Originally published August 23rd, 2007. Posting ‘long form’ today, as I seem to be unable to access the Mothership. Enjoy!
Maintaining the auto-voiture
By lex, on August 23rd, 2007
So it came to pass last night, dragging my weary carcass out the door of the salt mines a little after 1800, that I found myself sitting in my little car perfectly flummoxed by the fact that the vehicle, she would not start. The lights worked fine and the NPR guy cheefully assured me all was lost on the radio, had been since 2000 really, but the starter stolidly refused to do its duty. Tacketa-tacketa-tack.
Was a time when everyone carried jumper cables in their cars, but those who do so these days seem to out of mere nostalgia. It took us better part of 45 minutes before a Sailor walked by who was both willing and able to help a fella out.
Now, I love my little car. I love her despite the fact that she is small (and I, alas, am not) and that in type and color she is entirely undistinguished, especially in this part of SoCal. I used to run around parking lots hopefully mashing the key fob to turn the lights on before slapping a bike rack on the roof. I think I may be the only 330i owner in Sandy Eggo with a bike rack atop my daily ride, and I’m OK with that because I love my little car. She still pulls off the line like she means business, shifts with precision, corners like she’s on rails, embraces you in her cockpit and stops like she cares about your health. Really cares.
I love her even though she’s six years old, wears 90,000+ miles and is not yet paid for, a rather appalling combination of characteristics under normal circumstances. But these aren’t “normal circumstances” because even though I’m a firm believer in the fact that it’s “not the years, it’s the mileage” I can’t blame her for the miles. The miles aren’t her fault.
I blame myself.
But blame aside, she’s at an age when things begin to, you know: Break. And the extended warranty, it is to dead. Which means – each slenderest mechanical reed having apparently been milled from the purest German steel and cooled in Tivolian spring water brought down from the mountains by cupful, before being rolled on the thighs of virgin, blond, Bavarian beer maidens (which that last bit is damned good work, if you can get it) – that taking her in for maintenance can be a Significant Unplanned Event, what we call a boojay boostair, en Francais. What with the dealer charging you $127 – odd number, that – just to look down his nose at her, the poor thing.
Explain that it’s something electrical to the service rep and watch him smile sadly at you, knowing that this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts him, but he’s got two kids at Harvard, one at Stanford and little Gracie is leaning towards Columbia, and it isn’t like that kind of education pays for itself, now, does it?
No. It does not.
“We might get lucky,” he says. “Maybe it’s only a battery.”
So it’s cheer up or suck it up, he as much as says to you. Batteries only cost $300, have courage. You poor bastard.
Ninety thousand miles, you think, sadly. This isn’t going to get any better, the poor girl’s on the decline. The starter this time, or who knows – maybe the battery. It was the brakes six months ago, you remember with a shudder. What will it be next?
Your imagination starts to wander, taking with it your eyes. You start to think about the unthinkable. You think about cheating, decide you can’t. So then you think about leaving her. And you suddenly realize that you’re not ashamed. That nothing lasts forever.
You wander out to the showroom floor, see the muscular, black, late model M5 sedan sitting there, beckoning to you. You note that the driver’s door is unlocked, slip in to her embrace with a tremulous thrill, luxuriate in her exotic good looks and deep, plush leather. Step back outside and note that they’re practically giving her away at $94,000. But really, it’s the 10 mpg in the city, 15 mpg on the highway that changes your mind. Only think of the carbon footprint.
Beside her is a 2007 M6 convertible, also black but with a red leather interior, and – like the M5 – paddle shifters to go with the V-10 engine. Note that she’ll seat two kids in the back, so long as they don’t have any legs. Price reduced to $127,000, seller motivated. They might take $126,000, you make them an offer. Never can tell.
But I wandered back to the service department instead and accepted the keys to my loaner, a perfectly competent, utterly uninspiring, brand new Toyota Camry. Heading into work I thought to myself, no. I can’t do it.
Because I really do love my little car.