Sunday, August 22, 2010

Litany of the car - my trail of debris

Cars - the personal space you travel in. We get attached to them. Well I do. I don't imagine I'm alone. We see the passing show from the front seat of our cars, the darkness illumined in halogen glare, the passage of time ticked off in miles.

I haven't had much luck with cars over my 40 plus years of driving. (Yes indeed - I am old as dirt!) I started my car career with a little white Chevy I bought from my Grandmother when she got a new car. Then I got married, and when that car started falling apart, we had an old VW bug and a huge Ford Van. In the breakup, I got the bug, he got the van. When the bug developed some bugs, my father took it.. He used it to fiddle with an experimental carburetor he was trying to build from plans in Popular Science Magazine.
I got something called an Astra, a used three-door hatchback. it was a little car I liked a lot - but my Astra was totaled nearly head-on by the student president of the local high school's Safe Rides club who was driving her daddies brand new caddie. I saw her coming around the corner in the middle of the road, and yanked the wheel to the side. As she hit me I could see her look of horror and HER HANDS IN THE AIR!!!! Idiot. I was lucky I lived through it. Afterwards she indignantly accused me of speeding. The nice policeman had to walk her back along the 100 feet of skid marks the caddie left after it hit my car....

Then came the Blue Renault - a five door hatchback that I bought new (my first) and paid off. I drove that car for several years and moved to Maine with it. In Maine its chief flaw was this - the heater and the defroster were crap. When my mom got rid of my by then late father's Plymouth Duster, (which had a fabulous heater) I took it and gave the Renault to my cousin's boy (who later totaled it during his first year of college)

The Duster had its own set of oddities. There was something mysteriously wrong with the onboard computer. I went through four of these. Though some tragic flaw in the design - when it rained (Snow and ice were okay) the car would not start unless I got out a HAIR DRYER and dried the computer casing. So for a year and half I carried a 50 foot orange extension cord and a hair dryer every where I travelled. Traveling home from Maine, in Massachusets town - on a bleak day when their were multiple accidents in that town because of conditions - the duster and I hydroplaned into a Mass Electric truck - which was completely undamaged.

I was carless for a time after that, and once I took the plunge again, I had a white honda civic hatchback for 11 years. What a great little car that was!!! BUT - in the end (no pun intended) - it got rear-ended in front of the Brookfield Craft Center by a giant red pickup truck, driven by a volunteer fireman. So much much for my great little car.

I bought a used Ford Escort wagon, a 96, that threw a rod six months after I bought it. i paid $1,500 to have a new engine head put in - but the repair left some metal fragments in one cylinder - and after a few weeks it started making a terrible grinding noise. There went another $1,500. It was never right after that. And neither was I after wasting that much money.

After a while I replaced it with a 2003 Toyota Echo a car I really loved driving - I had it for three years, then an idiot in a magenta jeep rear-ended me at a stop light. I was completely stopped - he was going 40 while yaking it up on a cell phone. JERK. I remember how wistful I felt when I learned it was totaled, when I went to the body shop to clean it out and say goodbye.

I liked that Echo so much I got another 2003 Echo. It wasn't quite the same but It worked well until this year. Frankly, I have had my calculator out. I have spent $1,105. on my car since January.

Despite this, Tuesday morning it refused to start. It clicked spastically while sounding anemic. It's already had TWO NEW BATTERIES, new front brakes with rotors and new front tires THIS YEAR and alternator belts replaced and the subsequently readjusted. It went all the way to New Haven Monday night so if its surly little alternator was working at all it should have charged. I asked the mechanics about this twice. I was assured the alternator was working. I have a love hate relationship with this car. There is NO love involved in my relationship with the dealer's service center.

So, I rolled it out of the garage, down onto the street to get the 13-year old car, (which still RUNS) - into the garage. I left the Toyota on the street. because I simply didn't know what to do. Saturday morning I discovered it had been hit by a passing car. The street was littered with headlight glass from the other car. My car sported a giant dent, and a street-side front tire bent all out of whack ( with attendant damage to the tie-rods, steering assembly etc etc.. SIGH.

Lucky though, while the nice lady cop was writing up the accident, a tinkerer from down the street was walking by with his granddaughter and their puppy Bobby.  He is now the proud owner of a new project -with full disclosure of its odd problems. At least doing the work himself he won't have to pay some pricy mechanic. He managed to roll it down the hill.... So at least I didn't have to pay to have it towed...

That's a lot of scrap metal I have left behind - I'd like to know the tonnage and multiply it by the number of drivers in the world.. I think we need more trains. .