The other day I was headed home from a quick run to the grocery store and, because it was just after 5:00, I decided to take "the back roads" home. This sounds more dramatic than it is. I live in a small city, so it's not like I'm avoiding a highway or anything... I'm just deviating from the "main" route that I'd normally use 99% of the time.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks, I had a flashback that hit me like a punch in the gut...
I had moved my mom to a facility on the coast in September of 2016 because she required a level of care I could no longer provide. At this point she still recognized me, so my visits every-other-week were especially painful. In my heart I felt like I was abandoning her every time I left even though my head knew that it was the only option available. After making the two-hour drive home from her birthday dinner in December, I saw that snow removal was happening on the "main route" so I turned to take "the back roads" in the hopes that I would get home quicker.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks after sundown, the right side of my car fell off the road and dropped between the tracks below. Turns out that when they plowed the street they plowed way too far to the right, so the road I was driving on was not actually the road, it was just snow pack. Snow pack that could not support the weight of my car, so down I went. It was such a sudden and unexpected jump that I remember biting my tongue.
In the photo above, it doesn't look like much of a drop, but when you look at a photo from the opposite angle, you can see it's quite a height to fall...
It was a drop I had no way of seeing because it was plowed even to the road, everything was white, and it was dark out.
At the time my financial picture was dire. I had to come up with a significant chunk of money to get my mom into her new place and I didn't have two nickels to rub together... let alone have money to pay for auto repairs. I remember sitting there behind the wheel with my car off the road feeling utterly defeated. My mom's health was declining. I was overwhelmed with work and having to travel. And my credit cards, which I had worked so hard to pay off, were likely going to build up again because there were just too many expenses piling up.
My car is front-wheel drive, so I was pretty much stuck. Trying to slowly back up just caused my tires to spin out in the snow. So I got out and took inventory of everything in my trunk. I had kitty litter, which I sprinkled under my left-front tire for traction. I also had a bundle of rope and some blankets, which I gathered up and stuck under my right-front tire. Then I
"Well that sounds expensive" I said out loud to nobody.
In the morning I backed out onto the driveway so I could try and see what was dragging. All I could tell was that it wasn't the muffler because the noise was coming from the front end.
Turns out it wasn't quite so bad as I had feared. Because cars are cheap crap now-a-days, it was a big piece of plastic which, apparently, was there to shield the underside of the motor from getting splashed by road grime. At first I tried to just rip it off the car but it was too well bolted on the back-side. My solution was to use zip-ties to pass through the holes in the plastic shield where the bolts had ripped through, and basically fasten it back to my car's frame.
It worked just fine and cost me $3.00 cash money.
A couple of years later I was driving down the highway when the zip-ties finally fell apart. So there I was all SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! again. This time with lots of people around. Fifteen minutes down the road I pulled off to an Auto-Zone so I could buy another bag of zip-ties to get me home. Though this time I spend $5.00 so I could get the industrial-strength version.
Those zip-ties are still holding my car together to this day...
And since it seems to be working, I guess I won't bother paying to have the plastic repaired or replaced... though I probably should at some point. Having people stare at me as I go driving by while my car is going SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! is enough to make me want to die from embarrassment.
And if I were to die?
Guess it only takes an 8-inch fall to kill you, as unlikely as that may seem.
Started coming down with a cold on Saturday.
Downed massive amounts of vitamin C to head it off.
Felt way better on Sunday... no runny nose, no aches and pains, no coughing. Just a little bit of sinus pressure.
Then today I had to drive over the mountain passes and back for work. This caused my sinuses to compress. Now I've got a massive sinus headache that Will. Not. Stop.
The good news is that I finally managed to donate my car to the veterans. Since they couldn't pick it up over in Redneckistan, I drove it over to the big, scary city of Seattle. I was going to take a sentimental final photo of my Saturn... but I fucking hated that car so much that I didn't feel like it.
If you want to see what it looked like, here's a photo of the piece of shit being towed after the transmission blew out a couple years ago...
I bought the Saturn SC2 in 1999 after my previous car was completely destroyed by a runaway railroad truck. It slipped out of gear, tore across the street, then plowed into my car so hard it was totaled. Because I was working non-stop, I didn't have time to go car shopping. I kept putting it off and putting it off until finally the railroad's insurance was going to cut off my rental.
That's when I saw a television commercial about how you could order a great new car from Saturn's website without stepping foot in a showroom. And it was made in America! SWEET!
And so I did.
