Tuesday, August 16, 2011

End of the road for this set of wheels

Lost that back hubcap somewhere between Wayne and Wakefield one night.

I've wanted a new car for years. It's an easy item to wish for; however, it's not as easy to just go out to the lot, point and say, "I'll take it. Here's all my savings, plus my earnings for the next few years.

When we got our already used green 1992 Mercury Sable, I was still in grade school. I don't remember when we got it, but it was certainly several steps up from the 80s Grand Marquis boat that had been hauling us over the river every day. Along with the farm truck, the Sable was the first vehicle I learned to drive, and it became my school car when I turned 16. Nearly ten years later, I don't even know how many hundreds of thousands of miles have been racked up.

It's finally the end of the road for the rusted mean green Mercury. As long as I've been hoping for it to happen, it hadn't completely died on me yet (probably out of spite), but I feared the engine was going out or something equally tragic was starting to unfold. I didn't want to be stranded at a stoplight, in traffic, several miles from home. Early last week, I took all my belongings out before my parents came down to take it away and bring the "new" Sable.

That's actually a pretty clean door hinge.
Now, I'd never say I took special care of this car. First of all, having to travel several miles of gravel roads daily to get to town pretty much makes ever washing or vacuuming a car useless. So I rarely did. Many people find coins under their floor mats; I had gravel piles. But that added to the Merc's character. Along with the lingering scent of cow, driving down a bumpy road yielded a car full of dust for all passengers to enjoy. But that wasn't nearly as bad as the trunk. Moving back home for the summer after college let out was an experience. The back seat and passenger side were practically stacked to the top with my stuff because anything that would have to be forced to the dirty trunk may as well not make the trip at all.

Other than neglected cleanliness, that car had it pretty good. When I had it, it was only hit three times, and none of those were the fault of this driver (really!). The first time was in the high school parking lot. I had just loaded my stuff in the car and was making sure I had all my books with me. The librarian was parked in the row ahead of me and was getting ready to back out, so I just waited. I glanced up to check her status and watched as she crept closer and closer to my car, until nudge. No way did I just watch her back into my car! She gets out all flustered, and I told her not to worry about the tiny paint scratch on the front. Not important. No one will notice.

The next incident was on an extremely foggy night. Mom and I were driving (very, very slowly) back home from town to avoid coming upon deer jetting out of the fields. We made it to the gravel but were coming up to a small bridge over our neighbor's creek. That's when we (kind of) saw them -- the neighbor's black steers had trampled a fence and were roaming around. Unlike the others, one decided to stay on the road and run ahead of us. And nudge. Right in the rump. He moved then, but not before returning the favor by kicking the car. Pretty sure my mom was driving that night.

The third and final incident happened in Lincoln. A family member backed into the Merc with his truck and smashed in the entire front passenger door and window. I had to drive back to West Point the next day (in January) with a semi-taped window and pieces of glass still lingering throughout the car. And, of course, on the way home, the heater went out. You can imagine what a fun ride that was, ice scraper in hand.

After that, my parents and grandpa set out to find a new door. I feared the "worst." I'm totally going to be stuck with an ugly, matte red door on this green car. It's going to be a Christmas car! And the entire town is going to see me drive around in this! My life is over. This car needs to die! Somehow, fate cut  the Merc and me a break this time. They found a green Ford Taurus door, same color, nearly identical interior. And my mechanic uncle replaced it for chocolate chip cookies. Score! And that's how it became a Taurus-Sable.

Taurus-Sable. (I happened to be wearing a red shirt this day. See how awful a red-green car would look?!)
And that's the issue with door 1: It belonged to a different car. Not so bad though. Door 2, the back driver's side door handle, broke the previous winter after I tried to open it when it was covered in ice. So, I had to open it from the inside to let anyone in. (Why couldn't that door have been smashed?) Door 3 was the other back door. The lock broke at some point, both inside and in half on the outside, and always had to be manually forced down. Then to open it again, there was barely enough still intact to pull it back up.

The driver's door started to give me fits when I was working in Wisner. Some mornings I'd get to work, and the door wouldn't open from the inside. *sigh* So, I'd wait until no one was driving or walking by before I crawled across the seat to exit through the passenger door. Oh, and then some details began to fall off, revealing massive amounts of body cancer to accent the fading paint. I was so proud.

An accent piece below the doors on the driver's side fell off in Wisner last year.
And this side finally rusted out a couple weeks ago after a rain.

No tractor to help with this. We scooped it out ourselves. (Winter '09)
It's been pulled out of country road snow drifts by a tractor (several times), my classmates painted it up for homecoming and it's stranded me after basketball practice. (The key remained in the ignition since that winter of my junior year of high school because something in the ignition broke and was too costly to fix.)

There's also been a time where my uncle couldn't believe I was still driving it because something under the car was rusted and cracked. Apparently my wheels were about to fall off or something dramatic like that. Meh. Whatever. He fixed it for more cookies.

Oh, we've been through some excitement together, and throughout those10 years, it somehow continued to start up almost every day.

While I will hopefully be more confident taking this "new" car to work and out of town, I already find myself somehow, ever so slightly, missing Merc and all its little annoying quirks. I found so much junk while cleaning it out, like old passes to softball tournaments, a random butterfly and pool cue tip in the ash tray, a fly that has been dead near my check engine light since I've had the car, rocks, glass still under the passenger seat from the shattered window, golf balls and a cow's tooth. But I also discovered more sentimental items, like a watch my grandpa gave me many years ago, a ribbon I wore with my group at a camp, and many other random trinkets.
I grew up on a dairy farm...does that make it at all normal to have a cow's tooth in the glove box?
Pardon the dust, but that fly has been there forever!

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.
One thing that went in the new car is a St. Christopher visor clip that our school secretary gave me for high school graduation. It's been a safety thing for me. When traveling in bad weather or before a long journey, I often reach up to touch it and think of my great grandpa, Irwin Kahrs. I never met him because he died in a car accident on December 17, 1963. Despite my grandma's hopes and prayers, I was born on that day 22 years later. I like to think that day we share is significant and that he's watching over my passengers and me as we travel.

And travel we will. This new Sable is certainly not my dream car. I didn't even want another Sable, but it's a car. This one is silver (yes, one color...no body cancer...no eyesore...YAY!) and shiny. It's clean. And five years newer. Devin went out for a ride with me for the first time the other night, and he was pretty impressed by how quiet the car is.

Pretty sure that's a cig burn.
The less desirable things I've noticed so far include the wipers. I had a hard time seeing on my way to work the last week. One day was because the windshield was just dirty and streaked and another because of the rain.
(I swear it must be the car model. New wipers never worked on my old car either.) Pretty sure the passenger wiper barely skims the glass. And I know that a smoker owned this car previously. Knew it as soon as I opened the door. On my way to buy an air freshener, I confirmed it by discovering what I believe to be a cigarette burn on the driver's visor. Classy. Could be worse though. At least the smell is now more of a smoky Tahitian vanilla. I can live with that, but I think I need to just Febreze the whole interior.

So far it's only speculation, but I'm confident it will get me where I need to go, at least for a while. And there's A/C!

So, if nothing else, here's to that and being the tiniest step closer to "fitting in" among all these Omaha Escalades, Lexuses and Porsches. Ha! *Cheers*

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