Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where's My Car?

A few months ago I was road-tripping my way from Columbus, OH to Charleston, WV on my state capitol tour. Along the way I made a stop in the college town of Athens, OH, where I took in a few familiar spots did some reminiscing.

I lived in Athens for about a year after I finished
undergrad. My wife and I were married there: after I received my diploma I moved north for our wedding, then passed time taking graduate-level English courses for fun and getting paid to sit with latch-key kids while the Mrs. finished grad school.

At the time I was still driving my first car: a hand-me-down tan 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera that my grandfather gave me when he retired to Florida. I drove that thing to pieces: when I finally traded it in years later, my feet would get wet during a rain because of the splash action coming up through the floorboard.

Sean's First Ride

That Olds got me where I needed to go, however, which is what counts when you're a starving college student (and then a jobless college grad).

It was a sunny Athens day in the Spring of 1992 that I'd finished up at the laundromat, loaded everything up, and then discovered that the car's engine wouldn't turn over. I gave it my best, but I finally had to throw in the towel and call some friends to come pick up me and my laundry. While I was waiting for my friends, I called a tow company to come get my car: I described the auto, provided the license plate number, and then (because the tow truck was taking its sweet time to get there) hauled the clothes home.

While I was folding the clothes at the house, the tow truck driver called me.

"I can't find your car."

"What do you mean? Are you at the Ambassador Laundry?"

"Yep, and I don't see your car."

"Great."

I hoofed it over to the spot where I'd left my car, and confirmed what the driver had told me. The fellow had cleared out already -- I couldn't blame him -- so I bugged the people in the laundromat to see if they'd observed anyone working with my car. No luck.

Where My Car Went Missing

I felt sick to my stomach. I tried to put a brave spin on the situation. "Well, if someone stole it, the good news is that at least my car is working." The people around me looked at me like I'd cracked.

I made my way back home and called around to the towing companies in town to see if they'd picked my car up. No dice. So I finally called the police and reported the car stolen.

I felt wretched. It was just a sick, helpless feeling. I moped around the rest of the day.

That evening the towing guy called me. "Your car will be ready in the morning."

"What?!" I shouted. "You said you couldn't find my car -- you mean you've had it all day?"

"Oh yeah," the guy said nonchalantly. "You just gave me the wrong license plate number, but I finally figured out which car you meant and towed it."

Sure enough, I'd described the right car to him, but in a distracted moment had given him the license plate number of my wife's car.

I was too relieved to give the guy grief, though he had given me a rotten time. When I picked the car up the next day I told him of my previous day's dilemma.

"That's pretty funny," he said.

Yeah, a real barrel of laughs.

Here's a run-down of the cars I've owned over the years.

1993 For Escort Wagon
I ground the clutch out of this one.

1993 Mazda MX-3
The Mazda's clutch wore out my left knee; this one left with the cat.

1995 Infiniti J30
Excellent for long trips, but this one had recurring electrical problems; declared "salvage" after a Chevy pickup rear-ended it.

2003 Honda Civic
The car I drive today; so far so good.

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