Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Farewell Fair Mater

I'm well known both online and in real life for my automobile trouble. Things started fine. I bought a 1994 Buick Century in 1997 and was the first person in my family to buy a car in the same decade it was manufactured. I loved that damned car. It was an old lady powder blue and was also the first car I'd ever been in that had automatic locking doors. The locks scared the bejebus out of me - I thought maybe it was some sort of Christine moment and my new car was going to eat me.

We made out okay, though. My fondest memories are the ones involving stupid little Mustangs that would sidle up next to me at the red light and rev their motors. I have no idea why people would antagonize a car that looked like it should be owned by a little 70-year-old woman (the previous owner was actually a little old couple), but they did. So I sat quietly staring over the dark blue dash, waiting for the light to change and then I'd dust the arseholes. God, I loved that car.

Well, that car is long gone - rear ended and subsequently totaled by a Neon. (I hate Neons now.) After a long succession of pieces o' shit, I am now the proud new owner of a 12-year-old Mitsubishi SUV given to me by mom when my sister upgraded last year to a hybrid. The Mitsubishi (or Mitchybitchy as a lot of people call them around here) sat in my back yard for the past year, biding it's time as my "back up ride." It need a couple of hundred dollars of parts and I hadn't quite reached the stage where I'd grown tired of trying to keep the Toyota (affectionately known as Mater in its last months) on the road.

Mater had a whole host of issues. The most disconcerting for me was the lack of a radio. Well, it actually had a radio, but it was in the trunk because I couldn't find a single person capable of wiring it back in to the big gaping hole in the console panel. I suppose I could have taken it to a shop and paid someone to do it, but I'm not willing to pay money for something if I think I can eventually find someone to do the work for free or trade. The great thing is, I know a few people who work on cars. The bad thing was that no one had any idea what was going on with my radio. I missed having a radio incredibly. In the old days, if the kids were being too obnoxious, I'd just stick in a tape and sing myself away to some Zen place in my head. Without a radio, I can't remember any of the lyrics. So I have to sing the same verse over and over until I move on to another verse from another song.

In reality, that was the least of Mater's issues - the radio is just the one  that left me most mentally unfettered. Mater's issues are rather numerous, so I will now list them in bullet format because I frigging love lists.

  • No radio. 
  • A crack in the windshield. (It wasn't a bad crack, but you know how cracks go. Much like my ass, it's just going to spread.)
  • A major oil leak that I attempted to have repaired three times (and PAID for it) that was never repaired. 
  • A deer attacked my car the summer of 2009. The deer's head took out my driver's side mirror and its ass left a huge imprint on the left passenger door. I will never forget that wall eyed look of "WTF?" that deer gave me right before she spun off into a ditch. 
  • A minor radiator leak. 
  • The air conditioner only worked if it was less than 85 degrees outside. 
  • The heater had vacated years ago. 
  • One of the engine mounts  wasn't feeling so good. 
  • The pistons had a habit of voicing their displeasure. 
  • A bushing or some other magical doohickey behind my right front tire had basically given up the ghost and that, as it turned out, happened to be why all of my mother fucking front right tires kept blowing out. 
  • Hail damage on the trunk. 
  • Both of the passenger door handles were broken. (This is apparently a Toyota issue.)
  • Wild Boy traditionally sits in the back on the passenger's side. One day, he felt he would be safer if he used the child safety lock for that door. Because the outside door handle was completely broken, that door could no longer be opened at all.
  • Once, I was on my way to the take the GACE in the middle of a thunderstorm and my right windshield wiper flew off.
  • I thought I accidentally locked my keys in the trunk about two years ago, so I popped the lock on the trunk only to later discover my keys had fallen between the cushions of the couch. The trunk still closed fine, but from then on I could open it with a flat head screwdriver. 
  • The rear end says it's a "Yota" now.
Even for all of it's problems, I was still determined to keep Mater on the road because I believe in getting every last drop out something that I can. I finally reached an impasse this past June, however.

I'd  finished my evening rounds for the Census somewhere around 9PM one evening, had picked up the heathens from my mom's house, and was less than 2 miles from home when another bitch ass terrorist dear leaped at me from the passenger side. My first instinct was to swerve into the other lane, but there was a car already occupying the spot that I wanted so my only choice was to take the deer out. I did and I drove on to the house with the kids yabbering on about the deer.

"Did you see it?! It did a back flip over that fence!"
"Let's go back and get it! We can eat it!"

My little Cracker children. Laird bless, 'em. I didn't have room to stick a deer in my trunk. That's where I kept all my Diet Cokes and the car radio.

I was pretty lucky, because while I crushed a radiator support, the impact didn't crush the radiator. It just so happened that while the support was gone, the frame was crushed in just the right manner that it now supported the radiator. The bigger problem, however, was that I now had a whole pile of deer hair where my right headlight used to be and the frame was too crushed to stick another one in.

The deer also pushed the front quarter panel back into the front passenger's side door so I could no longer open the door all the way. The door  leaked after that. 

As I'd not had time to buy parts for the Mitsubishi and I didn't have time for my car to be down since I was using it to Censusually harrass people, I drove the now one-eyed Mater. My goal was to reach a quarter of a million miles and I was only 25K or so away. I wanted my 25K miles because then I'd be convinced I'd gotten my $1200 out of that car.

The night I took DMan to E/R because I thought he had strep throat made me rethink my goal. Apparently he'd developed a fever and a sore throat one Saturday while I was out Censusing. When I came in to pick up the heathens, he had a fever around 101 and appeared to have white patches on this throat. I'm of the firm opinion that strep throat is not something to play with because I once played with strep throat and ended up with pleurisy, so I have no qualms about going to the E/R if it's a weekend case of potential strep throat. I'd prefer if we had an urgent care center around this hole of a town or even if we still had our old pediatrician. I like our new pediatricians fine, but they don't give your their phone number. Our old pediatrician made it very clear to me once that I was to call her no matter what time. I miss her more than I miss my Buick.

As it turns out, he didn't have strep throat and that was a relief because that meant I didn't have to go into seclusion and miss time from work. No one wants to keep an infectious kid. We were on the way home when I ran into a roadblock comprised of deputies from my county, the next county over, and a few state troopers. I pulled out my license and the deputy asked me what happened to my headlight. I told him a deer attacked me.

"You know you can get a ticket for having a headlight out, don't you?" he said. "Now I wouldn't give you a ticket, but that trooper up there might." The way he said it, you could tell he was totally messing with me, but I played along and pleaded accordingly, "Could you ask me him to let me go this time?" What I meant was "Let me go this time, and my ass will take every back road between here and Hell from now on."

And the deputies laughed at my car. Seriously. My car was so damned sad, that it was a point of entertainment for 15 guys standing out on the side of the road at midnight. That was okay, though, because it was highly entertaining to call people up and tell them cops laughed at my car. It wouldn't have been funny, though, if someone had taken a Flannery O'Connor moment and pushed my car off into a ditch. I keep my Diet Cokes in the trunk and would have deeply felt their loss.

I spent a few brief weeks toying with the idea of either creating a skull and crossbones eye patch for the headlight, uh, socket or duct taping a flashlight in place. I really wanted my 25K miles. While I was mulling over my options, the starter decided it no longer cared to participate in this farce and went on a slow down strike. At that point, I decided I was just damned tired of putting parts on the same old car and thought it would be interesting to put parts on another car for a while.

So one battery, one alternator, and some spark plugs later, I am now the proud driver of a car that actually has less interior space than Mater. But by God, it's got a radio.

For your viewing pleasure, I have included a picture of a beaten Mater*:


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