Thoughts by Richard Bleil
The call was shocking, to be sure.
When you buy a vehicle for under $1,000, you don’t really expect much. On the lot they had cars that cost more but wouldn’t even start. Since I bought her with the Coronavirus incentive check, I decided to name her Corrine.
I like to say she has “personality”. She was built almost a quarter century ago, pushing 200,000 miles, and is classified as an SUV. “Personality” means that some of the doors, including the driver’s side, won’t open using the inside mechanism. It means that neither front seats move, and when I bought her the passenger seat was stuck in the full front position and the driver’s side was stuck all the way back. It means that when I was disconnecting the seat motors so I could simply set them to their middle position a chunk of rust fell off of the bottom that made a loud enough “thud” that I checked to see what just fell off. Yes, she has personality.
But, she’s very impressive in her own right. She needed a jump to start up on the lot because she hadn’t even been turned over in a very long time, but she has started up every time since without hesitation. Her acceleration is slow but smooth and she has no trouble driving at highway speeds. How can I complain?
So today I dropped her off at a mechanic. I have no idea what kind of upkeep she has had, so I’m starting fresh, with a fresh oil change, and complete tune-up. I certainly didn’t expect it to be so expensive, but she has a V-8 5.0-L engine and basically needed everything done. The goal at this point is “reliable”; I want her to be safe on long trips and reliable. The rest can come later. But the mechanic told me something on the phone that I certainly didn’t expect. Apparently, her drive shaft is gone.
Yup, it’s gone, and has been, apparently, for quite some time. Now, if you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How in the…?” Since I didn’t have to physically push her to the mechanic, yes, I had to ask how that is possible. As it turns out, the front drive shaft is missing. She is supposed to have all wheel drive, so she still has the rear drive shaft. Basically, it means that she’s just rear wheel drive. Maybe she won’t be as good in snow and mud, but I cut my teeth on rear wheel drive, so I can live with this. And, of course, they found several other issues that need to be taken care of immediately. That’s okay; I expected it. With these repairs I’ll be a few hundred dollars over the stimulus amount in total, so I’m still not complaining, especially to have a reliable vehicle.
She and I have a lot in common. Oh, let’s be real; she’s an inanimate (even if she’s self-propelled) and I’m alive (at least “-ish”). But like her, I’m at an age where most people would write me off, leaving me on the lot in favor of newer models. Things on me don’t work as well as they used to. I’m a little bit slower, finding it increasingly difficult to do the things that I could do without thinking about twice in my youth. I make noises I never used to make and suffer from my aches and pains. But like Corrine, I have a lot of miles left to me if somebody would give me the chance. And a little bit of loving would go a long way to make me run even smoother.
We have a habit, all of us, of passing over those things that are older in search of new and shiny. My friend just bought a brand-new washer/dryer set because the set she bought eight years ago has been failing. I honestly cannot remember a washer/dryer ever dying. Seriously, my parents had the same green gradient washer dryer set from the ‘70’s well into the new millennium. Our refrigerator was older than I was, and I remember my mother being elated when it finally broke down in hopes of getting a new one. Instead, dad replaced the thermostat in it and by the end of the day it was ready for thirty more years.
Sometimes older is better. We lose our shine, and we don’t turn heads like we used to, but we’re also proven. We have experiences and history that is impossible with new and shiny. I bought my microwave on January 28, 1986. I know the exact date because I was at lunch purchasing it and didn’t know the space shuttle Challenger had exploded while I was in the store until I got back to work. It looks old, doesn’t have a rotating glass plate to cook food evenly, has stains on the inside that I can’t get out, and I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. As long as it still works, I enjoy the reliability, the history, and the money it has saved me by running reliably for well over thirty years.
Yep, Corrine and I will get along fine. I’m learning her rhythms, quirks and workarounds, and she’s learning that I’ll take care of her. Not all of us are so lucky.