Several weeks later I was in New York when I got a call that my car had arrived at the dealership in Seattle. So instead of flying home to Redneckistan, I ditched out at Seattle and the Saturn people picked me up from the airport. They were very nice, but they forced me to go through a crazy "orientation class" before they'd let me drive it home which was a bit unnerving.
And it was that drive home where I first realized that I did not care for the car.
It had a fucking horrendously huge turning radius. I made more three-point turns in the first month of owning it than I did in the entire lifetime of owning my previous car. It also had really poor design choices... in everything from the sun visors to the window controls. As if that wasn't enough, it never felt really comfortable to drive. Long distance, it was awesome. But for in-city stop-and-go driving it was miserable.
I had 30 days to return it.
And I gave that some serious thought.
But I was so busy with work that I just ended up keeping it.
For sixteen years.
Eventually I came to tolerate it, though stuff was always going wrong (after the warranty expired, of course). In addition to the afore-mentioned transmission failure, the dome light was flakey as hell. Rarely worked. The driver-side door was a piece of shit that never wanted to stay open. The emissions system was such a mess that I had the service light going on and off for the past seven years... despite spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars at the dealership to have it fixed. And don't get me started on all the interior shit that broke over the years... driver-side arm rest... center console... rear console... passenger-side oh-shit handle... sun visor clip... the list goes on and on. It's as if Saturn used the cheapest plastic they could find on everything.
It didn't even have 100,000 miles and 15 years on it when I finally decided to be rid of the damn thing, but it felt as though it was 40 years old with 900,000.
As if that weren't enough suffering, I ended up having to spend $100 on a battery so it would start and I could get it over to Seattle in the first place.
No wonder Saturn went out of business back in 2009.
Instead of selling the thing and making my problems somebody else's problems, I decided to donate it to Cars Helping Veterans and see if they could make some use of it for a good cause.
This morning I got dragged into the ol' "Kill Hitler Debate" where people were discussing whether or not they'd kill Baby Hitler if they had the power to go back in time. It was the whole "Is evil predestined so Baby Hitler deserves to die... or is Baby Hitler innocent because he hasn't done anything evil yet?" situation.
At first I remained silent, believing that the influences and circumstances that made Baby Hitler become Hitler would have ultimately ended up encouraging somebody else to fill the void left by Hitler's absence.
But eventually I chimed in with "I'd go back in time and kill myself before I decided to purchase a 1999 Saturn SC-2." It was a joke, but there are days that I actually think that way. To call my Saturn a pile of shit implies that it can serve a useful purpose... like fertilizing the lawn. As it is, a pile of shit is probably more valuable.
Which is my way of saying that even more crap is breaking off the my car. This time it was the emergency brake release button... which, coincidentally enough, also keeps the brake applied. Which means I have no emergency brake right now. Hope I don't have to stop on a hill until I get a replacement piece.
You would think something in your car with the word "emergency" in the name would be made of anything except cheap plastic.
But I suppose something has to fill the void left by Hitler.
My neighbor seems to spend most of his free time detailing his car. Every time I see him he's washing it... waxing it... buffing it... touching it up... polishing it... or otherwise taking care of it. And it's not like it's a vintage Corvette or anything. It's just a Ford Explorer. But he takes real pride in making sure it's kept in the best shape possible. Even if he doesn't drive it very much.
And then there's my car.
I would just as soon set the piece of shit on fire than wash it.
In fact, I have no idea when the last time I washed it even was. It's been years, I'm sure. The only time it ever gets clean is when it rains. Or it snows and the snow melts. All other times it's dusty and dirty and looks like it's been abandoned. Which it pretty much has.
Oh sure... I think about driving through the car wash every once in a while. Usually after just having seen my neighbor working on his rig. But the thought is fleeting and I've forgotten all about it the minute I turn out of the driveway. What's the point, after all? It's just going to get dirty again.
When it comes down to it, I don't care about my car. I never have. So long as it gets me from place to place, I don't care what it looks like or how it runs or what people think about it. If I believed that material possessions defined me in any way, this would be a major point of embarrassment. But, well, ya know... attachment leads to suffering and all that.
And then I saw a review of the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet cross my feed reader today...
Gorgeous photo by Porsche, taken from Motor Trend
Some possessions possess you. I know this one would certainly possess me.
Which is why I'm glad I don't have $108,950 burning a hole in my pocket. There are so many more things I'd rather do with my time than to rub my Porsche with a diaper every waking hour of every day that I wasn't driving it.
Unless, you know, somebody wanted to give me one.
I can buy my own diaper.