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Thursday, October 20, 2011  

A Good Day to Die

I knew I had to drop off my car at the shop as soon as I'd dropped M. Edium off at the school bus stop Tuesday morning. It was a couple hundred miles overdue for an oil change, and its automatic shifting was off, and just that morning it had just started to make a noise like a bicycle with an iPod in the spokes where a baseball card is supposed to be. Our repair place is just a mile from the bus stop, but to my surprise, I found myself actually hoping the car would be able to make it.

Which it did. I dropped off the car and walked home, and an hour later, the guy at the shop called with bad news. I had thought it was just the transmission, but the guy told me there was no way to tell for sure what was wrong with it, given that the engine was utterly destroyed.

After a depressing conversation with him about how a new engine and transmission would cost more than my beloved '99 Saturn station wagon is worth, at least in dollars if not to my heart, Trash and I had another, even more depressing conversation. She needed a car to drive to her professor job on Monday evening, which is the most important class of the semester. I would need a car to pick up M. Edium from school on Monday afternoon, which is the most important part of any given weekday. This was Tuesday. Early the next morning, we were leaving town, not to return until Sunday evening. And as vigilant and violent as our entire block of neighbors are about burglars when we're gone, they wouldn't be able to help us out. Bottom line: we needed to buy a new car today.

Trash and I try not to buy new cars any more often than we have to. I've been driving my '99 Saturn since it was brand new after my second twelve-year-old station wagon in a row died in the driveway. Trash loves her '06 Saturn Ion, which we only bought because the two-door '98 Cavalier she'd bought as her second car ever after the totaling of her '92 Geo Metro was unsuitable for putting a baby into. But M. Edium's been nagging me to get a new car, and Trash and I have been wondering how we're ever going to tow that used pop-up camper we bought last year. I'd been resisting, saying I had a perfectly good car. But suddenly I didn't any more.

We met my dad at the nearest Chevy dealership to take advantage of his car-buying expertise and employee discount. Funny thing about car dealerships: as soon as we walk in to buy a car, we're always immediately pounced upon by the oldest, most desperate, most Jack-Lemmon-in-Glengarry-Glen-Ross sales guy on the whole staff. Which is fine, except for how they're kind of slow, and distractible, and watching them try to operate their computers drives Trash to frustrated paroxysms of repressed rage.

But the experience wasn't as bad as it could have been. Trash took care of the paperwork and financing, as she does, while I worked on my laptop in the waiting lounge, trying not to be distracted by Rachael Ray cooking on the TV on a day when I had missed lunch. And after a mere two-and-a-half hours, I drove a perfectly lovely Equinox off the lot. It's higher and bigger than my Saturn, which I don't love. But it also has other features the Saturn didn't: OnStar, XM Radio, a dashboard "information center," a CD player, three working electrical outlets as opposed to zero, a cavernous back seat, and a front bumper that I've never had to try to Krazy-Glue back together. I was a little worried that the Equinox would only work on March 21 and September 21, but apparently it operates year-round.

So all things considered, I was actually in a pretty good mood when I got home. But then I had to go to the shop to deal with the Saturn.

I asked the guy at the shop if he thought I could drive it home, or at least onto the street where it could wait to be towed away by whoever I ended up donating it to. After all, it had gotten me to the shop, right? Turns out I didn't fully understand the seriousness of the situation. It seems that as soon as they got it into the garage and started the engine, a rod punched through the crankcase and shot a hunk of metal across the room. Which, most mechanics don't go to work in the morning expecting to be nearly killed by shrapnel. They couldn't even drive it out of the garage, forget about the idea of my getting it any further without a whole new engine. When I got there to clean it out, I took a look under the hood. Now, I don't know much about cars, but I know that when there's a piece of metal poking through a hole in the front of the engine, that's bad. I had literally driven my Saturn its last mile.

It was kind of sad cleaning all the stuff out the car I've been driving for almost 13 years. They don't make Saturns any more, after all. Or station wagons, let along Saturn station wagons. But it could have been worse in so many ways. Nobody was hurt by the flying metal in the shop, and it happened in the shop rather than at the bus stop, where I could have brained one of the kids M. Edium rides to school with. We're especially lucky that we're in the financial position we are, and that we had my dad on hand. And most of all, I only lost a car. I didn't lose a pet, like M. Edium did later that same day.

But more on that another time.

posted by M. Giant 8:48 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

Oh they do too make station wagons. I've got a Jetta Sportwagen TDI and I lurve it. Viva la Wagon!

By Anonymous Sara, at October 21, 2011 at 5:38 AM  

Oh, no! Excavator?

By Anonymous Katie L., at October 28, 2011 at 4:23 PM  

We got an Equinox just over a year ago, when our minivan finally died a painful death, and I have to say that I love it. A little more room than your average car, with better mileage than an SUV--and an iPod dock.

By Anonymous Julie Nilson, at October 30, 2011 at 6:57 AM  

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