The Loh Life

Car Talk, part 1: Carmaggedon

Sandra Tsing Loh says goodbye to her longtime car.

The end finally came. . . for my 13 year-old, 140,000-mile Volvo.

I'd actually come to think of it as a magical creature, unaffected by the usual constraints of four-dimensional space-time.

For over the past decade, pretty much every morning I've spilled an entire travel mug of coffee (with milk) over the gearshift.  Because there's nowhere to put it! The actual cup-holder broke off long ago.  I am reduced to trying to jam my steaming travel mug between the parking brake and the seat.   Chinese-German engineering.

On the floor on the passenger's side and in back, there are crushed plastic water bottles amid nests of children's socks (at this point I can't say for sure whose children's; one time I found a boy's tiny Spider-Man underpants in my car-which was weird, as I have only daughters).   For an embarrassingly long period of time my car had ants. This is an automotive affliction I've never heard of. I believe it is akin to saying your car has mosquitoes, mice, its own climate, or a small problem with gators.  The ants were finally traced to a two-and-a-half year-old banana that my horrified daughters and I discovered in the trunk. We knew the exact age of the banana because it was in a beach bag that had been packed for a specific Fourth of July trip along with a then-new copy of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. "The Corrections!  There it is!" I exclaimed, with a huzzah.

So many of the Volvo's dashboard lights have been on for so long, each signaling one malfunction or another, that turning the ignition key is akin to plugging in that big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.   Because sure, I've been loosey-goosey on the oil changes.

 The Check Engine light is always on except for in smog-testing season, when I call the guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who can make it go off.  At least for a couple of days.

Yet despite all its grievances the car would continue-reluctantly--to run.  

Much like myself, I'd come to think!  I too have high miles, many years, bad care--  Sheesh, I've got quite a few of my own dashboard lights that flare when you turn on the ignition, and yet I continue to somehow get around town. So I figured it was the Volvo and me until mile 200,000.

Until, due to a strange grinding sound and some acrid fumes emanating from the engine, I took it to my awesome Volvo guys -- and they refused to take any more money for the car.  They said I was now the owner of a Volvo-shaped planter.

Next week: Things get electric!


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