Savannah Morning News column
Nov. 10, 2013
Like many things, I had expected a little more from my decision. But in the end it was a simple case of, “Not with a bang but a whimper.”
It started with the phone call.
I was trying to give away my car. My second car. But which car? The youngster, a 1996 Taurus wagon, or the old Isuzu pickup-truck, circa 1992?
For years I’ve been hearing the pleas on our local public radio station. Got an unwanted car? How about a boat? Call this number and help us out. It’s tax deductible; you’ll be helping the cause. So instead of selling the car to someone local, seeing it broken down in some ditch and feeling guilty, I made the call.
The truck is a gardener’s vehicle, banged up and a little rough around the edges.
One summer when I rented out my house to an archeologist who was spending a few months overseeing a dig in South Carolina, she said what she really wanted to rent was my truck.
“It’s already beat up,” she said. “It’s a perfect archeologist’s truck.”
Then again, the Taurus is in pretty good shape. Except for a broken rear window that the insurance didn’t cover, a few new tires, a new serpentine belt, a new catalytic converter and a couple dozen other maladies, the car – a beige wagon, just like all the other Taurus wagons from 1996 still on the road (what is it with beige? Who could possibly have thought that would be a popular color?) — didn’t cost me anything. I got it out of my Uncle Harry’s garage outside his condo in Scottsdale, Ariz., after he died and my cousins said they didn’t want it. It had 26,000 miles, a handicapped sticker, a pad of paper with his name – Harry Modell – printed on top, a note in his familier handwriting about some missed golf game and the original owners guide from Detroit, Michigan (“Your satisfaction is our #1 goal”).
“OK,” the voice on the other end of the 800-number said. “Where do you live?”
“And that would be in what state?”
“Let me ask you something,” I said. “Where are you?”
That’s who takes your call when you finally decide to give away your car to help out the public radio station in your own town.
Call me crazy. I expected someone local to answer my call. I did not expect them to source out the task. I felt a little deflated.
“Do you mind if I ask a few more questions like your age, race, etc.,” the voice said.
Seriously, Seri? Is that what this is all about? Getting information from a live body that you can turn around and sell to someone else?
“Yes,” I said. “I do.”
“We’ll be there sometime next week between nine and noon.”
In the time it took to vote (no big decision there; after the way our esteemed leaders mismanaged, mishandled, misappropriated the situation with the police chief and then let him off the hook with who knows what kind of pension benefits I’m supposed to give them more money?), to plant my garlic, to buy some chicken feed, I got the call. The tow truck was on its way.
I peeled off a bumper sticker: “No chickens? That’s clucked up” (another city reference, another story). I unscrewed a vanity bumper plate of a penguin with a hockey stick (another city reference, this time a team in Pittsburgh). I removed some solar doohickey my mechanic gave me that plugs into the cigarette lighter portal to help keep the battery alive. I looked under the seats and retrieved a handful of pens. I checked the glove box one more time and then stood back to watch an affable man named Fulton chain it up like some ailing dinosaur and hoist it away.
In the end I chose to give away the younger car, the 1996er, not the oldster, closing in on 21.
I thought I might be sad, the end of my connection with a car that served me well. Instead I thought about a birthday card I found when I was cleaning out my mother’s things after she died. It was a card from Harry, my bon vivant, generous, kibitzing uncle who never really drove the Taurus anyway. It said, “Happy birthday, Rosie, from your baby brother.” She was 90, he was 87.
That made me sad.