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A New Lease on Life

By Tom ďredefining road rageĒ Waters
November 16, 2004

I don't ask for much from my motor vehicle. All I want is a moving box with a decent radio to keep my cigarettes in that's going to get me safely from point A to point B.

I hate my car. I really, really hate my car. Most people donít assign emotion to their vehicles unless theyíve just purchased one or their cars are on the way out. My car has been on the way out since I got it four years ago. Itís never quite forgiven me for driving it through a fence on the way home from a strip club two weeks after buying it. Itís a ‚Äė94 burgundy colored Buick Century. It had sixty thousand miles on it when I got it and now itís closing in on 140,000. Weíve promoted books for a hundred mile radius. Weíve taken vacation trips down to my summer home and back. We traveled together for bar and club reviews in Canada, Niagara Falls and beyond. Itís taken the brunt of my various job commutes for the last four or five professions Iíve had. And I hate it with a passion.

When I get a new car, Iím not going to sell this one. Iím going to take it into a secluded field with a sledgehammer and go to work on it. Iím gonna get medieval on my car. And after I puncture the tires and smash out the windows, Iím going to set it on fire. And then Iím going to roll it off a cliff and take a picture for posterity. After that, Iíll take the remains and give them an improper burial. I think itís cursed. Itís given me problems ever since that first accident. We havenít gotten along since. Iíve dumped thousands of dollars into that unholy piece of shit. New batteries, new brakes, new steering reservoir, new tires, new coils. You donít really turn into an armchair auto-mechanic until you have a vehicle thatís always got something wrong with it.

I donít ask for much from my motor vehicle. All I want is a moving box with a decent radio to keep my cigarettes in thatís going to get me safely from point A to point B. The Buick canít even do that. If I get it repaired, it begins complaining about something else approximately one week after leaving the auto shop. Itís natural state is decline. Itís been terminal for four years and Iíve just been pouring money into it to keep it on life support. Iíve had other cars with mixed results. My first car was an ‚Äė87 Chevy Celebrity. I drove it like a maniac because it was my first car and it just stopped running one day. That I could live with. My second car was an ancient black Volkswagen Rabbit. It was a standard that spent ten years in storage and was prone to stalling. This wasnít entirely the Rabbitís fault. I was no good at working standard controls. One day on the way to work at a toy store it stalled making a right and I got rear ended, and that was the end of it. No hard feelings. After that, I got a Dodge Spirit. Aside from a flat tire, we got along famously. It wasnít a sporty car or a flashy car but it ran without complaint. And then it got stolen. That was when I got this awful collection of satanic parts that Iím currently tooling around in.

The Buick has been rear ended more times than Nathan Lane. To itís credit, though, the car can take it like a champ. Itís a good winter car because it runs like shit, but no more or less than it does the rest of the year. People have run into the back end of it at stop lights, red lights, and in parking lots where it sat motionless. Once I had the rear light replaced to the tune of three hundred dollars but other than that it takes it in the back side like a trooper. I got hit so violently once at a stop that it knocked the hat off of my head. No visible damage. It may be evil but it can take a beating better than Tina Turner.

When I drove through the chain link fence during the aforementioned incident earlier in this essay the antennae broke off at the root. It still gets decent reception. Iíve tried to like my car, but my affections havenít been returned. Every seven hundred miles I have to feed it a quart of motor oil because it leaks incessantly. Every two hundred miles I have to dump steering fluid in because the rack and pinion steering is on the way out and needs to be replaced. I yanked the dome light out because it goes on and off intermittently during the winter. Itís possessed. I havenít washed it for at least two years because I donít see the point in being nice to it.

On the way home from vacation two years ago it stalled. The battery was acting funny all week. I got a jump from a considerate motorist and it stalled again. After a third jump it stalled itís way into the parking spot at my apartment. My father and I replaced the battery and it still wouldnít run. After a week at the auto shop and plenty of fiddling under the dash, we had our diagnosis. It was a rare wiring problem. A one in a million occurrence that cost in the neighborhood of eight hundred dollars. Some chance defect in itís manufacturing that I had no control over. I will never buy a Buick again. Ever. I hate my car with a passion that surprises me. And it hates me back.

It wonít last another winter without divine intervention. Iím thinking of getting a nice, unremarkable used Honda, because my older brother has owned two of them and they donít appear to cause many problems. One would presume that such a wish isnít asking for much, but not everybody drives the shit-box that I have to live with. I had a girlfriend once who always bought rolling time-bombs for five hundred dollars or less. It was all she could afford, and her cars were either sitting in driveways collecting dust, billowing smoke, or breaking down in rare and spectacular ways. She made friends with a lot of mechanics. This car, my car, was not cheap, but itís never forgiven me. We got off to a bad start, and the end will be a lot worse.

I donít know how it will all end, and I donít care. I donít even think about my car anymore, or get aggravated when the mechanic calls and tells me how much it will be this time. Iím thinking about my next car, and how well weíll get along. I presume that some day when I least expect it my car will blow up for no reason, or the transmission will pop out of the hood like a jack in the box. Maybe the axle will break and Iíll go skidding into drive-time traffic. Iíve survived worse.

I donít ask for much out of life, but I want my next car to have an understanding with me. I know people who drive happily to their jobs. They whistle and place their coffees into conveniently placed cup-holders, choosing their preset radio stations with the click of a button, switching on their cruise controls and adjusting their heat or air conditioning for optimum comfort. They wash their cars every week and get the oil changed every three thousand miles like clock-work. They take care of the interior and if thereís any debris itís cleaned out on a weekly basis. Their upholstery is vacuumed and sanitized whenever the weather is nice. In the summer times, they smile and wax their cars under the heat of a weekend sun. Thatís all I want.

I want a good car that doesnít drain every dime out of my fucking pocket and make me crazier than I am because thereís always something wrong with it. I want a vehicle that isnít a fiduciary black hole where one tire is always going flat and puddles are visible after pulling out of a spot. I want a goddamned car that doesnít grumble when I need the smallest degree of pick up. Iím sick of this piece of shit. I want a divorce from this car for irreconcilable differences. And after I destroy it, pulverize it, and incinerate it so that no automobile owner has to go through the trials and tribulations that Iíve gone through again, Iíll take a picture of itís remains and keep it in the glove compartment of my new car. As a hint. A reminder to be good no matter what, especially when I really need it. My next car wonít be perfect. It wonít be a mid life crisis-mobile or something that I show off at auto shows, but itís going to run happily. Or else.