From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.
Back in September 2005, I was hired to work at a company in Westwood, Mass.–a good half-hour from my apartment in Brighton. To get there, I would need a car. I’d always liked my dad’s Nissan Maxima, so when my mom mentioned that the son of a friend of hers was going to sell his for a relatively low price, I jumped at the chance.
And thus the curse began.
My very first car was a Christmas gift from my parents in 1995. It was a 1980 Volar?. This thing was the aircraft carrier of cars. About twenty feet long, stainless steel, with a heater system that roared loud enough to make your ears ring. I loved that car.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the car’s windshield had been replaced in its entire fifteen-year history. And so a mere three months later, as I came up over a hill in the early morning, the sun hit my scratched, foggy windshield and blinded me just long enough for me to plow into the back of a garbage truck that had stopped in the middle of the street for a pick-up. Fortunately, since the car was a steel beast, no one was seriously hurt, and somehow I managed to avoid getting cited–perhaps because the responding cop almost plowed right into my car when he came up over the same hill.
My next car was a 1987 Camaro. Sleek, built low to the ground, and mostly made of plastic, I probably would have been decapitated had I been driving it that same morning. But I loved the crap out of that car. Years after I’d gone to college and given it away to some other needy high schooler, I bought a little plastic model to remember it. That car gave me some problems; once I forgot to secure one of the T-tops and it went flying off the car as I drove, hitting the pavement and essentially vaporizing rather than just shattering. Another time my high school girlfriend, mad about something or other, “accidentally” backed into it, scratching the grille (fortunately, the plastic just plumped back out). But that car served me well. I loved it.
I mention all this because I want to state something for the record: I never liked that black 1998 Nissan Maxima. Oh, it was cool to have a Maxima, and it was nice to have the independence of having my own car, but I never had any sense of personal or sentimental attachment to the thing. It was a conveyance, nothing more. At the time I chalked it up to my just being older and less prone to personify inanimate objects as I did when I was a teenager. But now I wonder if it wasn’t something more sinister.
As you may recall, the problems with this car began last summer. But they didn’t end with that comedy of errors. Oh no. This car had a lot more pain to dish out before it was all over.
Last February, I accidentally left the inside light of the car on. At this point I had a job about two miles from home and was getting a ride from DG in the mornings and taking the bus home, so when the car got buried in snow, I just left it parked on the street for weeks. At some point, the battery–already weak from the previous summer’s experience–died. Meanwhile, the weather offered up a New England Special: a good sprinkling of hail and ice-cold rain to turn the snow that had piled up around my car into rock-like ice.
Once I discovered the battery was dead, I decided to just get a new battery. But before I could even put the battery in, I had to spend almost a half-hour one cold morning chiseling my car out of the ice with a claw hammer. When I got back inside, my hands had started to turn purple. Not good, people.
When the time came to put in the battery, I discovered that the screw holding the metal piece that secured the battery into the car had rusted. I had to go out and buy a socket wrench set to finally get it open–by which I mean, I turned the screw and it snapped off. Oh well, whatever, I’d just use a bungie cord to secure it.
So next up came the new battery. Simple, right? Not where this car was concerned. When I was fourteen, I was unlucky enough to get a very young case of sciatica. As such, my lower back is fairly weak and easy to hurt. Car batteries are very dense; they’re heavy objects contained in a very small area of space, so they’re pretty much the worst thing for someone in my position to lift. Forgetting all about that, I put the battery in and won two months of awful, spasming back pain for my trouble. But the car worked!
In June, I received my very first speeding ticket ever while driving that car home through Brookline.
Later that summer, I took a tight turn, clipped a curve and somehow managed to get a rim pinch in one of my relatively new tires, requiring a $200 replacement and re-alignment.
Then, in August, the dreaded Check Engine light came on. A trip to Meineke revealed my fate: the car needed another $2000 worth of work. I can’t remember exactly what was wrong–the brakes, I think, and some other thing with the engine.
Whatever. I was done. DG and I talked it over and decided to just get rid of the jinxed thing. We really didn’t consider selling it–that seemed like way too much work for something we just wanted far away from us. We ended up donating it to charity, though it then turned out we could only write it off for a fraction of the value. Fine! Whatever, just go away, car. Part of me felt bad thinking that some other chump might end up with that thing…with any luck, they’d just take it apart.
Oh, but the car was not done with me. You see, I had decided to fight that aforementioned traffic ticket. I went before the magistrate earlier this month, who agreed to reduce the ticket but wouldn’t dismiss it. I didn’t care about the ticket money–I’d happily pay the full ticket cost if they could just make it a parking ticket, something that wouldn’t automatically add two points to my license. So I decided to take it to court.
The hearing was today. If the cop didn’t show, I automatically won. But I had a back-up. Two weeks earlier, after reading a few websites about fighting traffic tickets, I had put in a request for information regarding my case. The material I’d read (which, admittedly, was on the Internet–shame on me) claimed that if I didn’t receive the information by the time of the hearing, I could make a motion to dismiss the case. The material never arrived.
The cop showed up at the hearing–strike one. When I explained the situation regarding the request for discovery, the judge seemed troubled, but rather than dismiss the case, he told me if I wanted, I could go across the street and request the information again, and he would reschedule the hearing.
It was then that I knew. The Car had set this all up. It was striking from the grave. It would not go gently into that dark night. It had one last card to play. (& other clich?s.)
The idea of getting the information–which would probably incriminate me anyway–and going through all this again was unthinkable, so I just gave my side of the story, saying I was going with the flow of traffic and didn’t remember going that fast (which I don’t, though I admit I was almost certainly speeding). The judge found me responsible but kept the reduction the magistrate had offered. Two points on my driver’s license and a good $600 in insurance fees over the next three years. That car wanted to make me suffer. It was taking my money one way or the other.
Well, there’s nothing else you can do to me now. Rot in hell, car. Rot in hell.
Oh – it’s not done with you yet. As we speak, it is somewhere in some dusty garage reconstructing itself from a scrap heap as “You Keep on Knocking… But You Can’t Come In” blares on the soundtrack.
Watch your back.
I tried to fight an accident once that would result in a severe impact on my insurance…one foggy, drizzling winter morning in 1988 or so, I rear-ended a beast of a Mercury that was stopped in the middle of the road with no turn signal or rear lights, I totaled my Horizon and the kid put the stainless steel bumper back with a bungee, claiming it was like that anyway. I objected to the citation, and what the judge had to say just about set the tone for this state for me….”If we dismissed all of the skidding and sliding accidents in Ma., then we wouldn’t make any money”. I suppose the same is true for speeding tickets. A least I was sort of innocent in a I-couldn’t-help-it-sort of way!
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