Thursday, June 16, 2005

#43 - The Ugliest Car in the World?

The Honda is Mrs. Woody's car, technically speaking. She was its first owner. She bought it nearly twenty two years ago as a young teacher in Utah. It sweltered with her in the blazing Arizona sun for several years, and it was the car in which we did most of our courting.

When I tell people what to look for when I'm planning to drive somewhere, I tell them to watch for the ugliest car they've ever seen. Really. And it's not as bad now as it was just a few short years ago. When we needed to move to Orange County from Ventura County, we decided to get the poor thing a face lift by way of a paint job. Before the paint, the car was badly faded on the roof and had the usual scratches and dings associated with old age. After the paint job, it was less faded and instead merely looked old.

I love this car.

This is Old Reliable. This is the "go to" car when our newer, sleeker, wimpier Saturn needs to visit the doctor. When the Honda needs to visit the doctor it starts growling at me as if to say, "Don't call the doctor! It's just a sprain, darnit!" When the Saturn needs to go, it begins crying for Mommy. The Saturn takes wimpy ol' 87 octane go-juice with umbrellas in the pump. The Honda scarfs down 89-proof stuff and starts hitting on the cute PT Cruiser at the next pump. Also, the Honda is not above a little vehicular flatulation from time to time, which it blames on elephants under the manifold. "Pull my hazard lights," is something the Honda would say.

As it aged, its interior began to acquire a certain atmosphere. Here I'm thinking of the atmosphere you might find on Venus. As the car baked in blazing sun (or, alternately, froze in Utah winters), the upholstery made the car look like a poster child for Intensive Care lotion ads. The cabin liner (that would be the "ceiling" for you who need a frame of reference) hangs in cracked ribbons that occasionally flake off in a breeze. The Honda gets plenty of breeze in warmer months (meaning about 9 months out of 12 here in California) because its air conditioner was once upon a time subjected to Manny, Mo and Jack, and has not functioned properly since. Its own war injury. This is ok, because it gives me bragging rights. "See that driver's tan? Try getting that on your silly beach!" I'll be able to drive my daughters crazy with it in a few years. "Hey, back in the day I used to have to drive all the way to Huntington Beach and back without air conditioning, kid. Suck it up!"

We bought the Saturn about two weeks after we found out we (well, she, really) were pregnant. We needed a four-door to accomodate our anticipated brood, and I had heard good things about Saturns. We investigated, found one in Mrs. Woody's color, and drove it home. Mrs. Woody has since that time driven the Honda only under duress. Don't get me wrong; that was the plan all along. Mrs. Woody would drive the Saturn on the assumption that she would be the one to ferry the kidlings around. Woody, meanwhile, would drive the Honda into the ground so we wouldn't have more than one car payment at a time to deal with. It's worked so far: the Saturn was paid off a few years ago, and the Honda is at 211K and counting.

Our five-year plan currently calls for the Honda to die a slow, horrible death, then be replaced by a sleek, relatively new minivan. The problem with five-year plans, of course, is that the participants rarely cooperate and die when called upon to do so. The Honda may very well last another 100K miles, which by my calculations means that we could be bequeathing this car to one of the Woodyettes. This may be a terrific bargaining chip in a few years. "I'd better see some better grades, Honey, or you get... the Honda." "Nooooo! Not the Honda! I'll study day and night! I'll buy more candles for my desk! Anything!"

More than anything, the car has personality. It has a radio that occasionally will only work when it rains. I'm not kidding. Right now it's in "work all the time" mode. But the next time I change out the battery, or have the battery disconnected for any reason, the radio will become moody and will only work when it rains. I have no idea why, but that's the way it is. If it rains long enough, like it did this past winter, the radio stays on once it drys out.

Also - you know how it is with older cars - it has a tendency to go wherever the heck it darn well pleases. On those rare occasions I drive it to the church, for example, it tries to take me to work. I can try to convince it that it's Sunday and all, but it doesn't care. What can I say? It enjoys getting sand in its carbeurator.

As for maintenance, well, I don't even bother getting the red service indicators reset anymore. What's the use? I figure anytime I can get it in to the garage, they'll find something that needs fixing or replacing. Brakes. Tranny. Engine. Little things like that.

I guess, in many ways, the Honda is just like me. Old. Crotchety. Conservative.

I like that in a car.

No comments: