Thursday, November 10, 2011

Drivin' and Cryin'

I used to be someone. I had promise. I had a Porsche. No, seriously, I owned a Porsche for about a year. Actually, I guess technically my ex-wife did.

My dad had a hobby of buying old cars and restoring them. He'd be driving around and see a wreck with a for sale sign on it or start talking to a guy at a yard sale and end up buying a car and then spending months fixing it up. How he did this on a teacher's salary, I have no idea. All the way from a Model A to an MG like the one he used to have as a swinging single to a 1981 Porsche 924, he'd be obsessed for a while, then move on to another car.

About the time my ex-wife and I were first married, he had finished restoring the Porsche enough that he could drive it to work occasionally or drive it around the neighborhood now and then. We were down in Bradenton for something and he offered it to her as sort of an extra wedding present.

Well hell, who were we to turn down a free Porsche? I think we had just gotten rid of her car, a Geo that was on its last legs, or maybe we got rid of it after the Porsche offer. Who cares! We had one reliable car and a piece of German engineering, something that was befitting of our new life as one of Jacksonville's power couples. And it was a convertible, too!

I soon discovered there was a big difference between driving the car two or three miles every other day and depending on it to safely transport your wife to her job about a half hour away, especially in the days before cell phones. Well, at least before we had cell phones.

Here is a transcription from memory of about 87 calls I would get pretty frequently:

"Hey, I'm at Publix. The car just stopped. I can't get it started. I hate this car."

I can't even remember all the mechanical problems that car had. We were brand new in Jacksonville with no friends and had no idea which mechanic to trust. We called around but the only place that would take it was an import place, and because of the age of the car, they couldn't find parts half the time.

I did like the smell of the car's interior, though. It had the same smell those old VW convertibles used to give off - a mix of plastic that suggested the action figures I had as a kid, as well as a fresh bag of plastic fishing worms or brand new cassette tapes, mixed with just a hint of gasoline fumes.

Oh yeah, those gasoline fumes were probably bad.

That car was a major source of friction in the early days of our marriage. It didn't help my relationship with my parents, either. If I mentioned the problems we were having with it, I could feel my dad getting more and more upset. I mean, shit, he gave us a free car, you know? And his ungrateful son was complaining about it all the damn time.

I had (and still have) a tendency to grasp onto the smallest pebble of a problem and through a combination of worrying and anxiety, transform it into a house-sized boulder that crushes me down until I can't sleep or do anything but worry about the most ridiculous possible outcome. So when there's a real problem, say a car that we've dumped over $3000 into that we didn't really have, I've already planned my future in the poor people's nursing home, where I'm mistreated by hateful minimum-wage immigrants while my friends are enjoying their mansions and yachts, while they mention every once in a while between bites of caviar, "Hey, I wonder whatever happened to Scott? Eh. I'm sure he's alright. More champagne, Jeeves."

I don't remember when we finally decided to cut our losses. It might have been after we figured out how much we had spent on repairs. It might have been after we finally couldn't afford to fix it any more. I remember it sat in our apartment's driveway for a long time. I'd look down at it occasionally, sitting down there mocking me.

We finally ended up donating it to some charity, something I only though rich people did. Like I said, we ended up paying over 3 grand in repairs over the life of the car. Sure, it would have been smarter to take that money and use it as a down payment for another car, but it's not like we ever had all that money at one time.

We were a one-car family for a long time after that. That had its own set of problems and stresses, but at least I didn't think my wife was going to die every time she went to work, and even waiting for the bus for over an hour was much less stressful than waiting to hear from another mechanic as our checking account took another hit.

So if anyone ever offers you a free sports car, run far, far away.

No comments: