Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Goodbye, Dear, Old, Undependable, Unreliable, Unfaithful Friend

I bought a car in 2000. Nine years later, I gave it away.

I wrote some general reference notes about my sad, sordid vehicular history, which includes three accidents, more than one (or two) tickets, an arrest (a tale that must finally be told... one day) and a whole lot of breakdowns.

The final day with The Sable... I would guess that many memories of me held by friends involve this red car

The 1999 Mercury Sable Pezochit lasted a lot longer than I ever thought it would, as I took it from 41K to 138K in the time I had it. I actually had this car longer than the Olds, the Buick, the other, cooler Olds and the Blazer put together...

Quite simply, I was driving a 1988 Chevy Blazer in 2000. It was a great vehicle, I was paying for a little at a time--the payments were reasonable, the truck was comfortable, it has character, lots of room and a few fun quirks, like when you plugged in a CD player into the lighter, the radio stopped working, leaving only the tape player. Or was it, the tape player stopped working, leaving only the radio? Who knows.

My issue with the Blazer was that the tires were bald (I remember sliding across a lane as I turned onto Lakeshore Parkway from the Parisian building) and the steering column moved. Literally, I could move the steering wheel up and down, and the entire column moved with it. Oh, and there was once when the truck wouldn't turn off. I drove it to the mechanic, and when they asked me where the keys were, I laughed and handed them over. Then he asked me, "Why is it still running, if I am holding the keys?" I smiled and replied, "And thats why I'm here."

I got a call from the dealership where I purchased the Blazer, telling me that if I wanted to upgrade in car, I could go see this guy named Carl at Jim Burke, and they would get me into something better. What should I have done? Said, "Yeah, no thanks. I'm going to pay off my truck, get it fixed somehow and be done with it." Granted, it would have cost me, I dunno, probably $1500 to get four tires and a steering column that stayed in place... but it was better than the alternative. Which is what I went with.

"Sure!" I said, thinking about upgrading in car. I'm thinking a Dodge Avenger, or a Honda Accord, or maybe not just a Chevy Blazer... but a Chevy TRAIL Blazer. Yee-ah boy! And somehow, I got roped and wrangled into a 1999 Mercury Sable. A family car. A four door. I can handle it, though, because it means less insurance money, right?

Yeah, I guess... but the payments were just too much. Of course, when you do the math with my salary at the time, it actually worked out. I wasn't on a budget though, so when you did the math with my salary, plus my eating out, plus my social life, plus my four credit card bills, plus my rent, plus my other things I'm having to pay for, there was nooooo way it was going to work. So what did I do? I signed the contract, bought the car.

It was about $13,000-ish, maybe a little more, a little less.

Random trivia... my first passengers? Jenn Then Pritchett Now Glenn, and Emily Etheridge, a mutual friend of mine and Amy Valdmanis (I love Valdmanis!).

It drove fine for a while. I made payments for a while. Of course, I was so broke, I couldn't afford to pay the much higher tag fees, so I had the "Jim Burke Auto" tag on my car for the first, I dunno, 7 months or so... which got me in trouble bigtime with Johnny Law. Once again... another story, another day.

But over the course of time, things began to wear down on the car... you know, after a few months. After a year. After another few months. Starters, alternators, fuel pumps, water pumps, headlights, batteries, brakes, brakepads, rotors, motor mounts, sparkplugs, oil leaks, pipes, cords, impounds, tow trucks, speeding tickets... before The Lovely Steph Leann, during our friendship stage, during our off and on and off stage, during our dating-then-seriously-dating stage, during our engagement stage, during the married stage... I feel like there was a breakdown for every stage of our relationship (thats the car, not our relationship).

I actually haven't had a working heater for over three years. It just crapped out. I always figured that Alabama winters aren't really too harsh, so I would survive, and I have, though not having heat in my defrost is pretty miserable when its cold. I would use cassette tape plastic covers to scrape ice, before I got an actual ice scraper, but it would still leave a thick layer of fog on the windshield that was impossible to get off. Many times I pulled off into a stray parking lot to wipe fog and frost off of the windshield.

It was also annoying that the driver side door lock didn't work. I had to go to the passenger side to unlock the car, which was worse when it was a cold January rain, because not only was I wet, when I got in, I had no heat, so I remained cold. Not good times.

