Musings from the padded room

tisdag 29 mars 2011

My future autobiography

I have finally decided what I shall name my future autobiography.

Cat and the cars - a match made on a bad day in hell

Yes, car trouble... once more. Then again, when have I not had car trouble? Actually, our family (or make that my parents and then me) seems to have angered the car fairy in previous lives. I've never been able to figure out another reason for why not a single car of ours has ever stayed whole for a longer time. But let's not get into my family matters. I'll just list off the cars I've driven since I got my license six years ago.

  1. Suzuki Swift -'89: My first car. I bought it for the equivalent of $473 (current exchange rate) in 2003-2004 somewhere. I hadn't taken my license yet but I thought it'd be nice to have a somewhat easier car to practise with than my father's heavy battle-ship of a Volvo 240 from 1983. The Swift wasn't by any means a pretty car. It was a murky white, with one black side panel that had been added to replace a rusted up panel and the interior was a bit worn. But god how I loved my little Swift. I had nice times with that one. It was smooth, easy to drive, quick to accelerate and extremely cheap where petrol was concerned. And it always started. I remember this one time when it had been buried under a blanket of snow in the coldest part of the winter, for over a month. We decided we had to pull it out to make sure it was still ok before the snow got it too badly. So with a little help from the stable owner and her sturdy Nissan Terrano we got it out of the pile and I slid in to turn the ignition key. I didn't expect much but my little Swift purred and started smooth as anything, without a single hitch. Unfortunately it wasn't too well off where other things were concerned. The undercarriage was so rusty I couldn't use the manual jack on it without the edges sinking in, and I'm pretty sure there was a hole straight through to the undercarriage under the carpet on the drivers seat. We finally decided to get rid of it for several reasons. One was that my dog was starting to get too big for it, he took up the whole back seat. But other reasons were a) an air tube broke quickly followed by the realisation that b) the cooler looked more like the Niagara falls than anything else. On top of that I got a flat tire in a nasty bend in the road while on my way to the stables. Thankfully I wasn't driving all that fast since the road was slippery from snow. However, we still careened off the road and into a rocky outcrop, resulting in a big dent on the passenger door. Afterwards we also realised that the spare tire couldn't hold air. All of those things happened within 2 months of each other. So, yeah, my lovely little Swift wasn't so lovely any longer.
  2. Dad's Volvo 240 -'83: For a short time, while my Swift was working on losing air in the spare tire, I borrowed my dad's Volvo. Hoo-boy... To this day, it's the only car, that I know of, that have gotten an engine failure and shut itself off in a downward slope. Not to mention the fact that, even though I drove it apx. 5 Swedish miles a day for a consecutive week, one day it just decided not to start at all and never did again while in our possession. I finally got the permission of my father to sell the beast to folk racing for the equivalent of $315. I still count that day as one of the best I've had.
  3. Suzuki Baleno Wagon -00: Fed up with car troubles my mum finally decided we had to get a newer car. So she and I drove my little Swift to the car dealer and test drove a few cars. Finally we settled on a bottle green metallic Suzuki Baleno Wagon. It had room for the dog in the back and seemed quite fun to drive. It had a low mileage too. So we traded my Swift in for a part of the price of the Baleno and we thought things would get better... We should've known better, I guess. Just a few weeks after buying it I was testing the dog cage and was gently seeing if it fit. I swear to god I did not slam the back door, no matter what my dad was accusing me of at the time. Either way, the back wind shield went crack and dissolved into tiny, tiny pieces of glass. After that the heat shields underneath the car had to be removed and so on. I feel that there shouldn't be a single thing left on that car that we haven't had to fix. Let's not get into details, though, since it'll only depress me. Suffice to say, it came to a point where the car workshop guys knew me by my voice on the phone. So, needless to say, I was quite disenchanted with the car after 5 years of visiting the work shop. Which brings me to the latest little golden nugget (or more like faded red pebble).
  4. Toyota Corolla -'87: Yes, you read it right. I switched from a '00 car to an '87. And, man, I will never regret it. The car has been in my family since my grandfather bought it in 1992. It's been through a lot of things with my grandfather throughout the years but it's a real trooper. When my grandfather passed away in 2007 my uncle bought the car from my grandmother, who didn't have a license. He used it sporadically (since he lives in Argentina large parts of the year) and in the end decided that he really didn't have any use for it since he was planning to live more permanently in Argentina for at least a year and a half. So, I gingerly asked if there was a possibility that I could buy it from him, so I could finally get rid of the moody Baleno. Instead of letting me buy it he generously gave it to me, which I am extremely grateful for. The problem with old cars is that you can more or less take for granted that they have their problems. The fifth gear on the Toyota has always been a little finicky. So, while driving the 70 Swedish miles from Stockholm to my home town, Umeå, after switching cars at my parents' place, the fifth gear simply decided it had had enough and gave up around halfway home. Hoping it was something that could be easily fixed (the fifth gear does work, it's just that the stick won't stay in position so I have to hold it there with my hand while driving) I brought it to the workshop. The nice thing with having an older Toyota, as opposed to a semi-new Suzuki, is that just about any workshop can work on them. So I got to take it to a somewhat cheaper workshop than my previous ones. Turns out they'd have to replace the whole gear box. It was also discovered that the shock absorbers in the back was in a bad shape and would probably need to be replaced. Both things are quite expensive to fix on their own and put together...Perish the thought. The last major problem (as in: will be expensive to fix, most likely) with it is that the heat fan is moodier than a woman with PMS. It only works on the highest setting and more and more often lately it's just decided to quit working even there without any provocation at all. I've always managed to fiddle it back into working though. Or rather, I used to manage to fiddle it back. As of yesterday the heat fan decided to flip me the bird and retire. So today I spent most of the afternoon trying to get a hold of the workshop (which didn't work very well so I'll try again tomorrow). And then I went to the stables. it went quite well, if you discount the fact that I was freezing my ass off on the way there. On the way home, on the other hand... I had one hand on the wheel and the other holding a combined ice scraper and rubber... thingy, in order to clear the inside of the wind shield from fog. The outside was caked with road dust and salt. Stupid as I am I thought that if I'm quick enough I should still be able to wash the outside for a somewhat improved line of sight. The fluid froze in a thin film on the wind shield, leading to me having to get off the road to scrape the outside as best I could. And then back inside and driving the last bit home in darkness, being blinded by the lamps of meeting cars reflecting on the fog and scraping the inside of the windshield about every 30 seconds. My, and I thought it was bad that time there was a snow storm making me unable to see where the edges of the road was...
So, as you can see, my luck with cars is practically nil and nothing. The odd thing is that while I felt almost homicidal every time the Baleno acted up, and could barely think of anything other than getting rid of it, I'm more inclined to hug my little Toyota, pat it on the hood and tell it everything will be all right.

I will, somehow, scrape up the money needed (thank god for salaries) to fix its "ouchie" and then we will be happy again. I do not even want to think about not having my Toyota. I love it to bits (obviously). I've never felt more safe and comfortable as when driving my Toyota this past winter. Sometimes I swear, although it's probably just fanciful thinking on my part, that I can feel my grandfather sitting next to me, smiling and doing his best to hide the fact that he is quite worried about my driving.

My conclusion is that the slogan "I love my Toyota" is more of a rule than just a fanciful slogan. At least in my case. I really, truly adore my little red pebble. And if I ever rake up enough money to actually fix all the problems with it I'll probably convert to Toyota:ism, the religion where they worship the almighty Toyota. I'd gladly take up the position of head priestess, if the spot is open.

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