The Day My Car Burned Down

19 06 2011

I bought a car while I was in college.  It was a great car and it made me think of an F-15 for some reason.  It looked nothing like a fighter jet and I don’t think I ever got it up past the speed of sound, but I did feel like Maverick while I was in the cockpit, er driver’s seat.  (I always got weird looks from my wife when I’d call her Goose, too.)

This car had one problem, a hole in the radiator.  It wasn’t serious enough to cause it to overheat, but it was serious enough to cause the indicator light to come on constantly.  As a poor college student it wasn’t high on the priority list to get fixed.  But as soon as I finished school and started my career, I figured I could afford to have it repaired.

Now, I had no idea how important the dust under the hood was for holding the engine together and the overall well-being of the car until the mechanic disturbed it while fixing the radiator. In less than a week of getting it back it overheated and ended up with a crack in the head.  If this sounds bad for a person, it’s even worse for a car.  Although it was still semi-drivable, that condition was bound not to last.  My F-15 was in a tailspin.

Looking back on it, I probably should have paid attention to the frantic couple that was honking and pointing at my car while I was driving it to Car Dealership Lane for some car shopping.  The fact that the car engine died as I coasted into the Chrysler Dealer’s parking lot, forcing me to park haphazardly in an area of the parking lot with plenty of room for large emergency vehicle access, should have also been a clue.

I was puzzled at first to see a crowd gathering distantly to watch my wife and I unbuckle our small children from the back seat, but the puzzlement turned to horror when the paint on the hood of the F-15 started bubbling up.  We quickly joined the crowd as the front third of the car burst into flames.

It was like a beacon for car salesman.  They can smell blood in the water and it didn’t take long for them to realize that I was fresh meat.  The car dealer’s eyes lit up like the fire truck’s lights at the prospect of selling me a car.  I knew I was stuck and so I asked the gentleman if they took trade-ins.  He thought I was joking and ushered me into the tiger’s nest.  (I don’t know if tigers build nests, but if you’ve ever been in a car dealership I think you know what I’m talking about.)

One of the first papers they gave me to fill out looked like a survey to help them fit me with a great car.  It contained the question, “What did you like about your previous vehicle?”  I dutifully answered it with, “Up until the moment it burned down, I liked how reliable it was.”

Alas, it ended up being too good to be true for the car dealers.  It’s not everyday that the clouds part and, lo, a newly car-less customer is delivered to your showroom.  I bought a car from somewhere else, but not before the manager gave us a ride home in his convertible.  That was the best day; I got to ride in a convertible.

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