Wednesday, July 21, 2010


January 11, 2006. My mission: get a haircut per Commandant Martha. Mission accomplished at 1430 hours. I looked and felt like a new man, until . . .


“They” say that the majority of automobile accidents occur within a few thousand miles of home and “they” are correct. I was within a few thousand miles of our garage when the woman who was presumably driving in front of me decided to stop. In the middle lane of three, in the middle of the block, no red lights or stop signs, no endangered species like children or puppies in the roadway. She just . . . stopped. And so did I. But unfortunately for me, the lady behind me did not.

It was quite a crash. Loud, and the sound of smashing plastic and tearing metal was quite distinctive. Her airbag deployed, but the only thing of mine that deployed were my eyeglasses, which ended up under my left foot—the one that was frozen to the clutch pedal.

The good news is my eyeglasses did not break.

The bad news is the lady does not have insurance.

The good news is the front end of her car ended up in pieces.

The bad news is I dropped my collision insurance four months ago because my vehicle is elderly.

The good news is it’s drivable.

The bad news is the left rear end is elevated and the right front end is de-elevated.

The good news is there were no serious injuries.

The bad news is my brain is loose.

I can tell because it kind of squishes when I walk. Squish, squish, squish. But it also rattles, not unlike the snake of the same name.

“Do we own a snake?” I asked Martha last night at the dinner table. “I could swear I hear a snake. Do YOU hear a snake?”

“Nope, must all be in your head,” she replied.

She’s right. And so is the pounding headache. Not to mention the squishing. And sore neck vertebrae numbers 1, 2a, and 4c. Maybe I have a concussion, or delineation, or just a good old-fashioned parting of the ways.

Then again, maybe it’s all in my head.

* * * * *

My Mom used to name her cars. I think her 64 Merc, the last car she owned, was named “Fluffy”. I might be wrong. Maybe Fluffy was her stupid cat. I don’t remember. Nice woman, but a little . . . odd.

Fortunately, I didn’t inherit her “odd” gene. All my genes are even: 18, 12, 16, and so on. Oddly enough, those evens are also my measurements. I am painfully thin.

To me, inanimate objects are nothing more than things. Some things are self-contained, like rocks, while other things are made of bits and pieces of still other things. Like my truck. Which doesn’t have a name—other than Thing, of course.

On January 11, 2006, a knuckleheaded woman who was offensively driving crashed into the rear end of my Thing, a 1995 Ford Explorer. She had a cell phone stuck to her face, but she did not have auto insurance.

In mid-February I got a call from Knucklehead’s employer. Since Knuck was driving her personal piece of thing on business, the employer would pay for Thing’s repairs. I sang every hymn I know with the word “alleluia” in it, and I praised the car-god himself, Henry Ford.

The insurance company sent an estimator to my personal driveway, where he took a lot of photos of Thing and went “hmm” at least two hundred times while he was under Thing inspecting its underthings.

A week later, I got the bad news. Thing’s rear frame was broken and beyond repair. No fixee-fixee. Kaput. Worst of all, totaled. I was devastated.

* * * * *

Thing and I go back a long way, back when Thing was a mere baby with less than 100 miles on it. I raised it until it was a healthy, bouncing 55,000 mile adult Thing. I changed its oily diapers regularly. I gave it gasoline, antifreeze and coolant, brake and transmission fluid, and a brand-new set of sixteen-inch tires. Everything a Thing could possible need and want. In return, over an eleven-year span, Thing never let me down once. Not once. Ever.

And we had fun together, especially in Colorado. We would sneak off together, just Thing and I, find a safe icy place, and throw ourselves into slow giddy skids, laughing like little kids as we spun around. When I installed a CD player and better speakers, Thing learned to sing along with me to the oldies—not sing, actually, but it ran a whole lot happier.

But those times are over. The wrecker-hearse is coming this morning to take Thing away to the salvage yard. I will hand over Thing's keys and birth certificate to the auto mortician. A perfectly good and beautiful Thing, still shiny and proud except for its frame. Thing will be cannibalized, giving its "stuff" so that other Explorers may live. Admirable, but personally I don’t give a shit. I want my Thing back!

Martha, good egg that she is, said I could keep it. But watching Thing waste away in the garage, melting in the heat, its stuff falling off in bits and pieces, would be cruel. Knowing Martha’s love for digging holes, I know that sooner or later she would bury it in the back yard with my cross-shaped breaker bar for a marker. And then take over the garage floor space for storing more stuff.

Okay, so maybe I'm making a big deal out of this whole Thing thing. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe I have Mom’s odd gene after all. But dammit, I feel sad as hell. And I’m tearing up. So let’s get this over with.

"Goodbye, old friend. I’ll miss you, Thing, and I’ll never forget your faithfulness. If someone gets your horn, give me a good long honk if you see me so I’ll know that it’s you."


Lo said...

So sad for you....I am sorry for your loss and I understand perfectly.

But, on the brighter side, your genius created a perfectly lovely blog out of this misfortune.

Goodbye Thing and thank you.

Robert the Skeptic said...

My first car was a Fiat "spyder", really sporty, Pastiano Yellow. Because it was my first car and I had no experience, I simply assumed that EVERYONE was on a first-name basis with their mechanic. I invited him to my wedding, I recall.

But I underwent a revelation and switched from Italian to Japanese and have been driving Toyota's ever since. I've never even SEEN a mechanic since - I don't think Toyota even employs them; just a guy who fills it with it's regular juices. That's it.

I never loved a vehicle sufficiently to name it. Although thinking back, the Fiat I would likely name "Dana" after the guy whose kid I put through college by paying him to keep the damn thing running.

Stinkypaw said...

