THE TROUBLE WITH CARS: ALL THE REST


When last we spoke of cars I was trying to explain why I've gone through so many. My first ride, a 1970 Oldsmobile Delta 88 I'd driven into the ground. My second ride I'd burned to the ground. My third had it's stereo stolen and so I lost any desire to take care of it from that point on.

Then came the mini van.

It was the early 90’s, I was a year or two out of high school, and I considered myself something of a musician. I was playing drums in a local rock band called Larry and we needed something in which to haul our equipment around, and that’s how the minivan came into the picture. A late 80's, blue, GMC Safari.

She was a good van and I called her Old Blue. Nothing really spectacular happened to Old Blue other than the reasonable wear and tear that happens to any van driven all over the damn place by four guys in a rock band, it was even peed upon by a stranger at a party, but eventually the engine block cracked and K&W Block Sealer will only last for so long, and so Old Blue had to go.

That was when I bought a black Nissan Altima. The car was only a year old when I bought it and it was what some people call “a sweet ride.”

I’d never owned a car that new before. There was not one thing wrong with it and I loved it with all my heart. I washed it all the time, I kept it free from trash . . . I’d even put my shoes on a towel in the back and drive barefoot if it was wet or muddy out for fear of dirtying up the interior.

Then I got laid off and my world fell into deep woe as I was forced to hand the car over to my older brother. I still had a few years of payments left on her, and as I couldn’t make them and he could, I gave the car to him before going home to weep quietly into my pillow.

So there I was. No job, no car . . . what’s a brother to do? That’s easy, drive your Grandpa’s old Jeep Cherokee . . . which I did for a month or two before it, too conked out on me.

That’s when I got the Civic.

It was 1998 and I'd finally found a good, steady job. I needed a new ride that was relatively cheap, so I bought a 1995 Honda Civic.

The 95 Honda Civic seemed at the time to be the most popular automobile in the world. Three of my coworkers at the new job each owned one as well, and in the same color. As a matter of fact, one of the owners of my car’s doppelganger used to park her car right next to mine, and I even got into it one night after work and wondered how my car got so clean, because my Civic was filthy.

Why was it filthy?

Did you just ignore everything that you’ve read thus far?

No?

Fine. I’ll take up precious web space to repeat myself.

I take good care of any car I have ever owned until something happens that I can’t fix without taking it somewhere or spending money on it. If I can fix it, great. Life moves on and I continue to maintain the car that I love. If I can't fix it, but it's still driveable, the car becomes dead to me and I let it go to crap.

For the Civic, it was the horn.

Not even the horn precisely, but the little horn button on the steering wheel. It's little squarish piece of plastic that you push on with your thumb to honk the horn. There are actually two of them.

I'd owned the Civic for two weeks when one of those horn buttons broke and fell off the steering wheel. Two weeks and that was it. The Civic was dead to me.

The problem was that it then took the next eight years of my life to get rid of it, and it accrued more and more damage the longer I had the car.

First, the muffler kept falling off. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t keep a muffler on that damn car. The first time the muffler fell off, I was doing about 40 miles an hour down a gravel road and CLUNK! the muffler flew off and tried to take my back bumper with it, leaving the bumper hanging off the car on the passenger’s side. I somehow let my roommate at the time talk me into letting him “fix” my rear bumper by using a power screwdriver and a number of screws to attach the side of the bumper back to the car . . . it never quite fit right again. I wound up replacing the muffler three other times before I decided to just give in to the inevitable and leave the car without that one piece of machinery that would allow me to drive through the streets without scaring the squirrels off the trees.

Then I hit the deer.

I was a dark and stormy night in November . . . OK, it was dark, but not a cloud was in the sky. I was driving home in the Civic with the wife and kids behind me in our new (again, slightly owned) minivan. It had been just the year previous that I hit my first deer while driving a delivery car for the local pizza place, and I had quickly become the kind of driver that watches everything. I never took my eyes off the road. I wasn’t lighting a cigarette, I wasn’t fiddling with the knobs on the stereo, and I surely wasn’t using the rear view mirror to put on makeup. One second the road was clear and quite deer-less, the next second a great giant deer with antlers the size of a maple tree crossed one lane of highway and passed in front of my car.

I took my foot off the gas, knowing that my wife was right behind me and that slamming on the brakes might not be the best of ideas at the time. What I thought was a good idea was to slow down and drift into the lane opposite the deer and hope that the wife noticed and followed. Then the deer did what deer do. Instead of continuing forward in its path and making for the ditch on the opposite side of the road, it instead turned around and leaped in front of my speeding car, proving once again that the deer are out to get us.

Anyway, so there I found myself in a car that I didn’t like in the first place that was now in much worse shape with a nice big dent on the passenger’s side door and a side mirror missing.

Being the kinda guy that can find lessons in Monty Python, I looked at the bright side of life and used the insurance money for Christmas presents.

Fast forward a year. It was once again November and horror struck my Civic one last time.

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2005, at around 7:15 PM, my vehicle was involved in a non-injury accident.

In other words, my car was parked along the side of the road, across from the pizza place where I used to work nights, and some guy in a truck to big to be allowed backed into it.

The guy was nice enough to come in and say something, and that was his first mistake.

As soon as I learned that this fella hit my baby, I was over the counter in a flash and my fists began to beat the drum solo from Wipeout on this dude’s smug “I Just Hit Your Little Car With My Great Big Truck” face.

Soon the Cops arrived and it took three of them to pull me off of the guy that tried to kill my car. Of course, two of those Cops now have various broken bones, and I spent the night in jail, but it was worth it. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, messes with my car.

OK, that’s all a complete lie.

My car was hit, the guy that did it did come in and tell me, but I most certainly did not beat him into a bloody pulp. Instead we were polite to each other, and I called the Police so they could come down and take a report for the insurance companies.

It did however take three Cops, though I have no idea why. It was either a really slow night, or the Police came in force in case there was a little display of fisticuffs brought about by the slight damage done to one car from another.

It was really no big deal on my end, or that’s what I thought at first. See, the car was a piece of crap before the truck hit it, and it’s just a little bit more of a piece of crap after it was hit. However, when I gave the car a much closer examination, I noticed that the driver’s side door didn't actually close all the way. It latches, it locks, it can’t be opened without employing the door opening handle, it’s just that the upper corner of the door bows out just a little leaving a nice little gap for rain and snow to sneak into my car.

The driver’s side window doesn’t roll down either, and that’s not something I can live with. Not that I am stuck up or anything, but I refuse to be one of these people who have to open their door when they enter a drive though window or ATM. However, instead of using the insurance money to fix the door, we once again used it for Christmas presents.

Not long after that I sold the Civic to a guy who wanted a first car for his son. Yeah, good luck with that.

After the Civic came the Toyota Corolla. The Corolla came with its own deer damage and two hundred and eighty thousand miles on the odometer. I only paid a thousand bucks for it, and the guy who owned it before me, deer damage aside, kept the car in real good shape.

Thirty eight thousand miles later and there came a funny noise down by the front wheels.

So now I’m diving a Honda CRV. Again, at first, I took immaculate care of it. Then someone shot it with a BB gun and now I just try to get by.

I just hope nothing happens to it. I need it to last for at least another two years.

Post image taken from photograph by Bruce McAllister, 1936-, Photographer (NARA record: 3823134) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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