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Monday, January 25, 2010

It’s Not the Years, It’s the Body Damage

We bought a 14 year-old car last summer. It’s nothing exciting, more of what we call a “grocery-getter”. It’s a small car, a humble car. There is no worry, with this car, that you will be approached by someone pretending to like you just to get to your money.

That’s why we got it. We’re flying under the radar over here.


The mechanic described the engine as being in “great shape”. And so far, bless him, he’s been right.

The years have been good to this car, engine-wise.

You know what that means, don’t you?

That’s right. It’s disintegrating.

The driver’s side window, for instance, comes off its track if you roll it down more than three-quarters of the way. This is not, as you’d imagine, a problem in the winter. Interestingly enough, however, it was quite a problem this last summer, when we broke the switch that turned the heat off.

It was 94 degrees outside.

And we had the heater on.

It was the Summer of Talcum Powder.

I finally gave up on winding the window down and simply pretended that the car had air-conditioning. After a while, you don't even notice.

The safety belts have gotten in on the fun as well. The passenger-side restraint, for instance, was seemingly designed to pull out only far enough to securely strap in someone weighing under 80 pounds. If you jiggle it properly, however, and if you can really suck in your gut, it eventually releases enough to be used.

Funny how often the ability to suck in your gut is part of the answer.

Then there was the damage done this past fall when the four-door, lane-wide Cadillac next to me in traffic slid off its axle and destroyed the right-side headlight and turn signal.

And now?

The three feet of plowed snow up against the garages in the alley, having been rained on, frozen, and then melted down to the leaden consistency of an embassy’s barricades has evidently acquired a cruel intelligence and has begun randomly attacking passing cars.

At least that’s how Willie describes it.

He has no idea how both sides of the bumper have been shattered. He does recall, though, sliding “softly”, he says, into a glacier after being forced in that direction by the deeply grooved ruts in the alley.

The bumper’s right side, made of only the highest quality plastic available, was ruined. He shimmed the headlight in with two pieces of wood.

Two weeks later, the left side suffered a similar fate; and its headlight was shimmed by use of three pieces of wood and a shoelace.

“Really?” I said. “What, are we out of duct tape?”

“I have no idea when the left side got wrecked! Just all of a sudden I’m walking out to my car and there it is!”

“So you think maybe it happened in a parking lot?”

“Well, noooo,” he drawls. “I did find the pieces in the alley when I took the garbage out…”

Ah ha! So he does have an idea how it happened!

Well, it is a 14-year-old car. Nothing lasts forever.

And she still runs like a top.

36 comments:

Ms Sparrow said...

What--no rust? Surely the heavily salted roads have begun to take their toll after 14 years!

The Jules said...

"Funny how often the ability to suck in your gut is part of the answer."

Isn't it though?

SuziCate said...

My motto is that as long as it gets you where you're going, that's all that matters. Since your car has so much character, you need to name your car. I have a friend who named her car and I have so much fun talking about how "Ron" warms my buns etc...

Jon said...

I love your use of duct tape! Sounds like you and your hubby are good at adapting and finding out the little secrets of the vehicle...

Thanks for sharing your writing... I always enjoy coming by this wonderful blog...

Douglas said...

I finally gave up on winding the window down and simply pretended that the car had air-conditioning. After a while, you don't even notice.

That is, of course, one of the beneficial side effects of dehydration. I know this because I have lived without AC in my car. Or my house. That's right, for most of my formative years (you know, when the hormones are in control and the brain is busy with important things like acne treatment and whether I would ever lose my virginity) I was living, sans AC, in the southern end of our southernmost state. I couldn't roll the window down because the wind would muss my hair... then so meticulously coifed into a Elvis "waterfall" effect.

Pat said...

So, what, were you out of duct tape?

Long ago, we thought we had a deal when we bought a 12-yr-old El Camino, but when I had to climb out the driver's side window at church to get out because neither door would open, that was the last straw. Plus, it frequently stalled for no seeming reason while I was driving it.

Little Ms Blogger said...

The car doesn't AC? Yikes.....

L.C.T. said...

Haha. Beautifully described. My car doesn't have AC, but the front automatic windows still work. It's about 13 years old I think but it's running beautifully and not disintegrating. Keeping an eye on her now though!

Me-Me King said...

Cat Lady Larew sent me, she says you're one BadAss blogger. She's right!

I'm your latest stalker!

lisleman said...

yeah I was wondering about the duct tape. any chance you could post a picture of this sporty model up here?

blueviolet said...

My 12 year old car went through a rebellious phase a couple of years ago. She's calmed down now. She's a good girl. But then she lives in the garage so she's spoiled. I'll bet if I put her in an alley, she'd go rebel wild again too.

B-u-x said...

Wow, Duct tape! You folks are not flying as low beneath the radar as me....my hubby's choice of 'wundermittel' is 'blu tack', it's not quite as effective as duct tape, but slightly more discrete in some instances ;-)

Debbie(singlemom;complicatedworld) said...

