To be honest, in a way, I feel like an imposter. I’ve actually been car free (this time around) going on three years and I feel like it’s important for you to know, not my current experiences with being car-free but, my car-shedding experience to understand why I’m car-free and why I have express intentions to remain this way.
My relationship with cars is a long and twisted narrative whose status, if posted on Facebook would read, “it’s complicated,” or something to that effect. The most recent one ended quite humorously after having taken a left off Highland onto Midland, a juncture whose dip I could expertly maneuver on a bicycle regardless of the condition of near-flooding, as it is during and after a good rain. However, in a car I was inexperienced and the substantial un-signed dip in combination with the velocity of my turn caused some sort of mild impact… street surface + bottom of car. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this impact created a small fracture in the car’s oil pan.
After a few days and my car sounding progressively haggard I received a call from a friend asking for a lift to the airport. Upon describing the tired condition of my vehicle we agreed that I would use their car to make the trip to the airport and borrow it during their course of being out of town. The drive to the airport got on, mostly, without a hitch. En route I observed that, although the AC was on full blast, “it sure is toasty in this Ford Taurus sedan.” Upon arrival, my friend retrieved their luggage from the trunk, handed me the keys and walked through the automatic doors. I immediately cut off the AC, powered down every window but the front passenger side (because, I was informed, “it was glitchy,”) and cranked the horrible and repetitious popular music that the radio was offering.
It wasn’t until I reached the intersection of Airways/East Parkway and Lamar that things really began to seem amiss (please note my aforementioned observation about the interior heat of the car). Stopped at the traffic light, it appeared that the car was emitting smoke from under the hood but, having been granted guardianship over this vehicle only the length of one and a half pop songs earlier, I thought to myself, “everything’s fine, maybe it’s just the summer heat.” While the car did not continue to emit smoke east down Park Ave. and north along Highland, as I pulled into a parking space at my place of work the car powered down before I turned the key in the ignition. “Hmm!?” I turned the key in the ignition back to, “on,” and received the standard, “clickity, click,” of a dead battery. Arriving to the office on time I thought, “well, I’ll just ask around for some jumper cables at the end of the day.”
At the work day’s end I did successfully recruit the assistance of jumper cables but also received some sage advice that, “it looks like there’s a broken belt, ‘ and, “you shouldn’t try to make it home,” but, determined that in my brief tenure as the guardian of this car, I insisted that “Surely everything is fine.” I took my chances, took the jumper cable battery charge, and set off for the 3-mile trip home.
At the most-inconvenient 2-mile marker (for those of you familiar with one of the standard east-west corridors of Memphis), the car died at the-top-of-the-hill and on the curve at Central and Hollywood. “%^*#.” This location was deemed so inconvenient that, as I frantically called friends who might have jumper cables, blue lights began to reflect in the rear-facing mirrors. An officer approached stating, “this is a really bad place to be stopped,” and offered to wait, lights flashing, until my friend arrived with the cables.
The jumper cable solution proved to be a one-trick pony and after some time I resolved to call a tow truck to aid my foster-vehicle. I arrived home via my jumper-cable-owning friend and set out the next morning on my tried and trusty bicycle. At the conclusion of this workday, I pedaled up to the mechanic’s shop to receive the bad news that the air conditioner compressor (told you so) died, which seized the single belt that makes everything else requiring belt-power function (obvious design flaw)…. total estimate would be over $1000. “Sheesh!”
Now, considering the fact that I was merely fostering this vehicle in its owner’s absence, I had to consult. The owner’s sentiment went something like this, “I’ve had that thing forever, I figured its time was near, and can you have it towed to my driveway?” So, the following day I called yet another tow truck to the mechanic’s shop, placed my trusty two wheels (my bicycle), with the vehicle, on the bed of the truck and directed the driver to my friend’s driveway to deposit the car and insist that, “no, really, I’m fine. I can get home just fine on my bicycle.”
The weekend and time to run errands had arrived. I had one particular errand that was a geographical and weighty stretch by bicycle (I needed some repairs on my sewing machine). Thinking, “well, I DO have a car,” I started off. Knowing that my car was sounding haggard only a few days prior, my first stop was a short distance to the gas station to check the oil and other fluids. As I pulled in to the BP (always my favorite due to the friendly Ethiopian family who manages it) at East Parkway and Young, my car dies. It’s the weekend so my regular mechanic is closed and luckily (because they’re familiar with me) the owner allows me to leave my car until Monday.
Monday morning arrives and I call my third tow truck in a matter of five days. I’d already hoisted my sewing machine home but I arrive to meet the driver on my bicycle, place it, with the vehicle, on the bed of the truck and issue directions to my mechanic’s to deposit the car and insist, again, that, “no, really, I’m fine. I can get to work just fine on my bicycle.”
More bad news… the engine had seized due to lack of oil. This is when I discovered that the mild impact from traversing the un-signed but substantial dip in the road the week prior had cracked my car’s oil pan. I would need a new engine. Three tows deep in the course of a week, I wasn’t prepared to call (or pay for), yet again, another tow truck. Instead, I went on-line, donated my car to WEVL, met a fourth tow truck driver a few days later at my mechanic’s shop, and rode to work, arriving a bit late, on my bicycle to wipe my hands clean of this five day long car-tastrophe.
To be continued…
The second part of this story will appears here in Jessica – Blog Post #1.5