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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

New Car Blues

August 1, 1999

It wasn't my birthday or anything.

Well, it HAD been my birthday a week or so previously, but I'd got a nice electric can opener for that, and shortly afterward, had blown myself to a rather attractive jacket and skirt ensemble, $54.95 on sale at Sears.  So you can understand my bemusement the other day, when Phil casually mentioned to Toby that he might buy me a new car.

"Thinkin' a gettin' a new crate for the old lady," was the way he put it. 

A new crate? I thought.  A new car, I amended.  Well.  Wouldn't that be nice.  Not that there was anything wrong with the old one except for a slight asthmatic wheeze first thing on a chilly morning, and a tendency to turn left at the Yukon Tire service station everytime I started up the Two-mile Hill.  It was comfortable and familiar and responded nicely at the stop lights, blowing away all the competition except for one deceptively ratty old station wagon whose schedule seemed, irritatingly enough, to correspond with mine.

I should say here that I don't care what I'm driving.  It's lovely if it has that ability to perform at the first flashing of a green light, but as long as it gets me where I want to be, and back again, and gives me no grief in the to-ing an fro-ing, that's really all I ask.

And it's a good thing, too, because that's really all I've had. 

But a new car?  A sporty red number, maybe, to match my new outfit.....?

Two hours later, Phil and Toby were back with a little grey crate, clean and sturdy.  Dependable.  Gets me to and fro without any grief.  And, always the bottom line, it was a good deal. 

Of course, it was a good deal.  Good deals are Phil's raisons d'etres.

"Well, I tell you one one thing: if I can't get two thou for old Betsy Lou, you'll be drivin' her for the rest of the winter."

My sporty red vision wavered and grew indistinct.  "Be reasonable, Phil," I begged.  "Betsy's over ten years old, her appetite for fossil fuels is burgeoning, even as we speak, and she's developing a definite hitch in her getalong, especially in the morning.  Set your sights just a tad lower; no one will give you two grand for the old girl."

Not only did they give him $2000 for Betsy, they shaved off a few hundred off the asking price of the less-than-sporty grey crate, put a couple of brand new tires on 'er, and threw in a 20" TV, just for the hell of it.

"They saw me comin' a mile off," he grumps.  "Shoulda held off till they were really hungry..."

So, without it being my birthday or Christmas, without my asking or complaining, I have this new car.

What kind is it?  I don't know.  A '92 something.  A Ford, I think, but I can never remember.  A Tampa or Tempest, something like that.  And it's grey. Or silver.  Greyish-white, maybe, and hard to find, among all the other little greyish-white cars in this town. I know because I've tried my key in at least a dozen.  After trying to get into three or four on Main Street, I looked up to see a fellow standing in the the doorway of Jim's Toy and Gift, eyeballing me in a funny kind of way.

"Heh, heh," I chuckled weakly, waving my hand at the monotone lineup. "They all look alike, don't they?"  He didn't say a word, just stared back coldly.

I might have to tie an old curling broom to the antenna.  That's how I used to locate the old brown pickup I had before B-L.  SHE had an old fox tail tied to HER aerial.  When someone stole that, I tied a piece of red survey ribbon on it and by the time that had died a natural death, I was able to pick Betsy out of a crowd after only a few false starts. 

As long as I could remember the general area in which I had parked her, that is. 

One day, I spent a good ten minutes wandering up and down the street trying to think where I'd left her.  Finally, I remembered I'd caught a ride with a neighbour and was supposed to be meeting her at Mac's.

But geting back to my new crate...  it's kind of fancy inside.  A darker grey but with all the do-daddies, like lights and dimmer switch, windshield washer and drier, and directional indicator, right on the steering column and close to hand.  Perhaps just bit too close to hand.  I'm still having trouble remembering which is which, and meeting a vehicle at night invariably results in a lot of frantic actvity on my part: reaching for the dimmer and finding the washer, which necessitates locating the wiper, turning off the turn signal, and flashing my lights up and down in a panic as the on-coming car shoots me the brights and roars past, horn blaring reproachfully.

Thank goodness that Phil hasn't yet found the time to install the driving lights he's been talking about, I'd never know what to do with them.  But of course, I wouldn't really have to worry.  One day, I would press something and I'd know I had them on.  The fellow approaching would stop me and let me know.  Yukon drivers are friendly that way.  He might even tell me what it was that I had pressed.  And what else I could do with it!!

At least, I know about seat belts, this time.  Betsy was our first vehicle with the life-saving device and initially, it caused me quite a problem.  I'd managed to "buckle up" for my first sortee into town, but once there, had no idea how to extricate myself.

A nice man, observing my struggles, came to my aid.  He also took the time to point out that pressing on the hinges would get me no where, that I had to tap a finger gently against the disk on the front of the buckle to get it to relinquish its hold on my raggedy old person.  I thanked him profusely and surreptitiously let fall the small pocket knife I'd manage to winkle out of my purse.  If he had not brought succor in my moment of need, old Betsy would have gone through life with a very short seatbelt indeed!

So, I know about seatbelts, I'm learning about a radio with no tuner,  my new red jacket looks nice against the dark grey, and if I keep one eye on the light and my foot on the gas, I can sometimes still blow by that ratty old wagon.  All that and a good bottom line. 

What more could a girl ask for?

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