rogers played  a girl who loved to work on cars. Her enthusiasm for the beauty of the machinery was admirable. She did it with the same gusto she brought to dancing in satin gowns. Even with her as an example, I cannot fabricate enthusiasm when I am supposed to be helping fix the car. And I escape as soon as possible, even though I feel bad about running out on the process.

The car is not yet repaired. And I am sure that I seem to my husband like a spoiled and worthless creature who can’t even summon up enthusiasm and skill to work on my own car. I’m not sure I can actually improve in this area.