Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Really Hate Cars

There it goes, car number 24, attached to the back end of a tow truck, the stretcher in the automobile world.  My parents used to name their cars, but that always saddens me because mine tend to die before their time.  I'm not kidding, either.  The joke in our family was that if you wanted to find out if anything is wrong with your car, let Robbie drive it for five minutes.  Sure as the sunrise, it would break down.  I drove over a muffler backing up a car.  Anything can happen with me behind the wheel.  I shudder to think how many horses would have had to be put down if I had lived over a hundred years ago.  There would have been no shortage of glue.

Still, my parents named every vehicle they owned and they were all females, which makes sense since most were pretty temperamental.  "Betsy" was an old LeSabre, dark brown with a cream hard shell.  "Lulu" was a wood-paneled station wagon that my sister and I would barricade ourselves in the back playing with our Hot Wheels and toy soldiers.  It was an indoor mobile playground.  On many road trips that four by four back compartment became our bed and camp.  Then there was "Ethel", an old, dark blue Ford something-or-other.  All I really remember of Ethel was that she was built like an air craft carrier.  My sister and I would ride in the back window just praying for Dad to hit brakes so we could go flying off the back dash.  These were cars you could sit on the engine while you worked on it, wrapping your arms around parts without having to remove half the engine.

Not that I ever worked on cars, mind you.  Mechanics and I go together about as well as the Pope at a strip club.  When they talk about cracked heads, I assume I dozed off and the conversation switched from cars to bodies and I missed the transition.  Although, I've seen people treat their cars better than their bodies.  Every day they're out there polishing their over-priced rims and shining their turning signals while they have holes in their shoes.  My dad is like this.  “Treat your car like a lady and she’ll never let you down.”  That was my problem.  I treated my cars like twenty dollar hookers, which is probably why I was always left high and dry.

My brother-in-law is great with cars and has rescued us dozens of times.  Even Char has helped him rebuild engines and transmissions and giggled like a school girl with her first crush.  I get nauseous putting gas in.  My friend, Garth, talks to Char about a Duster he's rebuilding and at first all I could think of was a stick with feathers on the end.  Not Char, though.  Oh, no.  Her eyes glaze over as they talk injectors and carburetors and cam shafts and soon I'm back with my nose in a book, sipping coffee.  It's like Spanish.  I don't get the language.

I tried once.  In tenth grade I signed up for auto mechanics and was determined to be able to fix the car I had yet to save for.  And it would have worked.  It was a basic class starting at "This is a bolt." That was my speed! I was set.  Then my parents moved us to Indianapolis two months into the year and I was screwed.  It wasn’t that Ben Davis High didn't teach auto mechanics, because they did.  By the time I got there, however, they had passed bolts and were stripping down distributors.  The only word I recognized was strip and it was not the same thing.  So, I found a kid who was going to make working on cars his life and he got me through auto mechanics and I got him through health class.

By the time we got back to Melbourne, I had given up even thinking of working on cars and had decided I wanted a desk job.  Still, my parents wished I had learned at least a basic knowledge of mechanics, like the part that cars need oil.  I didn't know this.  I had seen my dad do something to his where black slime was exchanged for fresher slime but I didn't know this was maintenance, and not merely suggested maintenance.  No, it was vital.  I found out in '84 on my way to a Prince concert before all of his name changes.  On the Beeline after the first toll booth, my Ford Granada blew a gasket, literally.  My parents came and rescued us, took us on to the concert and went back and had the car buried.

It should have been a warning.

The sad part is that almost every job I've had has required cars and I keep murdering them.  I'm surprised they haven't taken my license away due to mal-maintenance.  From paper carrier to pizza delivery driver, my crimes against cars have hit double digits.  Sadly, today it happened again and my van is heading back to the operating room.  The diagnosis is grim, especially for my wallet.

To be fair to me, however, it's not all my fault.  Some of these cars have come to me practically in ICU already.  Take the Yellow Dog, for instance, the only vehicle I ever named.  It was a Toyota Corolla that a friend gave me when our previous car went to that Great Salvage Yard in the sky.  It was yellow - and rust.  It had some minor problems like headlights held in place with wire hangers and a driver's door that flew open every time I made a left turn.  It had a rust-created sunroof that I covered with aluminum tape to keep the rain out and I could see the road passing under my feet as I drove.  The seats had lost all stuffing and the only air conditioning was from all the holes.  It did have a kick-ass stereo that Tony had left in, however.  I was afraid to turn it up, though, due to the bass level knocking off more body parts, both, the car's and mine.  Still, it ran fantastic.  When I finally did get rid of it, it wasn't because of the engine but because we thought the boys were going to drop through the floorboard.

It got us through to the next one, however, which got us to the next, which ... You get the picture.  Here I am, twenty-six years later and I'm still having the same luck with cars.

Currently, I own a '96 Town & Country and I say currently because I'm really hoping that by tomorrow that will change.  This vehicle is always coming up with new failures.  The turning signals pick and choose when they'll work and never when a cop or semi-truck is behind me.  I turned the corner the other day and the car peed on my foot.  I'm not joking!  From somewhere behind the middle console this stream of water poured onto my foot on the accelerator.  It wasn’t just a trickle, either, but a steady gush.  It was gross and weird and I still have no idea where it came from but it probably explains why none of the wiring works.  Driving down the road it will decide on it's own to just shut off.  That wouldn't be so bad except with no power there's no power steering and usually I'm turning corners.  The other week the front passenger side started shaking like a California earthquake and I still have no idea why.

So today, with the latest disaster being a broken belt pulley, I called and had it towed away.  I hate cars and if I hadn't seen so many criminal shows where people in cabs get slaughtered I'd probably taxi my way around town - pizza delivery by Sun Cab.  I’d ride the bus but the people I've seen waiting to catch one in my town make me think of Stephen King novels and I'm too lazy to walk. Maybe it's time to get that horse after all.  Surely, they don't need oil changes.

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  1. "There it goes, car number 24" For a second there I had a glimmer of hope for you thinking you were talking about Jeff Gordons race car, but then reality set in and the Rob I know and love came through.
    BTW...there are no injectors on the Duster, it has a carb. I am proud that you listened enough to at least know some of the terms though