Those with a good memory may recall that the starter on my car is upfuckimated. (There's another word for you schmengie.) In particular, it seemed like the solenoid wasn't solenoiding-- I could hear the starter spin, but that's about it.
I was planning to have the car towed to a shop tomorrow morning, but before I called a tow truck I figured I'd try starting it one last time. I checked fuses, jiggled wires, and did everything I could think of, but no dice. As a very last resort, I took a hammer and tapped the starter a few times then hopped in and turned the key. The car went grumble grumble and started. Ding!
As I pulled it out of the garage I noticed that the check engine light was on. I figured that meant "something's fucked up" but not that I had to stop dead in my tracks. Since the car seemed to be running more or less normally, I drove it five blocks and parked it in front of the shop-- tomorrow I'll walk down and drop off the keys.
If it's really just the starter, then tomorrow afternoon I should be able to exchange not-too-much money for a working car. And successfully performing the hammer trick makes me feel way more competent than I actually am. I'm impressed that I could even identify the bloody thing.