I was living large having just made a cool $500 dollars selling newly trashed golf bags. My philosophy, if you’ve got unexpected cash, waste it. So I started thinking about what would be an appropriate blow out of my newfound riches when the answer came blasting from the speakers in my van. The message was more party central than angelic, but its vibe hit me with the power of an evangelist bringing the healing power to my soul. “Can I get an amen for a $100 pick up truck?” preached Jimmy Buffet. His words brought a sense to my purpose of blowing my cash without any pause for responsibility.
“I’m gonna get me a car,” I said.
When I got home, I called some of my degenerate friends. One said his father had an old 1977 Vega in his garage that I could probably have for about a hundred bucks. He said it ran, but that there were some peculiar things about the car. He wasn’t kidding. It was orange, that Denver Broncos orange crush orange from the 70s. The interior was ragged out and the driver side window was busted. A family of chipmunks lived in the roof lining, but the car was unique. If I was driving this, everyone would be looking at me.
“You sure it runs?” I asked.
My boy’s father reached in his back pocket and pulled out a Phillip’s head screwdriver. “It’s been awhile, but let’s see what we’ve got.”
It was late in the day and nearly as hot as Friday when I got the golf bags. Where the spirit was barren Friday, today was alive in that fairy tale kind of way. Birds chirped, deer stood with their young, and a butterfly gently landed on the hood of the car. The old man got behind the wheel and with a turn of the screwdriver the bucolic setting was transformed into a storm of coughs, sputters, and blasts until finally the motor decided it had what it took. There was a bit of high pitched whine, but the old car was a gamer.
In more ways than one, it seemed.
Years ago the car had been stolen. Fortunately, it was returned, but the ignition had been busted and the only way to start the car was with the screwdriver. There wasn’t any money to repair it so the old man just drove it as it was. He had the title somewhere in the house, but he was leaving for work and would’t be home until the next day. If I wanted the car $100 dollars would do the trick.
I handed him a C-note, grabbed the rather long key, and took off down the road in a style all of my own.
But that was when my Vega nightmare was just getting started.
While originally hyped as the next great car, the Chevy Vega seems to have had some engine problems. There was something about seizing engines and what not. The sun had set, the one window that worked was down (there was no other window), and then the car started dancing. It wasn’t really a hip-hop dance, more of a salsa. There was a step forward, one back, a pull to the left. I had done salsa in gym class years ago, so I knew that this kind of gyrating by the car was probably not good. Leaving the dance floor was my best option, so I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. I parked away from the other cars, checked the oil, and found the car was really low. This is the life of $100 cars and off I went to get some oil.
It took a little longer than I had expected because this grocery store had a cafeteria inside. I grubbed…for free…since I paid with my golf bag money. See how I think?
The lot was empty except for a convention of low riders with tricked out Japanese imports. All of the cars were super clean and super pimped with spoilers and tinted windows. One guy had left his trunk open and the sounds of Mexico were entertaining these guys. I could care less where a person is from. People are good or bad based on the way they act, not where they are from or how they look. I also believe not everyone thinks that way, so when I was nearing a bunch of guys speaking Spanish while looking at me, I hoped they were an enlightened sort. I put my head down and headed for my car. They just stared.
Back to the business of getting hamster mobile back on the road. The first thing was the oil. Check. The next thing was a quick start. Not check. Before I sat down, I pulled out the key which was akin to drawing a sword from its scabbard. As I did this for some reason I looked back to the crew behind me and they were still giving me the evil eye. I felt like I better get out of there fast. But the car would not start. I giggled the wires. I pumped the accelerator. I hit the steering wheel. Nothing happened except the sweat built up on my forehead and the language from my mouth became less appropriate. I was lost in junk car land and full of paranoia that my life was nearing an end as the fancies of Mexican descent with Hondas and Toyotas as their rally wheels were going to extol a beating on me just because I wasn’t like them.
I hadn’t noticed the other two cars that joined their gang.
A couple of state troopers were talking to the auto club and they were all looking at me. Remember, I said people are people no matter their creed, but here I am a white guy being called out by dudes from Mexico to cops that coincidently happened to be African American. The test of my life philosophy was being tempted by the scurge of bigotry and given the course of my last couple of days, I was due for a downer. The officers strutted over to my car with a coolness that made the night’s air almost bearable. I found myself resigned to a beat down for I knew all of those years of abuse at the hands of ignorant racists was about to come back on me.
“Could you step out of the car, sir?” one of the officers asked. I got out fully expecting to take a night stick up side the head. When it didn’t happen I got totally lost in events. I remember pleading my innocence, but still ending up in the back of police car. I heard the policeman thanking the Mexican dudes for being so vigilant. Then I saw my limo carted off like some piece of evidence in a car theft ring.
And that’s just what the cops thought I had been part of, a car theft ring. When I explained my story to these rather intimidating protectors of the municipality they could not believe what they were hearing. Out in the hall I could hear them talking, “He expects us to believe that a shabby dressed white guy, sitting in a car with no driver’s side window, and a screwdriver for a key didn’t steal that car. C’mon….” Since my defense was working and wouldn’t be home until 10:00 the next morning the officers said I would have to stay with them until they could check out my story. I thought I would go Wei Bei again and ask if they could get me something to eat. Either I’m further up on the criminal food chain or these guys are just good people because they got me a Snickers and Dr. Pepper.
The next morning the officers were able to verify my story. My bud’s father brought all of the paper work to the police station and everything turned out alright. As I was leaving, the taller officer came over and told me about his brother’s shop where they could work on the car for pretty cheap. I took his bros number, my screwdriver from the officer, and set out to jimmy the ignition in of all places a police station parking lot. The motor turned and purred like it was just off the assembly line. I sat back in the peeling seats and I realized that my faith in people was correct. It’s not how you look. It’s who you are. I was ashamed at my paranoia and venture into the “pit of less diverse appreciation” for I knew that I was better than that.
Anyway, off to work.