The Taurus Turns in its Notice

May, 1999

Greetings, happy readers!

Enough events have transpired in the last three weeks to warrant pushing out another 'read and delete' for the month of May And it is with great regret at this time to have to inform you the passing of a member of our family (of vehicles.)

For the past months, my Ford Taurus was demonstrating the Second Law of Thermodynamics as applied to automobiles. The effects of the Elements upon it were becoming quite evident. Exposure to sun, rain and salt over the years brought forth massive carcinoma, with moles and scales rampant upon the Ford's metallic flesh. Its complexion had turned from factory beige to lesions of rusty brown. Internal organs were weakening, power was dropping, gasoline consumption was climbing, and fluids were hemorraging down the driveway. Suffice to say, the vehicle had 'turned in its notice', and life support was a costly choice. It think it lost the will to live. 
Not that it didn't happen before. Four years ago, I put a $2500.00 injection of capital into the beast, in the form of engine gaskets, valves, bearings, pumps, axles, widgets, blood, guts, towing and labor. This particular reprieve came about the same month that my younger son Peter was born, bringing with him his own brand-new bills. I needed to fix the car then, but from that point on, there was no friendly feeling lost between us. The man and car relationship became purely physical. 
During the ensuing years, the Ford began to look and act like Larry Flynt: ugly, nasty and vindictive. For example, the car had developed intermittant wipers, intermittant door locks, and an intermittant radio. I replaced a leaking heater core (a four hour job!) only to have the Taurus 'reject the transplant' and start leaking again six months later. I would spend hours waxing the car, only to find in in its pre-waxed condition a day later. Hubcaps would leap from the wheels in heavy traffic, where they would be smashed by other cars, just seconds before I could retrive them from the road. The locking gas cap would act up only in heavy downpours, and trim pieces inside the cabin were constantly rattling loose and squeaking. I was almost convinced that the Ford was doing these things to me on purpose, simply out of spite. 
Not that I hated the Ford all at once. Mind you, there was a time that I actually liked the car. Those first four days, before it blew its first head gasket, were very nice. It was a mere $500.00 repair. This was but a foreshadowing of the grief, the expense and of course, the humiliation that was to come. Through the years an entire battallion of mechanics worked about its entrails, men of types ranging from Barney Oldfield to Pee Wee Herman, each one amazed at the vehicle's incredible longevity, despite its wounded condition. Had I but only known........
Disposing of it was a problem. The car was too big to put in the recycle bin on trash day. For a short while I had considered the idea of burial at sea. The Fox River was handy, I could slip it in under a bridge and just let it dissolve. There was some thought of a rush hour funeral pyre out on I-88, after all there is a certain dignity in "going out in a blaze of glory." I could combine the two, like a Viking funeral, with my burning Taurus rafting majesticly past the Hollywood riverboat casino, in beautiful downtown Aurora. But the desire to remain unincarcerated won out, and the flivver was put into hospice at a nearby used car lot. You can visit it if you want. I can give you the address.
Replacing the beast was another issue. I made the rounds of the local car lots, guarding myself against the onslaught of the Checkered Jacketed Ones. Each one would leap out at me from behind some diseased wreck, sporting sunglasses and a cheap cigar, saying something out of the side of his/her mouth like, "Wouldn'tcha like this little gem? It was driven by a little old lady, just to church and bingo." But I was ready for this. Before the salesperson could leech onto me, I would counter the attack by calling out, "I'm a leper! Unclean! Unclean!" This would make the would-be assailants retreat to their little glass booth in the middle of the lot, while I would pore over the selection of guilded lillies and future landfill.(I hate to admit it, but I fell for the "little old lady" line when I bought the Taurus. Somebody should have told that particular little old lady that auto engines require lubrication. Most of the Taurus' bearings and internal seals washed out in my first oil change.)
I got to hear some first-rate "used-car-speak" from some real pros. Stuff like: "This car's clean. No rust in those dents." "You can drive this car anywhere." (anywhere downhill) "Low miles" (in comparison to the Mars probe) "We can get some equity out of your trade." (Huh?) " That's water dripping underneath. We just washed it." (washed it with what? antifreeze?) "It makes that noise until it warms up." (severe knocking) I heard some great sounds, too. Engine noises ranging from emphysemic wheezes to steel drum-bands. Transmissions that KLUNK into gear, or give a fair buzzing impression of a bee-hive. 

     I test drove some "cream-puffs." One drove like a shopping cart, complete with wobbly wheels. Another car couldn't drive quite as fast as it was depreciating. (another Taurus) My Volkswagen test drive ended in a test-tow.(It blew a radiator hose.) Plus, as an added bonus, every salesperson made the same joke about my trade-in. (I am not kidding about this) They each would look at my Taurus and say, "DON'T YOU NEED A TETANUS SHOT TO DRIVE IT?" By the eighth time it got pretty old. After a while all the cars on all the lots began to look the same. I was ready to give up and keep the old car, knowing that it probably had no more than six months to live. 
      But at last I did buy a good car. It is a few years older than I was originally looking for, but the upkeep was there and the mileage was lower. It's a Dodge Spirit. It has pep, and it has no rust. It goes in a straight line, and it sounds like a car - instead of a threshing machine. It has a sunroof that doesn't leak, and a real stereo. (In the Ford, I got used to listening to Paul Harvey sounding like he had a mouthful of cotton balls.) What color is it, you ask? It is WHITE. Not just any wimpy ivory white, but mom's Kenmore washing machine WHITE. KitchenAid WHITE. Stare into the sun WHITE. Even the aluminum wheels are WHITE. Dare I say it? It's a Spirit as WHITE as a ghost. When it's washed, it looks like a rolling ad for Chlorox bleach. The price was right. If you ask me, I'll tell you what I paid. 

Anyway, the credit union and I are very happy with our new car. 

Gotta go......... This letter is too darn long.

Neil 

P.S. What did I get for the Ford? It was a fair amount, considering I had an unsightly cancerous growth removed.