Last Saturday I was heading to the airport; as I exited the on-ramp and began to merge onto the freeway, my car's transmission gave out. It was a typically stressful situation, but a tow-truck came quickly and I felt at peace with the possibility that it would require $2,000 in repair costs. Monday morning, our mechanic, Louie, called with the worst possible news. Not only did our transmission drop, it had torn in half and took the drive shaft, shifter tower, oxygen sensor and whatever else was in the way, with it. Suddenly, the repair cost jumped to $7,300 ($5,000 if we didn't buy factory parts) and, just as abruptly, we lost our car.
Yes, we have the money to repair it... but it would wipe out savings account entirely and the Blue Book value is only $7,500. Sean and I bike to work most days. We fill the tank (maybe) twice a month. In short, our car is purely a luxury, not a necessity and it's not worth our time or money to resurrect it.
This saddens me more than I can express or even understand.
It's just a car; there are far graver tragedies playing out in the world, far away and right next door, but despite this frank intellectualization, I am grieving. For one reason, it's a great car; Subarus have an excellent reputation and our mechanic is at a loss figure out why this happened to a well-maintained car with less than 100K miles on it. I consulted my brother, also a mechanic, and he has only once seen something like this happen; in that case, the driver was intentionally trying to shred his transmission. We've taken good care of this car and to give up on it, rather than fix it, is deeply saddening to me. It doesn't deserve to be scrapped. We've babied this car, but in the end it was all a big waste, both for us and the vehicle. I hate waste.
And then there's the sentimental side of things. This Subaru was my first (almost) new car -- my parents generously bought it for me when I started graduate school in Alaska; just accepting such a gift from them was a big deal. It made my life unspeakably easier and was put to good use up there. (The four-wheel drive alone saved my sorry ass more times than I can count.) My friends borrowed it, my dog rode in it, I hauled water in it, drove visiting writers around town in it and plugged it in all winter long to keep the engine from freezing. I once spent a full 20 minutes in -55F weather inching out of parking spot and was always careful not to pull the door apart when the metal bends in such extreme temperatures.
When I was done with graduate school, we packed it full of crap and one dog, and drove 3,000 miles down to California. This car has seen me through a lot of change. And, well, this sounds morbid, but I carry a small bag of my dad's ashes in the car -- he rides shotgun with me; I'll miss that.
Since coming south, life has been much easier on the car -- an occasional road trip, random weekend visits to the beach, the East bay, the city; but mostly, it sits. We figure that we pour about $300-$400 per month into the car that just sits. Spending all of our money to fix it, when we can bike, take public transportation and use Zipcar (a car sharing service) just isn't realistic or financially smart, at all.
Yesterday Sean went to the mechanic's garage and assessed the damage with Louie. I did not go, I just couldn't stomach seeing it like that, knowing what we know. We will be calling Subaru to talk this situation over with them -- it shouldn't have happened. And Louie, being the top-notch mechanic that he is, is helping us make these automotive "end of life" decisions. He's not even badgering us to move the car out of his lot any sooner than we need to. I've had the privilege of knowing several fine mechanics in my life and he ranks among the very top and I couldn't be more grateful.
Soon, sooner than I ever thought it would be, I'll clean out the side pockets, empty the glove box, scatter my dad's ashes and sit in the driver's seat one last time.
Goodbye, my friend, and (95,000 miles of) thanks.
From Extenuating Circumstances by Paul Violi:
Got the heater on full blast,
Window jameed down,
Speedometer dead wrong:
Can't tell how fast I'm going,
Don't care how far I've gone.