Friday, August 11, 2006
Stupid Little Red Car
Wonder Woman's Pathfinder has been in the repair shop since last Thursday -- that's two Thursdays ago, not yesterday -- and I've been forced to drive the dealer's loaner in the interim. The reason for the protraction of the repair is too convoluted to go into, but if that fucker calls me up today and tells me they've delivered the wrong part again, I will not be responsible for my actions, and no jury on the planet would find me guilty.
The car is a Hyundai Accent, a subcompact sedan in a shade of glowing, candy-apple red that should never be seen in public. Its cheap plastic upholstery is spotted with revolting stains of unknowable and best-uninvestigated origin. The windshield wipers are a tattered and useless mess, the windshield-detergent tank was empty on delivery, the battery shows signs of imminent demise, and at any speed above 45 MPH the miserable junker shudders like a dog shitting a peach-pit. This morning, as I negotiated a tight turn, the thing emitted a loud klonk that sounded like a death-knell for the trannie.
I digress for a moment to emphasize: I am not a car-snob. I think defining yourself by what you drive is a little sick, and ostentation in any form offends me -- that's why I'm so revolted by the Accent's screaming red paint. I drove an '87 Chevy Nova (a rebranded Toyota Corolla) until it blew its head-gasket in '96, and replaced that with a Mazda Protégé, which I kept until the family grew to include two large and flatulent dogs, at which point the formal castration of the minivan became inevitable. Now, with the move to the country and intimidatingly rutted and potholed dirt roads, we both drive 4WD vehicles, both bought used. The Pathfinder isn't really much bigger than a Subaru Forester, but with better clearance. I use my Ranger pickup as much as a practical tool -- hauling garden tools, plywood, firewood, topsoil and mulch -- as a conveyance to work.
There are some things I love about rice-burners. They're great on gas (although this abused Accent isn't all that impressive) and the transverse-engine front-wheel drive is absolutely brilliant in snow. You can park them anywhere, and they're pretty zippy on the highway, as long as you're not transporting a piano on the roof or something.
But my unforeseen and nightmarishly extended experience with this filthy little loaner has brought out a sadistic aspect of my personality that frankly surprises me. Every time it bottoms out and grinds its chassis against our nineteenth-century goatpath of a driveway, I grin maniacally and push it harder. I seek out potholes to bash into. Washboard ruts make me cackle. When starting it in the morning, I gun the engine to 5000 revs before oil can make its way into the crankcase. I pop soda-cans in the cupholder, noting with satisfaction the sticky spray misting the instrument panel. On the highway, I keep at just the right speed (62mph, if you're curious) to maximize the off-alignment shuddering, smiling quietly to myself at the thought of the amount of melted rubber I'm leaving on the road.
I fervently hope today is my last day with this stupid little red car. As of last night, the repair shop had only one more thing to fix -- a faulty catalytic converter -- before the Pathfinder is released from durance vile. However, having observed these gooberheads, I'm not holding my breath. I may very well have another weekend with it.
When I got the loaner, the rep and I did the formal minuette around the car, noting all the scratches and dents in its mortifyingly loud exterior. I can guarantee there is no more damage to the paint-job than when I took possession, so I have no fear of reprisal from that quarter. But when I do give it back, I'd love to hand over the key while observing jauntily, "You might want to get the alignment checked: I noticed it shook a bit when I had it around a hundred-and-twenty for a couple hours in the mountains..."
If I am stuck with it for another weekend, I'd love to hear suggestions from my knowledgably evil readers: What else can I do to this miserable little piece of shit before handing it back to its incompetent, maintenance-eschewing, wrong-part-ordering, my-car-keeping-for-a-week-past-its-promised-date corporate owners? Just remember: The paint-job is sacrosanct. Everything else is fair game.