We boarded a plane at 7.30 last Tuesday night, to get to San Diego at 9 and then to hire a car to drive 2.5 hours back into the high desert in California to go visit the most fabulous Diamond Lil – Sir’s 91-year-old aunt – who is a joy to behold and a beauty forever. If I could be half the woman she is at my age, I could shuffle off this mortal coil quite happily tomorrow.

Booking a car online the week before, I was dangled the proverbial carrot in being offered an upgrade for only $20 over four days, to a “luxury SUV.” Now I’ve always viewed SUVs as “lane blockers” and have vowed never to own one, but the offer was too tempting to pass up.

So up we rocked to our Mercedes SUV, shiny and pearly white. I did need a tiny bit of a grappling hook to be able to clamber into it, but it really was quite pretty inside in its unrelenting black. All quite smart, thought I.

Now neither Sir nor I feel the burning desire to faff around finding out how things work before actually testing them, so off we were prepared to go with indecent haste when Sir uttered:

“I have a slight technical problem”.

Uh oh, thought I. “What is it?” I asked.

“Um, where’s the gear shift?”

Looking down at where the gear shift should be, and where it’s most certainly been since I learned to drive some umpty-ump years ago, there was a rather splendid looking wheel, flat on the console. Not looking gear sticky at all, we reckoned.

With a bit of a fiddle, as Sir is the fiddler to end all fiddlers, he worked it out that what should be the windshield wiper stem by the steering wheel was in fact the gear changer, but with the added interest of having, apparently, to push the end in first. Never being allowed behind a wheel if Sir can help it – a fact that peeves me right royally, as I am, sotto voce, on the sly, and between you and me, a much better driver, I never did get to the bottom of the whole “chose a gear” conundrum.

Over the course of the four-day visit, I discovered the owner’s manual, which I decided required a science degree to even open. I learned how to turn the radio on, and as an aside, and not wishing to upset any race, color, creed, ethnicity, nor sexual preference, I think it’s fair to say in the great state of California, to have only three or four English-speaking radio stations is a bit of, as they say, a bummer.

But our piece of resistance happened one night coming home from dinner. Sir – the aforementioned inveterate fiddler – hit a button and somehow connected us to Emergency Services. Naturally we couldn’t unconnect, so I had to explain with extreme mortification and embarrassment, that it was Sir fiddling and we were most dreadfully sorry, but please don’t send the SWAT team.

So aside from Mercedes fiddling about with that which didn’t need fiddling, a fun time was had by all. Thank God no one’s fiddled with our Boston Lil – she’s an original, and a keeper!

Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at anniedearkc@hotmail.com.