Monday, May 14, 2007

My Car

Has anybody ever seen the movie Breaking Away? Aside from being a dorky bicycling movie, and the movie that made Chase Korte and I friends, it has a bearing on this post which is, as you may have guessed from the title, about my car.

There is a scene in the movie in which the main character Dave Stoller's father Raymond is working at his used car lot. The cars are all decrepit pieces of crap, but they have special names painted on their windshields. It's set in Bloomington, Indiana, which is of course a big college town, and since Dave and his friends are all "Cutters" (locals) all the college kids hate them. But, Ray obviously sees them as a potential market for shitty used cars, and so he sells them with clever names like "Homecoming Special" or "Graduation Deluxe." Or, my personal favorite, "English Major."

Now, "Homecoming Special" is actually not a bad looking car; it's a red, two door convertible of the MG type. The "Graduation Deluxe" is not as nice, because it's a tan sedan, but it is in respectable condition. The "English Major" is by far the worst car on the lot. It is gray with rust coloration (most likely from, I don't know, the rust), and looks as if it had been saved at the last minute from being thrown into the quarry where all the Cutters like to swim.

Being an English Major myself, I would take issue with this. But, looking out of my front window at my car sitting in front of my house, I'm thinking I wouldn't mind scrawling "English Major" across it and selling it cheap, or possibly even throwing it into a quarry. From the cracked windshield, to the bent antenna, to the white paint and small dent from where I drove it into the workbench in the garage, it's certainly seen better days. In a year, my car will be old enough to get a license and drive itself. By the time I graduate from school, it will be worrying about who to vote for in the next presidential election. If some unforeseen future event holds up my school one more year (Knock on Wood and God Forbid), then at some point my car will be older than the freshman class.

What's worse is, before when something went wrong with my car, it was a big thing, something that stood out and made it impossible to drive without fixing.

There was the famous debacle with the CO2 filter being clogged, and thus the car just dying if I let it idle. When this happened, you had to wait 45 minutes to two hours to get it to start again, and then if you stopped, you just had to keep your foot on the gas to keep the RPMs up. Then there was the massive oil leak. At one point, I remember getting my oil changed in the morning, and by the following evening, my oil light came on. I had already lost a quart and a half. After that, the infamous unplanned road trip to Davenport, resulting in my third timing belt since I bought the car in 2003 and the dire need for a new water pump. These things, while hassles, were all easy enough to manage...just take it to the repair shop, fork over a bunch of money five days later and wait for the next thing to go horribly wrong.

But nothing has gone horribly wrong. Just little things. Now my car (which used to be a stubborn and whiny teenager) is now a cantankerous old man. There's the crack in the windshield, which I still haven't figured out how that happened. The bent antenna I think came from going through a car wash without first retracting the antenna. The knob that controls the fan speed fell off; you can rest it on there in either the "off" or "full blast" positions, but any of the others you have to turn it and then take it off and put it under the parking break if you don't want to lose it. Once, about a year ago, I opened my driver's side door from inside and part of the plastic handle came off. Last fall, the same door started needing a special flick and angle to unlock with the key, with the (I can only guess) following consequence of the key not being able to start the car anymore. Funny thing is, the key that I had made (from the original master, which is broken and can't go on a key chain) does not unlock any of the doors because the metal is too flimsy and will twist if trying to unlock, except for the trunk, it still does that one okay. Last summer, I noticed fluff coming out of the vents, and found out that all the seals around the AC unit had disintegrated and were being blown up to the vents themselves, thus rendering my AC useless because the seals can't keep the hot air from the engine from mixing with the cold air from the cooling unit. The front passenger door, no matter how much WD40 I apply, creaks loud enough to echo off of the neighbors' houses. At a certain RPM, right about 1700 or so, the engine makes a sickly metal-grating-on-metal noise, no matter what gear I'm in, but only when the RPMs are coming down, not going up. A year ago there was a hole in the brake line that meant leaking brake fluid, which of course didn't start until after I had it inspected but it was a relatively cheap fix, and now, to top it off, it's losing about a quart of oil in between oil changes.

This is the car of the English Major. It was once stylish, economical, the car that everybody wanted not because it was nice and flashy but because it was a Toyota Camry, and it was inexpensive and got great mileage and was a nice family car while still being stylish enough to not look like you were the boring practical type, just the practical practical type. In essence, it is the car, or at least it was back in 1992 when it was new. But when I bought it for $3,000 in 2003, it was a good buy to last me a couple years. It is now 2007. I have owned the car for four years, almost to the day now, and all these little things are starting to grate on me a little. But, it is an English Major's car, and more specifically my car, which makes it a Writer's car. And, like all things in a writer's life, it acts if nothing more than to be the impetus for an exercise in creativity, an expression of one's frustration with modern life and its unattainable cars.

Fun Fact of the Day: If it were up to me, I would own two cars, and neither of them would be the one I currently own. One would be a Volkswagen Golf TDI, with the new bio-diesel engine that the German companies are using to answer the Hybrid surge. The other would be a Scion tC in the dark blue color, with the moon roof and spoiler. They would both be sticks. The Golf could be any color but white or purple, although if we could find one in yellow that would be great. They would also both have some way for me to play mp3's in them. And I would never drive either one of them into the workbench. Ever.

1 comment:

Molly said...

But you might hit a yellow pole on a parking lot....
on accident, of course.