“Got a work in progress out there?” A man asks while I’m washing my hands in the bathroom. I immediately look at my zipper. Seeing no bad-timing boner, I look back up at our reflections in the mirror.
|I took a picture of her this morning,
but she kept getting pissed about
the angle I was taking it from. We
finally agreed on this one, taken at
the Vikings-Bears game last winter.
The booty is her best angle anyway.
“What do you mean?”
In a parking lot filled with hulky SUVs and pastel-colored Priuses, you can bet a red PT Cruiser with a white driver’s door and both ends of the front fender missing gets noticed. So battered is my car that it has transcended the realm of a beater and become a fan favorite because of its jagged edges and dents.
“It turned 11 years old on Monday.”
Flash back to April 1, 2002. The inferno red PT Cruiser in the Miller Hill Jeep showroom had 33 miles on it, and that was after I took it for a test drive. I sat in the driver’s seat, admiring the shiny red blob on the passenger side dash and the light shimmering in the speedometer. It was a sparkling, perfect machine. Two signatures later, it was mine.
I remember my mother watching me drive it out of the showroom and watching the dealership disappear in the rear view as I drove back to work. This was back in my Champs Sports days, before I owned a cell phone and back when I wanted the first song to play in my new car to be a remix to “Bitch Please.” (I was 21, give me a break)
Co-workers took turns sitting in the passenger’s seat and telling me how they couldn’t wait for me to lose my virginity in the back seat – which folded down and came out, by the way. That was pretty sweet technology in those days.
It was one of my golden moments. By all rights, buying a brand new car is a terrible investment idea and it’s the fastest way to lose equity besides buying crack for resale and smoking it all yourself. But I would recommend it to anyone – the feeling is worth it.
It lasted three weeks.
My first accident turned the entire driver’s side into a luge course. The next winter, a road sign went through the windshield. The winter after that, I soared over a snowbank and crashed into a tree. The winter after that, I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make on Highway 23 one fateful morning: Hit the dog, or hit the oncoming semi.
A van full of old ladies and a motorcyclist later, and my car looks every bit of her 11 years.
Yet, my car has given me everything without getting much back. A so-called expert on her type of motor said they last between 160,000 and 180,000 miles; with no repairs besides body work and your average maintenance – brakes and tires, a couple alignments and light changes – my car, as I write this, has lived 179,824 miles.
“You’re doing it right,” said the man in the bathroom. “A car isn’t an investment, just a necessity.”
“That’s right!” I said. “I’m driving it as long as it drives me.”
It’s the pledge I made to my car a long time ago: I was the first owner and I’ll be the last.
Squint hard enough at the wall and you can start to see the writing. The front windows don’t roll down and the air conditioner doesn’t work. Last year, before my interview at the company I’m with now, I had to basically dress in the parking lot on a 100-degree day to avoid looking like a freshly-wrung dishrag.
The CD player doesn’t work if it’s too cold. The sheen has long been timed off the shiny red blob, and scratches have made their way aboard. Most of the speedometer lights don’t work anymore. Getting the headlights to come on sometimes requires kicking. The cruise control hasn’t worked in years.
At my last oil change, my buddy Soup offered my first doomsday warning: If the brake light starts staying on, that means the brake fluid is starting to leak out of the lines and driving her becomes a risk of lives. I doubt this was intentional, but Soup’s crew didn’t fill in the date and mileage for my next oil change. Maybe they know something I only kind of know?
Until then, or until I’m stranded on the side of the road for the last time with her, this is my car. Now, whether she guts out my commutes ‘till the bitter end or spends a well-earned retirement as my tailgate-mobile remains to be seen. All I know is she has no resale value, even if a dealer tries to tell me otherwise. The people bugging me to get a new car can just hold their horses.
After putting her through 11 years of Hell, the least I can do is make sure she gets to Heaven.