Sorry to read about your accident. You know, Charlie, you really don't have to do like me. There was no need for you to get into an accident that way. I totally understand your feeling for your thing... Being told my car was totaled hurt. Bad. I wasn't planning to change it for a few more years, and having to do it now jsut pissed me off. So, yeah, I totally get you. Plus I feel your pain too! *hugs*

Eryl Shields said...

I've never felt so sad about a truck as I feel about yours!

When he was small our son used to name our cars: we had the pleasure of breaking down in, to name a couple, Mini the Mooch and Mr Funhead.

I don't name my own cars but my computer is called Bodo.

Pat said...

It's not just a guy thing. I loved my little Triumph Spitfire sports car - travelled alone through France and everything. Then some b-----d stole it when I was working in my shop, removed the whole of the top half of it and left it in a field -now beyond repair. The policeman when he came to tell me laughed.
I never could forgive him.

Attila The Mom said...

::sniff sniff:: LOL

Mary Witzl said...

You know I know how you feel, right? I wrote a eulogy for our trusty old Vauxhall. I cried my head off when we had to leave him standing there, all smoking and disrespected, in the yard of people who were talking about crushing him into pieces. When he'd served us so faithfully, so well and (comparatively) cheaply, for so long. (God -- I'm crying again.)

I'm very sorry about your Thing. But I'm glad you're okay!

Kim Ayres said...

My very first car i thought I would name "The Blue Dragon". It lasted for about 30 seconds then I thought it as a bloody stupid idea and have never named a car since.

However, you're right, it's very easy to imbue them with some sense of personality and thus grieve them when they're gone

Meg said...

I'm quite sure I'll cry when I have to get rid of my Jewely. My husband keeps threatening me with a new car and a trade-in. I keep threatening him with my plans for our lottery win and an engine/transmission/brakes/gearmabobs/allthatotherstuff replacement and lifetime of being driven around in an aquamarine chick car with matching fuzzy steering wheel cover.

TechnoBabe said...

What is it with so many people who do not have car insurance? To me, that is one thing that is so unfair. I pay to have car insurance so I have the right to drive on the public roads. The people who choose to not have car insurance maybe should be blocked from driving on public roads. You are writing with your former wit and you sound so much better. Yay.

lisleman said...

We have a law requiring car insurance I believe many states do. It is part of operating a car.

I like your line about the horn honking to let you know it is thing.

I have never gotten attached to cars. Yes some I liked more than others but after driving them into the ground, I'm ready to push the broken parts off the driveway.

laytonwoman3rd said...

Tut, tut, Charlie, this all happened over 4 years ago. You should have worked through your grief by now. Perhaps a little counseling? It's a grand story, though, and I recognize the feelings too. I name my cars, and keep them a long time. I've never really WANTED a new car except for when I owned a cranky butterscotch colored Chevette hatchback that always stalled 3 1/2 times before agreeing to run. Come to think of it, I never named that one...

KleinsteMotte said...

By personifying the Thing for me, I envision the story quite differently.Since I am aged, I see myself as the Thing and I feel the pain of becoming a memory. Yet I also see other themes like The Ford story. Professor you write layered stories. Genius at work!! And the cell phone issue might be of interest to Oprah!! lol Glad to know your hair is shorter. Maybe this could have been a barbershop tale?? Oh my the endless possibilities..Write on......

hope said...

The world is a cruel place sometimes. Sincere sympathy for the loss of your Thing. [And Dear Lord, please don't let Map follow me and make that sound rude. Amen].

Only the computer has a name: Jackson Mule...most of the time I opt for Jack over his given name of Jackass. :)

Fay's Too said...

Poor Ol' Thing! There is absolutely nothing wrong with naming cars, by the way. I asked Glynda, my car, and she said it was perfectly normal. I'm glad you only hurt your brain. It could have been serious!

mapstew said...

My first car, a Fiat 127, was a right heap of shit! I used to leave the keys in the ignition hoping someone would steal it! I came home drunk one night (ONE night?) and made a sign 'Free Car, keys in ignition', stuck it on the windscreen. Someone stole the sign! (Well it was very artistic!)

@hope; I'm sure I don't know WHAT you mean! :¬)

Charlie said...

FAY: You're darn tootin' it could have been serious!


Fiat, BTW, stands for Fix It Again, Tony.

lisleman said...

I'm a joker
I'm a smoker (quit thank goodness)
I'm a midnight toker
I get my lovin' on the run

But now YOU are a member of Team ICB
I Can't Blog

Madame DeFarge said...

We must all mourn the passing of our vehicles. I regularly pine for my old Metro, a fine British rust bucket, but my first wheels. Take care.

Wandering Coyote said...

Man, you cannot drive without auto insurance up here! I find it so bizarre that you can do so down there!

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Your poor baby Charlie, sad for the truck but I'm glad you were not seriously injured. Hope you are making progress since you've been hope from the big H.

Unknown Mami said...

Some Things are hard to let go of. I think I inherited one of your mother's odd genes because I name inanimate things all the time and force my husband to refer to them by their "given" name.

Syd said...

Yep, I understand that feeling. My old Blue was totalled a couple of years ago. I miss her but have a new Blue now. It must be a guy thing because I do love my cars. I still miss my 67 Mustang.

Charlie said...

SYD: I'd sure as hell miss a 67 Mustang too!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Are you allowed to drive cars without insurance in your country? I don't think we are.

I hope that the memories you shared with Thing soon take the place of the rattlesnake residing in your brain.

Tiffin said...

We've always named our cars. Poor old Thing...what an ignoble end to a life of duty and service. If you get caught driving without insurance up here, you are in serious doodoo. And it's against the law now to drive while talking on a cell phone but I still see vapour brains doing it all the time.