I am driving a 14 year old car! and this cracked me up! MY last car was 15 years old so I am moving up in the world!:) but the quirks are things you laugh at or you cry! thanks for making me laugh!:)

Donna B said...

I hit the Mother LOAD of great blogs visiting A Mom on a Spin!! So many good blogs she is following. You are hilarious!!

Molly Potter said...

We had a clown car once too. Slapstick wing mirrors, random squirters, knobs that broke off in your hands, lumpy seats, a variety of unsourceable noises - creaks, burps, rattles. We kept asking if we were being too fussy and demanding - thinking these 'extras' might be necessary - as after all, it got us from A to B - every time. I think the last straw was when the rear view mirror started wobbling with the car. Then we gave the car to a friend. He had it two days before he left it unlocked, it was stolen, driven across the city, clocked by two speed cameras and was burnt out. Dramatic ending for a clown.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

1996 Saturn SL1, 196,000 miles on it. My favorite pasttime is asking random strangers at the gas station to hoss on the little knob that releases the gas tank door, while I am pulling on the door. Or to open the back door and pull up the window with two hands while I'm pushing the button. Its ugly, but I do sort of like having a car I don't have to park in the back 40 and can fix with tape.

My name is PJ. said...

Really heat on in the summer and you got used to it? Wow!

Secretia said...

No car payment, that is the best part of the story!

CatLadyLarew said...

My car is 15 years old and I'm hoping it lasts at least another 5 years. (150+ miles on her) She still runs like a top and as Secretia says... no car payment!

BTW... I left a little gift for you over at my place today.

Lori E said...

I'm thinking she made this up because c'mon,

"...when I took the garbage out…".

As if that ever really happens.

The Retired One said...

God, I hate those flimsy plastic bumpers too...we had a piece of ice beside our garage rip ours as we pulled out of the garage too...leaving a permanent rip in it....those wimpy southerners have no idea what our cars have to endure up here!!!

GregoryJ said...

We have a 1993, so that's what? 16 years old? We are the original owners and it only has 60,000 miles on it, so It's still hanging in there. knock wood.
Sometimes one gets lucky.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

If I had to wear spanx just to drive my car to the grocery store, well.... let's just say I'd go shopping less until I didn't need the spanx anymore! Thanks, Car!!

Golden To Silver Val said...

I'm still driving my 16 year old car that has 46,000 actual miles on it. I love this car!! The driver's side window no longer goes down (power windows) and the remote control for the outside mirror doesn't work but so far everything else is hanging in there. Its going to hurt when I have to get another one....not only because I'm sentimental about my vehicles, but also because I don't want a car payment.

mapstew said...

My first car (Fiat 127) had no reverse!

It was small enough to pick up and turn around with the help of a couple of friends though! :¬)

xxx

Ian Lidster said...

And it's got character -- right? Lots and lots of character.

Chantel said...

Ok--shameless--but you MUST read this...I still laugh every time I do.

http://splendorinaplasticworld.blogspot.com/2009/08/wettest-car-ever.html

Old cars make the world go 'round.

Lana Banana said...

i used to have to dangle carrots in front of my first car to get it to go.

count your blessings where you can get 'em, pearl, dear . . . count your blessings.

Laoch of Chicago said...

We want photos!

Gadjo Dilo said...

This is why I've always been a fan of cycling!

Tempo said...

It sounds like a great car...want to sell it? Shall we call it a 'work of art?'..and sell it on Ebay for many thousands. LOL
Around here, where fishing is big, your car would be called a 'snapper drop' and that's just where it end up. Resting in the oceans bed, surrounded by all forms of fish and regularly visited by fishers old and young.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

That beauty reminds me of my cousin's 'Flintstone' car with the rusted out floorboards that my scary aunt broke through one day. As her shoes were ripped off her feet she lost 4 toes in all of 3 seconds. But not two toes on each foot. No. 3 on one foot and one on the other. BOTH Big Toes which made her tile forward when she walked from then on. You can replace thumbs with toes but not the reverse which makes NO sense to me. Imagine my cousin driving while screaming. Two toddlers in the back with my now profusely bleeding aunt 'stumpy' screaming. Me in the front seat trying to get out of the rolled down window, screaming and NO ONE thinking that maybe STOPPING the car is a good idea at this point. I swear those toes haunted that car for many a year. You could look down and see the road when he drove it for TWO MORE YEARS. To this day I can't even look at flip flops. True Story.

sassysundry said...

I had a Summer of Talcum Powder. Also Burned Feet.

ladyfi said...

We have those killer snowdrifts and ice bergs here too!

Irisheyes said...

Okay, That one made me spew milk out of my nose!! Summer of Talcum Powder. Sheesh. What makes this even more funny, is that I KNOW this is true. I've seen the damage AND the shoelace!!

R. Jacob said...

It appears that I let you use one of my cars and I don't want it back!