Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hot Wheels

This damn car.  An ugly, purple, piece of shit family sedan.  Smoke billowing out of the engine and dragged along a guardrail.  I can see the flickers of a fire underneath as pieces fall to the asphalt.  The tires melt at a surprisingly slow rate.  I just sit on the side of 57 watching this damn car turn to ash.

This is the best I could find for under $4,000: a 2007 model with over 90,000 miles.  There were quite a few scratches and rust spots.  The rear passenger side hubcap was missing.  The interior was well worn with extensive cigarette burns on the driver’s right hand side.  Most of the features didn’t work: a couple electric windows didn’t roll down, radio didn’t turn on, heating and cooling were busted.  But, the engine was recently rebuilt with the invoice to prove it.  Brought it to my mechanic and he gave me the thumbs up.  All-in-all, it was in my price range.

I’ve been biking and mooching rides to work since the car accident.  That old diesel hatchback had 150,000+ miles and could have gone another 150,000 if it weren’t for the crash.  The insurance company totaled the car because of its age; not condition.  No rust and only minor wear and tear issues.  A great 17 year old car with quality German engineering.  My aunt sold it to me cheap five years ago when she wanted a newer model of the same car.

What a difference from the purple sedan.  But, it did get me from point A to point B.  If it was hot, I’d roll down one of the working windows.  If it was cold, I had an extra pair of gloves and a hat ready.  I had to correct a few mechanical issues for safety reasons: replaced a tire, fixed taillight, and plugging up a power steering leak.  It wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t quiet.  And, it certainly wasn’t smooth.

I ran a few errands on Court Street before getting on 57 toward Clifton.  I had a job lined up because of some previous work.  Good money too.  As I’m driving, I noticed a funny smell, which isn’t too strange in this part of the country.  It was like a tire fire.  Didn’t see anything burning in the vast expanse of flat farmlands.  Traffic was pretty heavy with cars racing south in the left lane and semis to the right with me.  Thought it was a vehicle ahead of me until I heard “fa-WUMP!” and saw a plume of dark grey smoke shoot out of my grill.  Before I could think “what the hell,” the interior filled with a noxious fog.  I rolled down the working windows.  I see in my side view mirror semis switching lanes behind me.  My flashers are on.  I start to pull off to the shoulder and tap my brakes.

Brakes.  BRAKES!  WHERE THE HELL ARE MY BRAKES!  I can’t stop the car.  I press the gas, to keep pace with traffic, and it doesn’t work either.  There’s an off ramp ahead.  I pull over and hope gravity slows me down.  I de-accelerate from 70mph.  If there’s no cross traffic, I’ll run the stop sign and coast into the diner parking lot.  Things look good.  I’m slowing down and the road looks clear.  I check to the left again and there’s a semi barreling toward the intersection.  Time for plan B.  At 25-30mph, I purposely plow the side of my car into a guardrail to bring it to a stop.  I pop the hood and take a seat on the side of the interstate to watch it burn. 

“Excuse me, sir.  Have ya bin drinkin’?”  I turn around.  I’ve been there for about 20 minutes when the officer arrived.  I reply, “It’s 10am.”

“Have ya bin drinkin’?” he re-asks knowing the time and how many people drink and drive here no matter what time of day.

“Na, my car caught fire ‘n I had ta crash it ‘cause my brakes stopped workin’.”

“Ah…  These cars are known fer that.”

“Known fer what, specifically?”

“Lose their controls when they have engine problems.”  That’s terrifying.  Does Ralph Nader know?  Won’t buy that brand again. 

We banter watching my car burn into a 3,700 pound piece of charcoal.  The fire department came and let it self-destruct in a controlled manner.  After an hour of blocking the intersection and all the rubbernecks slowing traffic on the freeway, they dragged the carcass onto a flatbed tow truck.  It ended up at a junkyard near my intended destination.  So, it made it to point B without me.  I walked the other direction, taking the old country roads, for my long journey home.     

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