Thursday, March 08, 2012

Requiem for a Valient Steed

Sixteen years ago I started working at the greatest gig of my career. The Duncan Theatre, at Palm Beach Community College, needed an Assistant Technical Director, and I got the job. That was the beginning of three wonderful years there, and it was also the steadiest, and largest paycheck I'd gotten to date. My beat up, hand me down Ford Taurus was rapidly falling apart, and it was time to look into getting a different car. I don't recall how the idea came up, but I soon realized that a new...actually was possible. So in November of that year I drove off the the lot of Saturn of West Palm Beach with a brand new, if no-frills, car. She was silver, with a manual transmission, manual locks, manual windows, and no power steering or brakes. The only frill was the cruise control. I recall as I was driving her home for that first time wondering if I'd get 100,000 miles out of her. Back then 100K was still a milestone, but Saturns were known for their longevity, so I figured I had a good shot. I treated her well, kept to the maintenance schedule, changed her oil often, and she got me where I needed to go. The Hyperion, as I came to name her, and I drove all over Florida, all over Louisiana, and as far north as Savannah, Georgia, and rarely did she complain. Of course there were repairs needed. A water pump here, a starter module there, a snapped shift cable was the worst of it, but never anything horrible. I got my one and only speeding ticket in that car, and we were never in a wreck. I've slept in her, dressed in her, oddly enough she's the only car I never had sex in, but just about everything else you can do in a car I've done in the Hyperion. Whenever I'd forget to turn my lights off before trying to get out of the car she'd quietly ding at me, and I'd always say 'thank you, dear'. She gladly suffered silly stickers on the rear window, and dragons and Buddy Christ glued to her dash. She was a work horse that could haul up to 10' long 2x4's and never falter, though she would slow down a bit. I loved that car. Sadly, though, all good things must end, and a few months ago I drove her to the store for lunch one day and she wouldn't start. Now she has always started with just the lightest turn of the key, so this was strange. I feared I had run out of gas, so I put a gallon in, and still nothing. I waited a bit more, and then she started right up. This happened a few more times before I realized that she would no longer start when hot. It was more annoyance than anything else as it merely meant that anywhere I went needed to last at least 15-20 minutes so she could cool down. But soon 15-20 became 30-60, then two weeks ago I had to cancel class because after two hours she still wouldn't start. I took her to the shop and was told that the clutch and transmission weren't communicating properly and it could cost $1K to fix, and that might not do it. The Hyperion was terminal. So we've limped along while I've tried to find a newish car. I hate car shopping, and dealing with car salespeople can be soul-crushing, but my brother recommended a place down in our home town that gave him a great deal this summer, so I contacted them, got approved for financing, and found a couple of cars I liked. Of course the main problem now was getting down there since the Hyperion's last journey of 10 miles from work to home ended two miles shy of our destination, and required the services of a tow truck to get us home. A rental car would have cost over $100 since I'd have to leave it down there, so I thought I'd check out the trains. 25 bucks! So I booked passage on the choo-choo and readied myself as best I could. The train was 2 hours late, so I was sweating getting to the dealership before they closed, which would have been tricky since I'd be 200 miles from home with no car, but I got there by 6:30, and the salesperson working with me was more than happy to accommodate me at that late hour. Sadly the car I had come to see, a 2010 Yaris, had been sold that afternoon, but a quick search found something even better, a 2010 Nissan Versa. I'd never heard of it, but we checked it out. A smallish hatchback with lots of room inside. I sat in it, and it felt, well, right. A test drive also felt good. By 9pm I drove off the lot with my newish car, and a huge feeling of relief. The drive home the next day gave The Phoenix and me a chance to get to know each other. I named her Phoenix since she is rising from the ashes of my once beautiful Hyperion, and I found 4+ hours in her driver's seat to be not in the least bit tiring. Of course we now have a car payment again, but we also have a shiny, nearly new car in the driveway and I don't have to worry that every time I stop at a red light I'll be pushing the car out of traffic and waiting for the engine to cool down again. So I raise my glass in a toast to the end of a long, 271,000 miles long, relationship with a fantastic car, and to the beginning of a, hopefully, equally fruitful partnership with this one.

Behold, The Phoenix:


flurrious said...

271K? Wow. I doubt I've driven that much in my entire life. Well, you do know how I love the bus.

Congratulations on the new car. My neighbor bought a Versa last year and he's really happy with it.

Marius said...

Yeah, I can't say that I didn't get my money's worth. I drove that car to the Moon. :-)

Janet said...

Anytime I hear "Nissan Versa" I think of the first season of Heroes. I don't like to think about any other seasons of that show. :S
I hope you get as much love from this new car as your old one gave you.

Erwin Blonk said...

This was posted on the same day I picked up my new car: a 1984 Volkswagen Golf with a little under 56K on it. The windows don't open, finding where the gears are is a quest Indiana Jones would balk at (each single time you need to shift it; first gear and reverse are perilously close to each other) and it's a but rusty here and there, just like me. And I am the second owner (verified and all).

Good luck with the new one and I'll raise a glass to the old.