Owning a Car Ain't What It Used to Be


Mon, Mar 3rd, 2003 03:00 by Lilith DemHareIs NEWS

My brother owns several cars. As expected, he does not currently have a girlfriend. At his age, you can afford either one, or the other, but not both.

So he's chosen cars. I don't blame him. I've seen the last batch of women interested in him, and he's better off with cars. He spends his spare time working on these cars, fixing them up, and eventually selling them for more than he bought them for. I assume he makes a profit.

If only I was so lucky in my own automotive pursuits. Owning a car ain't what it used to be.

When I was his age, I owned my first car. It was a 1971-73 Volkswagen Bug hybrid my father and I built out of a couple of wrecks. The body was red, the driver's side door was white, and inside the front trunk it was blue, where someone soldered a new front end on, and only painted the outside.

It was cheap to run, easy to fix and taught me the true meaning of the world Freedom. Alas, it was not to last forever, for as I was driving along the freeway one evening, a freak gust of wind came barrelling out of the canyon I was crossing, ripping the hood off my car and putting it through the windshield. At the time, I did not have the money for such extensive repairs, and my poor Volkswagen was retired to a charity that could afford such repairs. At least I got an $800 tax writeoff.

Today, I own an 86 Nissan Skyline GXE that has, in the past year, demanded repairs in excess of its original cost. And can I do the repairs myself? No frelling way! Somewhere between 1973 and 1986, cars got unnecessarily complicated. If something goes wrong, I simply lack the tools and (nowdays) the know-how to get it fixed. I gotta pay a mechanic to fix it for me. Luckily, he's a good one. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Secretly, I find it disheartening that I must now pay someone to do something that I feel I should do myself. (Okay, so once upon a time was a Volkswagen and now is a Nissan, but it still stings!)

It's a good thing I'm a computer geek by day, who fleeces people when I fix their computer-- often a repair that they, if they had just a wee bit more knowledge about, could have fixed themselves--and get paid for the privilege, otherwise I would have no money to pay well-meaning yet expensive mechanics who are doing what I once could have done for myself.

(Side track: Today some smart-aleck kid at the integrated library where I was upgrading a computer asked me how much I made. I told him a lot more than his father, but not as much as his mother on her back. When he got insulted at that, I told him to go away, because I had a policy to never engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed boy. To think: I've been working with computers longer than he's been alive.)

And then there are the other costs. Car insurance, oil and other necessary lubricants, spark plugs and need I mention the prohibitive cost of petrol? (Honestly, I would be all in favour of going to war if it meant that the price of petrol would drop back down again. Currently, it costs me fifty bucks to fill the car!)

So I fork out the hundreds of bucks the invoice demands and I get back a car that work until the next thing can go wrong. I guess that is the cost of owning a car that is old enough to need constant repair, but new enough to be sophisticated enough I need a specialist.

Perhaps I should buy a new car. I mean a new-New car. Possibly one of the new Volkswagen Bugs? Maybe I'll be lucky and win one of the modern Bugs in a contest. With my current financial status, it's probably the only way I'll ever get one.



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