Friday, January 27, 2006

Your Mileage May Vary...

(the first of 2, possibly, 3 parts.)

For the first time in 20 years I'm car shopping.
The infamous Mommobile is on life-support, languishing at a local mechanics yard while I decide whether or not to pull the plug. Actually, it's fate is pretty much decided-it's just a question of HOW to dispose of the body.
But in the meantime, I'm car-less, which out here in the hills nowadays can be catastrophic. With 2 school age kids who have a plethora of school-related and after school activities and just the normal day to day of maintaining our existence here- a vehicle is a must, not an option. When I lived in California, I never even had a car until I was 24- didn't really need one, they had an excellent bus system and I had my bicycle...and my feet. I got around to work or whatever just fine.

But here, we are 20 or more miles from anything. Remote, isolated, rural. It was my choice and with choices there are consequences. Hopefully you can skim through life without those consequences making too big an impact on your life in a negative way,this is not such an occasion. For in return for being able to pee in your front yard if you have to without drawing the shock & ire of your neighbors, to burn your trash rather than be at the mercy of a pick-up service, to scream and holler when the mood strikes you without the worry of trying to explain it to law enforcement officers and live how you want to live without the bother of city ordinances or building codes, then there are trade-offs. Just being able to stroll over to the nearest "Dishonest John's" car lot when you need a new ride is one of them. Not a big deal normally, but when your car breathes it's last-it becomes a big deal.

I managed to get by for 5 days without a car. Then I had to ask a neighbor if I could use theirs so that I could get groceries. I was so happy for that small kindness.Once the death sentence was officially proclaimed on my rig it now became imperative I find a car. I had an "Oh Shit!" fund set aside for such an event. I had 5 large to work with-surely I could find something decent for that amount. Hell, I might get lucky and get something from this century! I have grown so weary of 15 and 10 year old cars-inevitably I would always be their last owner because I would drive 'em into the ground or until the wheels fell off-whichever came first.

If you've ever wonder what happened to Aunt Carol's Reliant when she finally traded it in I can assure you it's lying dead in some locals yard out here after being driven another 80,000 miles. The Ozarks are the great Detroit Graveyard...where the finest that our auto industry has produced comes to live out their final days, struggling through 2 feet deep mud on dirt roads in the spring, cracking their blocks in sub-zero wintertime, running their tires bald on the crappy blacktop highways, enduring all the indignity that a backseat full of young children ( unbuckled, by the way ) jacked up on Dollar General candy can bestow upon the once pristine interior, to say nothing about the beer spills, cigarette burns, 'whiskey dings' and other forms of torture that our denizens can muster upon them in their quest to get from point A to point B. These poor beasts slouch towards Bethlehem with broken springs, trashed CV joints, busted axles, blown head gaskets, smashed front ends-giving the last of their all in quiet desperation.

A nice in-law took pity on me and offered to loan me their truck for the time being. So in that rattletrap Chevy S-10 I embarked on my search for a new car.
The nearest car lot is about 26 miles away and since it's a small town, the selection is meager and ridiculously overpriced. In my jouneys the past 3 days, covering well over 300 miles, going north, south and eastward to various car lots I'm finding this to be the norm. I finally started to ask the salesmen about this. Last spring there seemed to be a glut of modest priced vehicles. I could have bought fairly decent Ford Tauruses all the doo dah day for 3 or if you could even find one it was about 7 or 8 thousand! All had the same answer: Katrina.

When that 'storm of the century' hit down there, decimating the Gulf coast the one thing them folks needed, besides a home, was a car! At least with a car you could get the hell elsewhere and start anew. So reasonably priced used cars were in demand...and the glut, following the basic law of supply and demand, went south-leaving us poor dumb bastards here with nothing to choose from and what was left going at premium prices. It made sense...that and the subsequent inflation of gas prices led folks to dump their SUV's and go for smaller sedans that are easier on the wallet. So now what we have here is a curious situation. If I so choose, I could get a great bargain on a bohemoth Jeep Cherokee-it would be right in my budget...but then I would have to sell it for gas money! A peculiar side effect from the simple laws of economics.

But, dammit, I still needed a car. My in-laws generousity would only last so far. After going almost a week without, I know they had to be hating it too. So the pressure was on to find something/anything! But my stubborn streak refused to give in to the easy temptation of yet another older car. No! I was gonna stand firm on that one point. 6 years was my threshold. 1999 or better. I knew one had to be out there...some where.
(to be continued...)


Blogger Kathy Keller said...

Well done with the Detroit Graveyard description. You had me laughing out loud! Best wishes on the car shopping. I've never seen anything like the road around the Ozarks to tear up a nice car.

1/28/2006 3:09 PM  

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