Monday, July 19, 2010

Christine, Part 1

We drive our cars till they are dead. When he finally traded in his 1982 Datsun 200SX, his buddy came along for the ride, turning to him at one point to say "just let me know when you want me to get out and push, buddy." Once in a while, we revive one from the dead, too. Dan once hit a parked car with his old Grand Marquis, then took the insurance money, had it fixed, and drove it for another four years. And of course, there was the debacle that was our last trip to Tennessee. And then there is his current ride, ever after to be referred to as Christine.

His van is a Mercury Villager, retired from day to day family service some time back, when we bought the Town and Country. Dan's used it as his paint van ever since. Now, Christine has seen better times, and has had her share of dings: it was back into one time when a yuppie paint customer forgot that it was parked in the driveway - despite the fact that she had to climb over the painter's gear to get out her front door. That escapade ended with a new hood, which Dan painted gold, to go with the gold trim on the white van. There've been at least three other similar episodes, because there are large dents in three corners of the van. The turn signals frequently flash too quickly, because they tend to get filled up with water. The air conditioning gave up the ghost a long time ago, then suddenly started working again about three years ago. Like I said, that van has seen better times.

The kids have refused to drive it for some time, deeming it unsafe. They said that it wouldn't accelerate past 40 mph. Dan laughed and said "I drive that van on the highway." Thomas just shook his head, speechless. I drove it myself a month or two ago, for the first time in a long, long time, and was shaken by the experience. I was sure that a wheel was going to fly off and roll down the parkway, and I too took the vow to never drive his car. Dan thought we were all crazy, saying we just didn't know how to talk nicely to it, and that if you spoke to it with kindness, that van was just fine. Of course, that was before last week, when some kind steam/smoke/coolant started coming out of the vents, and he started having to travel with a pitcher of water handy. I think he was still hanging on to some kind of hope that perhaps it would fix itself, or show some kind of low cost solution to its ills.

Friday made a believer out of him.

He called me while I was at work and left me a voicemail saying "my car is possessed. The locks keep locking by themselves............oh, look at that, there they go again. I rolled the windows down and now they won't roll up. It's hissing and moaning and making sounds I've never heard it make. I think it needs hospice, honey, because it is dying." He went on to mention that he was borrowing Thomas' car to go and finish up a very small job with Seth, and then he'd be home for dinner. It was a couple of hours later when we headed back to give Thomas his car. *** (That's for later when I explain THAT story.)

We got to the parking lot where Thomas works, and Dan said, "look." He used his remote and unlocked the van. "Yeah?" I said. "What's the big deal." He held up his hand and said "wait. You'll see," and about thirty seconds later, the locks snapped shut by themselves. As in, no key in the ignition, no remote being used, by themselves. Freaky. He went round to the back of the van and used the remote to unlock it, mentioning that the remote hasn't worked on the back door of the van for several years. We had a laugh about how odd it was, and then took off toward home. That was when the noises started.

Hissing. Creaking. Moaning. Clanking a little bit from time to time. At one point, Dan cocked his head and said "wow, I haven't heard THAT one before." It was a little crazy. I mentioned something about it being a deathtrap, just as I noticed a wisp of white coming out of my vent. "What the heck is that," I said. "Oh, that's nothing," was his reply. "Look at this." He pulled away a towel that he had lining the area between the windshield and the dashboard -- right where the defrost works -- and a huge cloud of steam came up. "Good heavens, husband," I said, "You've gotta get me out of here before I have an asthma attack, or go up in flames."

It's a good thing we live close to where Thomas works, because two minutes later, we were home, standing outside the van, shaking our heads. And it was a couple of hours later when Dan came in and announced that he couldn't get in the van. He'd rolled up the windows for the night, and now the locks wouldn't unlock at all.

More tomorrow.

1 comment:

What-I-Found said...

This is a scary story!