Speaking evil of the dead
Well, it’s been over a month now since I flew to North Carolina and drove Blue Seoul back with me. I’m still getting comments, both about the new car and about my old car, which was so familiar around Shelbyville.
I hated that car. I hated when people made fun of it. I woke up, more than once, with a cold sweat in the middle of the night worried about making that car last until I could afford to do something about it. It was the embodiment of every sense of failure I’ve felt about my life.
Let me tell you all the things that were wrong with that car.
- For about the past six months, there was a problem with the wiring as it related to the headlights. If I turned the switch to the full, headlights-on position, it did not work. Fortunately, the car had always-on running lights. So, after dark, I would turn it to the middle position, which would give me running lights in the front and some sort of lights in the rear — I am never sure exactly how much light there was. I am certain it wasn’t legal, and I’m extremely fortunate that I was never pulled over. I was afraid to drive at night for the last six months I owned the car.
- The car had no radio. None. Didn’t come with one.
- The car had no air conditioning. Didn’t come with it.
- Three or four years ago, an idle sensor malfunctioned, causing the engine to behave oddly when idling. It would have cost a couple of hundred dollars to replace it, so the mechanic — knowing that I did not want to spend much money on the car — suggested that he just unplug it. It didn’t seem to affect much.
- I had to replace multiple mufflers on the car, and the car had no muffler at all for its past few years, which is why it was so loud. One mechanic told me that the engine ran cooler than normal, causing condensation to form in the muffler. Whenever I went to a city with emissions testing, I expected to get pulled over.
- The upholstery in the seats tore and there was a spring that popped out near my left shoulder blade. I tried various seat covers and what have you, but it still tore holes in several of my shirts, including one that was my favorite shirt at the time.
- Because the car had no AC, and because of the various problems with the doors and window mechanisms, I tended to leave the window down, and would sometimes not get it rolled back up in time for rainstorms.
- The cloth covering of the ceiling (if you call it that) came loose and began to rot and fall away, probably because of humidity in the car.
- The original door’s window mechanism stopped working, which was basically the reason I had to replace it with the red door that everyone else found so amusing. I hated that red door, and I hated it when people made fun of it — usually people from my church. At one point, I vowed to tell everyone off and leave the church if one more person mentioned that stupid red door.
- Eventually, the window mechanism on the red door stopped working, too, and I had to hold the window into place with duct tape.
- The left turn signal, also because of the wiring, wouldn’t work properly. You would have to click the stalk down into the left turn signal position but then hold it up, like you were trying to turn it off but just gently enough not to click it off. You had to hold it this way the entire time the turn signal was on.
- The crisis point with the car occurred on a hot day when I drove to Nashville for George Bass’s funeral. I could tell on the drive to Nashville that the car was running rough, and there was a smell that I later decided was burning oil. I was so worried about the car that I rushed out after the funeral to begin the drive home, missing the reception and the chance to catch up with many Mountain T.O.P. friends, including some I hadn’t seen in quite some time. It was the car’s fault. That was the beginning of the end. I had been saving up for a down payment, but I knew after that day I was going to have to do something sooner than I had planned.
- Two or three years ago, the fan for the heating and ventilation system stopped working on anything but the very-lowest setting. This made it very hard to try to defrost the car with the heater; I always had to scrape. It also meant that it would take a long time for the car to warm up on a cold winter’s day.
- The engine heat indicator stopped working, I don’t know, 10 years ago. I never overheated the engine, but it’s not because of the indicator. If I was in an extreme situation — say, stop-and-go traffic on an Interstate on a hot summer day — I worried constantly about overheating.
- The hyrdaulics on the rear hatch failed, and so the hatch would not stay open by itself. If I was getting groceries out, I had to do so one-handed. Several times, I ended up dropping the hatch on my head, which was painful — and potentially dangerous.
- At one point, when the red door literally fell off the car while I was driving around the square, the driver’s side mirror broke off. So for the past however-many months, I had no driver’s side mirror, which was probably also illegal. I’m still surprised I wasn’t ticketed for the mirror when I got pulled over for a seat belt violation. Now, I have electrically-controlled driver’s and passenger side mirrors.
- Even before I lost the mirror entirely, it was not in the correct position and I sometimes had to crane my neck to see properly. You see, it was the mirror from the original, white door, and it didn’t fit quite correctly on the red door, which may have been a different model year.
- The car had a three-cylinder engine. When it was new and in good condition, it would do Interstate speeds, but in recent years it struggled. I felt like a traffic hazard whenever I was on the Interstate, doing just barely the speed limit (and occasionally less than the speed limit).
- The car made me self-conscious and anxious during what was otherwise one of my favorite nights ever.
That may not even be a complete list. There may yet be something I’m forgetting. EDIT: The interior dome light had not worked in some years.
So, no, I did not find that car funny. I hated never being able to offer to use my car when people from the paper went somewhere. I hated having to tell Mountain T.O.P. that I would not do transportation for Summer Plus.
When people chuckle and tell me I got a lot of good years out of that car, I understand what they’re saying but I have a hard time taking joy in it. I was delighted to drop that car off at the salvage yard on the day that I registered Blue Seoul here in Tennessee.
I am so grateful to have a car now that’s reliable, and comfortable, and that I can use. I’m grateful to the family members who made it possible for me to buy a reliable car for a good price on short notice.