Enter Dave Ramsey and FPU, ushering in a new era of fiscal resposibility for d$, with The Lovely Steph Leann playing more than a small part, and we started to saving, knowing that a car purchase was immenent. At what point does a car break down so much that you just have to say "pssshaw!" and do something else?

It broke down on the way home from Starbucks one afternoon... driving down Hwy 280, mid afternoon traffic... I felt it go... I knew it was going... you know how you just know. You know how you can just tell when you're on borrowed time when it comes to your car? Something isn't quite right... I spotted a National Tire & Battery, so I was hoping to make it there. I got into a turn lane, to turn onto the service road and drive on up to NTB. At least get out of this 4pm traffic... and it died, right there as I was about to turn left to the service road.

A Starbucks co-worker called me... "Hey dude, I just drove by and saw you... you need help?" I replied, "No, I just called Triple A. They are on their way. Until then, I will just sit here and blcok traffic", which is exactly what I did. A few minutes later, I get a call from my buddy Croyle, who said that Britlicious, his wife, had just called him... apparently she had also just passed by and had seen me--bear in mind this is one of the busiest roads in all of Alabama, so it wasn't as if anyone could easily pull of and assist... besides, what could they do? Well, Croyle came.

At a green arrow, we pushed the car, not realizing the slight incline that existed there, right as we came off of 280. We got it off the highway, though, thanks to a motorist that was in a nearby parking lot jumping out and giving us that final "umph". The tow truck came, got it jumped off, and I tried to get it down the road... and it died in the turning lane to actually turn into NTB. The tow truck gave me another quick jump, and I finally got it into the shop.

And Croyle? Just a testament to the good guy he his--he just said, "Dude, just drop me off, and borrow my piece of crap car. I'll drive Britlicious' car tomorrow." So I did.

Anyway, long story short (too late!), this past fall Toni Rocki Honda joined us at The Cabana, taking The Sable's spot in the garage, and putting The Sable outside on the curb. Since September.

A month or two back, I was driving it around as Toni Rocki Honda was in for a tune up, it completely shut down on me in the middle of turning left off of Valleydale Road onto Highway 31, a major intersection, one where you just don't want to freeze up. And yes, it was time to call someone.

The final straw came in the power of the Homeowners Association as they sent a "You'd better listen to this" kind of letter, saying "Hey, get that car out off our lovely Beaumont streets!". The Lovely Steph Leann finally turned to me and said, "We gotta call someone and get this car gone."

I did some research on the net, asked for some suggestions on Facebook, and finally, I called The Foundry. And a week or so ago, before I left for The Happiest Place in the Mall, they came by.


The Foundry is a ministry organization in the area that works with the homeless, the addicted and other people who just need help in certain areas. They take car donations, get them fixed, and those being ministered to use the cars to get them to their jobs, as they recover from what they've been dealing with.


It was weird letting go. I mean, yeah, its a car... but it had been with me for 9 years. Heck, I dated The Lovely Steph Leann in that car. And Leslie Cordell. That's a good batting average.


I had cleaned out the car already, as many of you might have seen my Facebook photoalbum, "Things I Found In My Car"... I took it to a nearby car wash, got it cleaned up, and as I vacuumed, I found a rubber chicken, over four bucks in change, a dry erase marker, four small stuffed animals, a keyboard, a mouse, a mini General Lee car, a coat hanger, a big thing of bubble wrap, two notebooks, an ESPN: The Magazine issue from 2005, three bags of coffee, a coat hanger, a whole buncha cassette tapes... and even more. And if you think I'm making any of this up for comedic effect, you'd be wrong.


They loaded up The Sable onto a flatbed, and just like that, the car was gone. And what's terrible slash funny about the whole thing is that the list price was $13,000. Because I had so much trouble with payments, and finance fees, and late payments and so on and so on, the price we ended up paying by the time it was all said and done? Around $22,000.

And we just gave it away. Yeah, we get a tax deduction... but not much. So hopefully it will help out whoever gets it, provided its working and the transmission had been fixed.

Thus ends a long vehicular chapter in the life of d$. Hopefully, my Honda auto be better.

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