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The Wreck Magnet

August 17, 2012

I always tell people that I’ve lived in Arizona since 1995, but this isn’t entirely true.  After a year in Arizona, we picked up and moved to Indiana.  The move didn’t work out, as the temperature got to a point people referred to as “below freezing.”  I’m not sure what this is, but it’s horrible and it made white stuff fall from the sky, which I also objected to.  Just kidding.  There were a number of horrible reasons to leave Indiana.  First of all, ugh, Indiana.  Second of all, the rampant racism kinda got on my nerves (and I grew up in the south, y’all!).  Third of all, ugh, Indiana.  Also: abject poverty sucks, too much fried food with canned green beans on the side, and holy shit people, mayonnaise doesn’t go on EVERYTHING.  I basically hated my life in Indiana.

And then there was the car situation.  Moving to Arizona, as I have previously mentioned, was the death of my car.  Well, not the death, but it went into a coma… and after it emerged from the brink of the abyss it was never quite the same.  Most notably, electrical issues began to crop up.  For example, starting the car involved turning the key whilst pressing the horn.  Turning on the lights worked great, but to add the interior dash lights, one needed to pound on the top of the dash, sometimes repeatedly.  Then, when travelling at highway speeds, it had a tendency to die.  Just, you know, drift off to sleep like a narcoleptic on ambien.  I would throw it into neutral, coast to the breakdown lane of the freeway, and let it sit.  After several minutes of rest (sometimes half an hour), it would come back to life, wipe the sleep drool from it’s chin, and act like nothing ever happened.

This was what my car looked like most of the time… sitting at the side of the road… resting.

So, Yeah, That Made Moving a Bitch

So, why the move?  Well, I really hadn’t put down roots of any sort in Arizona, and Hollie’s ex-husband wanted to move with their kids to Indiana to be with his parents and grandparents.  I didn’t think it would matter much… one state was as good as another I figured.  The trip from Arizona to Indiana was supposed to take three days.  It took five, as my car took frequent naps en route.  In fact, during one horrible day of travel, I made it from Odessa, Texas to Midland, Texas.  That’s like 25 miles of the most boring countryside on earth.


This, from Google maps, is the view from the freeway between Odessa and Midland. I. Shit. You. Not.

I was pretty much done with my car after that, but it ran like a champ the next day.  By the time we arrived in Indiana, I knew I had to get rid of my car.  But, how?  I had no job, yet, and didn’t imagine a car with as many issues as mine had would have much of a trade-in value.  But, the narcolepsy was getting worse.  Now it was occasionally passing out around town.  Without many options, I decided to just roll the dice and see what I could work out at a used car dealership.

Time to Trade “Up”

Unfortunately, the small town which we had moved to wasn’t exactly a mecca of car dealers.  I had only a handful of options, and most of them pretty much sucked.  So, I pulled into the first used car lot and parked my relatively new (but abused) 1992 Plymouth Acclaim.  Ahh, the Acclaim.  Not quite what you would call sporty.  Certainly not what one would consider luxury.  And, definitely not a practical gas saver.  Yes, it was the worst of all worlds.  This would be interesting.

The used car dealer was… smarmy.  To say the least.  And when I brought up the option of trading my car straight across, his immediate question was one I had expected.

Dealer: Why?  What’s wrong with it?

Me: It has electrical issues, which kinda scares me.

I figured that was reason enough, without coming out and flat out saying “this fucking rattletrap breaks down at the drop of a goddamn hat.”

Dealer: Ohhhh kayyyy… what sort of electrical issues?

Me: Like this. [I proceeded to turn on the headlights, then pound on the dash four or five times to make the dash lights come on]

Dealer: Does it start?

Me: (Overlooking the obvious fact that he saw my ass DRIVE into the lot) Yep, just honk the horn while turning the key.

Dealer: You’re joking.

Me: Why?  Was it funny?

So then came the part I was terrified of.  He wanted to test drive my trade-in.  Crap on a cracker.  I was screwed if this thing died while he was testing it out.  He left the lot and I began looking at my options.  The choices were… not good.  There were a number of older cars, a handful of overpriced SUVs, and some overpriced sports cars.  Which meant it would be an older car, for sure.  What to do.  The newest, and nicest, of the older cars was a brown (I think the technical term for the paint color is “monkey feces”) 1984 Mercury Grand Marquis.   Ugh, what a monstrosity.   In case you’re not familiar with this piece of automotive hell, here’s an actual magazine ad for the car from 1984:

Okay, so this isn’t an actual ad.

Luckily, my car didn’t die on the test drive, but as I suspected, the amount he offered left me short of the SUVs or sports cars.  I let out a sigh and asked to test drive the Mercury from hell.  It drove well, the engine was strong and all the electrical worked.  So, I was left with the decision: take the offer and trade for this beast, or take my chances that it might die when the next car dealer took my Plymouth for a test drive.  In the end, I took the safe route and made the trade.

