Jaunty. That's the word. "Jaunty!". Shout it from the rooftops. Sing it with all your heart with a blue-eyed soul intonation, over jubilant saxophones. I was in a jaunty May mood today when I set out early for work. I was a man in a huge, ten year old Ford Crown Victoria in desperate need of a good vacuuming, and I was on top of my game.
I pulled jauntily out of my little "anyone hip would never be caught dead in such a prefabricated suburban life" jaunty little suburb subdivision, and jogged over onto Exchange Parkway, the Parkway which accesses for me the life, the universe, and the proverbial pretty much everything.
I was just feeling my oats, heading into the office early, and all that, when suddenly my car died. Now I always think it's cool that the word "my car died" is used to mean that one's car temporarily stopped, and is in need of reignition. I love that "my car died" has a sort of after-life-ish quality, a recognition that cars just need a little effort, and they live again.
But today, my big old American car died. I mean "deceased". I mean
it will never really run again. Somethow I'd managed to burn off all the oil--a thing so silly to do that I hesitate to even journal it (although, sensing my own hesitation, I therefore journal it anyway).
The car always drank oil, and frequently required extra chug-a-lugs of Pennzoil SAE 30.
But today, just as I was getting the holy ghost across, working the magic I find easiest to work, the car gave up the ghost. I lost the a car that simultaneously resembles one's grandmother's car and one's local police car, and the car that one's 10th grade biology teacher would have driven, if in fact she had not driven a decade old sky blue Skylark.
I had known its days were numbered. I hoped to get another year and a half from it. But I did not do the things that would have given it a rich set of final days. Now I am told it will barely run. I will pick it up tomorrow and hear the sordid sound of mistreated valves or what not.
My mother once ran the oil out of a car, in the 60s, but that car was a Corvair, which is what we call in the law "a complete defense".
As I recall, that was one of those "oil pan leak" situations. My car, by contrast was "drink to excess", a much less excusable car death condition. When you know your car is an oilhaulic, you gotta know to enable it. Cars which drink oil don't do well on 12 step programs, and they can't go cold turkey. An old oil-drinking car doesn't go to rehab like Meg Ryan did in "When a Man Loves a Woman". You just buy it lots of Pennzoil and you hope that it doesn't do anything disagreeable on a tear.
I've ridden many a Texas prairie in that car, and quested my quest
across the universe, if the universe includes a fairly circumspect set of suburbs and rural towns. But now I will have to buy new wheels.
The nice man at the auto shop offered me a good option to drop in a new engine, but the cost was roughly the cost of a used car two years newer than mine with 40,000 fewer miles than mine. I was intrigued to go to kbb.com and see how my little 1995 Crown Vic was as nearly worthless as any four door automobile could be. So at least I did not leave something as priceless as the Ark of the Covenant in the rain, or anything.
Now we have the decisions to make--new car or used? Big car or small? We'll do a good job on those, as we've done well with cars for a while. For now, a moment of silence for a lumbering automobile, now gone.
My wife took me to work, but thanks to the help of a kind partner's ride to Garland's train station, I did most of the trip home on the rail system. It worked remarkably well. I felt positively jaunty on the ride. But not big ugly American car jaunty. It was a lesser jaunt.
Here are five things I loved about today:
1. the nice mechanic on the phone sounded like the most respectful undertaker in the world as he told me the news. he obviously felt that he was telling me something like "a vampire has bitten you and you're going to turn into a simmering mass of goo", but he kept his tone respectful anyway.
2. The way the policeman on the road pushed my car to safety
from the middle of a busy street, as a particular kindness. It's a curious feeling, playing bumper car with an officer of the law.
3. The way that when I looked up my car on kbb.com, the value was low enough to make me realize that yes, Virginia, that car was fully used
4. The movie Van Helsing, to which I took my 16 year old nephew as a lark, which was every bit as much fun, silly awfulness as I hoped.
They should make all horror movies this kind of non-scary fun.
5. The way the rain drenched my nephew and I, so that we went into the theater looking like we'd been dousing at the dunking booth by a particular eagle-eyed little league hurler.
I suppose I should feel doom and gloom at a turn of my fortune.
But I feel instead merely glad that I got the 118,000 miles out of the car that I got (strictly speaking, I put on the top 60,000 or so, my parents having had the car before me).
Now I have an urge to buy a Yugo, paint it purple, and join a barbershop quartet. But I don't think I will, somehow.
Alas, poor Victoria, I knew you well. But if there is a Heaven for cars, I'd love to drive its Elysian streets once again.