Kevin Frisch: The long goodbye

Kevin Frisch

I'm getting a new car.

You're not laughing, because you don't know me. I've been saying that for a while. Two years, in fact. But as I tell my chortling friends, you can say something for two years and, just because it hasn't happened, doesn't mean it's not true. (President Bush knows what I'm saying; he's been insisting for years that we're making progress in Iraq and no one believes him, either.)

But it's true. About my car, I mean. I am getting a new one. I have to. The old one is disintegrating before my eyes.

"Oh," exclaimed the mechanic when I took my ride in recently for an oil change, "you've got one of those engines that runs forever and the car falls apart around it."

Not only has rust eaten away the body to the point where I am likely the only driver around who's happy to come upon a road covered with oil and loose gravel — it fills in some of the larger holes — I recently lost the little door to the gas cap.

The lock broke, so I left the door ajar — an unattractive solution, I'll admit. But not as unattractive as it looks now. Some buttinski samaritan closed the door for me and, as I attempted to pry it open using the tools at hand — mainly a can opener — it shattered.

I duct-taped the pieces back in place but got tired of hearing perfect strangers on the street loudly hum the theme to "Sanford and Son" as I drove by. So I'm now gas cap door-free.

This is one of the signs it's time for a new car — when people you don't know start remarking on your old one unprovoked. I was doing my weekly grocery shopping at the liquor store last weekend and, after ringing up the sale, the guy behind the counter grabbed the box and headed out the door. (Apparently, I no longer appear hale enough to carry a case of wine.) He put the box into the passenger's seat before offering this unwelcome observation: "Hey, your liquor bill cost more than your whole car."

I shall be taking my trade elsewhere. And that's bad news for the liquor store, as I spend almost as much there as at the mechanic's.

During my last oil change, I was told the front tires were going.

"Forget it," I replied. "I'm getting a new car." (They laughed.)

Two weeks later, I blew a tire on the way home from work and had to limp around on the replacement "donut" until getting back to the shop.

"You were right about those tires," I said upon my return. I got the tire replaced and a friend, noting the new tire amid the rust, cracked windshield and missing gas cap door, remarked, "It's a sweet ride again."

I think she was being sarcastic.

A week later, the second tire blew. I'm getting good enough with the jack to apply for a job in a pit crew.

Another sign you should be perusing the car ads is when coworkers question your motivation for driving your car.

"I wondered if you were making a political statement," one colleague to me. I couldn't imagine what that statement would be — something about bombs, no doubt. I told him it was more like a financial statement.

Which is true. Not having a car payment is the upside to motoring around in a car from Bush's first term (not the current president; this one was made during the George H.W. Bush administration).

Laugh if you want to — and you would if you saw my car — but it has been something like eight years since I've needed to budget for a car loan. This provides ample finances for more important things, which is why that liquor store owner will regret his affront.

Still, rusted and corroding though it may be, the old car has stuck with me though good times (being parked in the garage) and bad (me driving it). It has taken me tens of thousands of miles, to big cities and foreign countries (well, Canada; that counts). It has conveyed me to see friends and family, negotiated downpours and snowstorms, picked up loved ones whose own vehicles let them down and lasted longer than my marriage. It has been a dependable part of my life — no small bit of fortune in this day and age.

Maybe that's why my friends all laugh whenever I say I'm getting a new car.

Kevin Frisch is managing editor of the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, N.Y. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 257, or via e-mail at KFrisch@MPNewspapers.com.