Then… Things Got Weird

After all the paper work was done, I left the lot, and pulled up to the first red light.  As I sat there, I watched as the van following me slowed.  Slowed, not stopped.  And even as the words, “holy shit, that van’s going to hit us,” escaped my mouth, holy shit, that van totally hit my “new” car.  I had owned this thing for all of 5 minutes, and had just been rear ended.  I got out, and so did the lady who was responsible for the collision.  We looked over the damage, and, luckily, there was none to my car.  Her van’s grill was cracked, but not badly.  We shook hands and went on our way.  But, it was a sign.  I should have turned around and headed right back to the used car dealership.

One month later, I was driving along a local roadway past a row of factories.  At the entrance to one of the factories, a large diesel 18-wheeler was waiting to pull out onto the highway.  As I got closer to the waiting truck, it occurred to me that the driver was entirely focused on looking in the opposite direction.  Surely, he couldn’t overlook a car my size (even if it was monkey feces brown)?  As my car passed in front of this enormous rolling battering ram, the driver put it in gear and plowed into the right rear quarter panel of my car.  Based on the sound of crunching, scraping metal alone, I knew this particular accident would require more than just a handshake.

The vehicle was totaled.  In other words, the cost to repair the damage exceeded the value of the vehicle.  Luckily, the trucking company had awesome insurance, which paid in full, and promptly.  Also luckily, the car still ran just fine.  I was forced to cover the tail light with red lens tape, but whatever.  It ran pretty much the same as it had when I first acquired the vehicle.

Apparently, My Car had a Cloaking Device

That was the first time I was paid the full value of my vehicle by an insurance company.  Two months after that accident, I was parked in a downtown parking lot for a town festival.  When I left the festival and returned to my car, I found two police officers standing beside it, pointing at the rear end.  This couldn’t be good.

Me: Is there something wrong, officers?

Cop: Your car was in an accident.

Me: Um, yeah, I know.  But that was a couple of months ago, and I’ve had it declared safe to drive so I can still operate it.

Cop: No, sir.  Your car was just in an accident.  An old man slammed into it, threw his car in reverse, and took off.  He did it in full view of myself and several other police officers.  We caught him a mile down the road and cited him for the accident.

Sure enough… the OPPOSITE side of my car was now smashed in, and the other tail light was broken.  I let out a moan, but said little else.  At this point it was getting a bit ridiculous.  I still had a half roll of red lens tape in the glove compartment, so I covered the newly broken tail light.  The old man had good insurance, and I was again paid the full (slightly less this time) value of my vehicle.

One month after that incident, I had my car parked in front of my home, in the designated parking area.  By now, you know where this story is headed.  I was in the kitchen, cooking dinner, when I heard a crashing sound.  I shook my head in resignation.  I didn’t even need to look.  I knew that my car had been hit again.  I walked out to the street, to see my next door neighbor staring in horror at the damage.  His pickup truck had rolled down the hill into the front end of mine, breaking both turn signal lights and cracking the grill.

Neighbor: Oh my God!  I’m so sorry!  I forgot to set the parking brake.

Me: (laughing) Yep.  I see that.

Neighbor: Oh God!  I can’t afford another accident report on my insurance!

Me: Yep.  I feel ya.

Neighbor: If I gave you $100, would you just keep this between us?

Me: (shrugging) Whatever.

I honestly was past caring at this point.  If the guy had offered me $5 and a hug, I would have taken it.  This car was doomed.

In the End…

In the end, I sold the thing before leaving Indiana.  Despite all the damage, I still managed to sell it for only $200 less than it’s original price.  I couldn’t see taking it back to Arizona with me, though.  After all, it’s one thing to drive a wreck magnet around town.  It’s another thing entirely to take it out on the freeway and tempt fate at 80 miles an hour.


on the bright side… s’mores!

  1. I love the Mercury ad! But yeah, you really should have gotten the patent on the cloaking device before you sold that thing. “New! Romulan motorized deathtrap for your enemies!”

    • Driving an invisible car definitely gave me a whole new appreciation for Wonder Woman and all the issues her invisible jet must cause. I wonder how many times it’s been waiting for a clear runway when another jet just plowed into the back of it?

  2. Wow… that car was like Christine. But instead of trying to kill you, it wanted to commit suicide. But, it was probably afraid to go to car hell, so he used his mind control powers to make other cars hit it.

    Or. Something….



    • See, I was thinking my car was like the Love Bug but with horrible, HORRIBLE bad luck. Like, the Mr. Magoo of cars. Oh, sure, he’s driving off the edge of that steel girder, but he lands safe and sound right in front of that Mack truck. Which only wounds him? Or something like that? Somewhere the simile fell apart on me.

  3. Holy crap, you had a kamikaze car! Maybe it was throwing itself in front of these runaway vehicles in hopes of ending it all!

    • Well… let’s be honest… if YOU were a 1984 Mercury Grand Marquis, wouldn’t you want to be put out of your misery?

  4. Holy Shit! The car KNEW it was hideous Monkey Turd brown, and was just hoping for a quickey Maaco paint job!

    • I think the gal I sold it to had designs on getting it repaired and painted pink. Seriously. I hope it was cool with that paint color… or else…

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