Don Bauder 11:54 a.m., May 20
Oh, cars, both a blessing and a curse. Joyous wonders to behold. When in good running condition, all is right in our world. Sheer nirvana.
Like our spouses or families we can take cars for granted, while expecting nothing but perfection and ultimate performance back. Yet, it’s somehow acceptable for us to forget about washes, tune-ups, oil changes, brakes and tire rotations. If our cars disappoint us, we show our faithful vehicles instant hostility. The car is now somehow to blame for everything going wrong in our lives. Not unlike how we tend to find fault with our loved ones, when stubbing a toe, the computer goes down, someone cuts you off on the freeway, or you just had a crappy day at work.
I’m here to tell you about how my car makes me feel. When she is down, I miss her. It doesn’t matter that I’m still driving a car. I miss MY CAR. I can read her. The quirky little sounds she makes. The feel of the steering, the brakes, or her acceleration. The way the engine purrs, or coughs like a cat with a hair ball, depending on the day or how well she’s been maintained.
Sometimes my car is a teacher. Whether I need to slow down to enjoy life, or that life in general is just coming at me too fast, somehow she knows it. I’ll get a flat tire, need gas, or deciding I need to stay put, she just stops; forcing me to slow down, whether I choose to or not. To be honest it works. I may get upset initially and then decide …what’s the point? Nothing will change if I get upset.
Then a funny thing begins to happen…..I’ll live in the moment. I’ll sing, write, or take a moment to call a friend who may be having, “One of those days too.”
There has also been more than one occasion where my car may have saved my life, or kept me from being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Two weeks ago, I was headed to work and was running twenty minutes ahead of schedule. The check engine light came on and I checked the codes and reset them with a portable diagnostic computer. The code was nothing urgent, just a loose gas cap, so I headed to work. It only took about five minutes to take care of the situation. Thankfully I was delayed. When I entered the 15 Fwy, south, off Via Rancho Pkwy, in Escondido, traffic was at a standstill. I called work to alert them of the situation, there had been a five car accident. One car was facing the wrong way (north), two went head on into the center divider and resembled crushed beer cans. The last two cars were blocking the number one and two lanes.
I called 511 to find out the driving times and possible secondary incidents, to see just how late I might be. The obnoxious voice on 511 alerted me as to when the accident occurred. If I had not been delayed those few minutes to stop and check the engine code, I could have been in that same accident, or in the immediate aftermath. See how my car protects me?
In 1991, we bought a used Volvo 240DL. A beautiful blue color, with low mileage. The car ran like a champ. I was two months pregnant and we were going to drive to Los Angeles to see my mother-in-law. Those of you who remember will know, in 1991 the 15 Fwy, North from Escondido until you got to Colton, was desolate. You couldn’t see a gas station or structure of any kind from the road. This was pre-cell phone and there weren’t any call boxes yet.
If you broke down you’d pretty much be stranded in the middle of no where. We washed the car and then stopped at a 7-11 for gas. The Volvo, (Old Blue, as we lovingly referred to her), had an engine that ran so smooth, you couldn’t hear it when it idled. I paid for a full tank of gas and two Slurpees, jumped in the car and she wouldn’t start. The timing belt broke.
My husband is a glass half empty kind of guy and was not happy in the least. I myself am a glass half full kind of gal and I began to explain how blessed we were. Explaining to my frustrated spouse, that at least we were only about two miles from home, instead of being stranded in the middle of God’s left Egypt somewhere. Being pregnant, I was grateful we were still close to home, safe and the belt hadn’t broken, as we were driving 65 miles an hour with a car behind us.
We had Old Blue for 10 years. She had her quirks, but ran strong, even when we donated her to charity. I like to think she’s still out there somewhere protecting a teen age driver.
Blue was replaced by a 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan. We got her when she was new and only had 54 miles on the odometer. This car has been great. We’ve taken her to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon on vacation, as well as Yellowstone National Park. She has hauled around a plethora of Girl Scouts, band equipment, FFA members, band members, girls varsity basketball team, as well as, the varsity shot put and discus throwers for Escondido High and my dogs.
She has been my think tank, a place I go at lunch to read or write. When I’ve traveled solo, there are times when she is my motel on wheels. Popping out the seats to create a sleeping area, taking cat naps at rest areas, in an effort to stay refreshed for the long drive ahead.
Another time my car saved me from being stranded was earlier this year. My daughter had come home from college for Christmas break and I was going to take her back to Flagstaff, Arizona on Saturday January 9th. Her friends called a few days before and asked her to carpool back with them. She agreed. She decided I didn’t need the physical stress on my body, the car and it would save a lot of gas money. The day before we would have left, the engine went out while I was driving to work. If that had not happened, we might have broken down in the middle of the desert with no cell phone service. It was a mixed bag of blessings. We were also in the process of moving, and found ourselves without my trusty steed.
Three months later she had an engine transplant, and an a/c-ectomy. All was right in my world again. I hadn’t had an a/c in three years and was in heaven.
Just before Mother’s day, my check engine light came on. I would be driving to Flagstaff in two days to get my daughter and all her belongings from school and went to my mechanic to have it checked out. When I arrived, the check engine light was just a loose gas cap, but my radiator was flowing like the mighty Mississippi. They ordered a radiator and my car was delivered to me the next day.
See how my car was looking out for me? Or is it possible divine intervention is working through her? Either way I feel blessed.