I took my 1999 Honda Accord into my mechanic last week for its regular oil change and inspection. The body showed its age but the car still rode nicely, even beneath the weight of its 333,500+ miles.
One of three things can happen when one takes a car made in the last century and with high mileage in for an oil change and a look under the hood. The first is that the mechanic can come into the waiting room and say to you, “You’re all set.” The second is that he can come up to you with a clipboard in hand and say, “You need your (fill in the blank) replaced, but hey, we can do that right now if you like!” The third is that he can stick his head into the waiting room and say, “You need to see this.” “This” is never good. Rest assured that he is not going to tell you that he found a winning Super Lotto slip taped to the engine block.
Number Three happened to me. I was solemnly ushered into the workshop as an organ dirge started playing in my head. My car was up on a lift and appeared okay until the mechanic started pointing at certain areas with a pen and demonstrating that particular areas were loose. I am not mechanically inclined but I could see that the undercarriage had some major rust in a couple of strategic places where the thigh bone connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone connected to the leg bone, and…you get the idea. My car was breaking apart. I received a long and patient explanation to the effect that repairing it would cost much more than the car was worth, what with the age of and the miles on the car. In answer to my question of how long it would last in its present state, the mechanic shook his head and said, “Possibly five years, if you don’t hit a pothole, but more likely five miles. Or five blocks.” His summation — “You need a new car” — was one that required no further explanation.
Some retroactive anxiety reared its head. I had been driving my granddaughter and her friend all over the city during the Labor Day weekend in a car that was ready to come apart. The realization of what might have happened sealed the deal. I did some extensive research over a couple of days and leased something called a Honda Fit Hatchback. It has all sorts of bells and whistles that I am getting used to — I can now answer my phone using the steering wheel and rudely hang up on people, just like Ray Donovan — but it is not much of an adjustment.
I am a little upset. I try not to get too attached to the things of this world. Cars specifically have never been important to me other than as a means of getting reliably from Point A to Point B. I am surprised by my emotional attachment in this case, however. I had a lot of physical and psychic DNA in that Accord. I used it to drive my children thousands of miles, to schools, parties, vacation destinations, movies, friends’ houses, shopping, concerts, and doctor visits. My granddaughter has been a passenger in it on an average of once a week since she was born almost fourteen years ago. I did some business traveling as well with it, going to and through thirty-seven states and having some adventures along the way, including a Pulp Fiction experience in Arizona and an encounter with tribal police in New Mexico which could have gone badly if not for my charming courtesy and winning smile. I witnessed the most horrific traffic accident I have ever seen outside of a small town in North Texas. I drove to author conventions in Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Nashville, Madison, Cleveland, and Phoenix, made well over a two dozen trips to New Orleans and southern Louisiana, and somehow acquired a bunch of dear friends in the process. My Accord was always part of the story. Now it is gone. I donated it to a charity and watched as it boogied on down the road and across the rainbow bridge without me.
The Honda Fit has a transmission which is called “continuously variable,” a term that accurately describes my mood right now. It will in all probability be my last car, given my age and the manner in which my older friends seem to decline precipitously once they hit the downside of seventy. That’s part of a story that will be written at a future time by someone else.
And on that note…
…have at it, chillun! Please tell us a car story, or your favorite book involving a car,.whether as part of a book written by someone else (you by all means can mention Christine or Drive), written by you, or a personal experience. Thank you and good day.
All photos by Al Thumbs Photography
The soundtrack for today’s submission:
Rapture — Blondie
Marquee Moon — Television
Y’All Think She’d Be Good 2 Me — C. C. Adcock
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) — Talking Heads
Spare Me a Little of Your Love — Fleetwood Mac
Looking for A Kiss — New York Dolls
What a Party — Fats Domino
Soul Kitchen — X
It’s All Over — Willie Nile
Sorry You Asked — Dwight Yoakam
Time Has Come Today — Chambers Brothers
The Kids Are Alright — The Who
Bitches Brew (album) — Miles Davis