My Hoopty – Update



As some of you know, my car has been sick. Real sick. It’s been in the shop for two whole weeks, during which time I’ve bummed rides, used public transportation, borrowed Mister’s car and gotten a lot of exercise on my bike. I’ve made do, and that’s just fine.


But L.A. is hard without a car. (It’s hard any way you look at it, but that’s another post.) And these last two weeks had me worried. What if my mechanic – awesome though he is – couldn’t repair my ride? What if I had to break down and buy a new-to-me car? What if I had to say goodbye to my old Volvo?


The last time I needed a new car was over a decade ago. I had finally admitted to myself that Mister’s old Honda wasn’t doing the job and needed to be put to rest. The very day I accepted this truth, I was sitting on a park bench, near a couple of elderly ladies. One was saying how her friend had recently died. The friend had named this lady as the executrix of her will. I overheard her say how everything had been handled, with the exception of selling her late friend’s car.


“I need a car,” I said. “What are the specs?”



She told me all about it: a 1966 Volvo, one owner. I asked if I could see the car and take it for a test-drive. We set up a meeting.


I knew right away. As soon as I saw her, I knew she would be part of my life. The smooth curves. The chrome. The Jesus paraphernalia spread across the dash. After a short drive to a mechanic and his subsequent thumbs-up, I made an offer. We haggled for all of 7 seconds and the deal was struck. I bought myself one heck of a hoopty.



A beautiful thing about owning an old car is the lack of monthly payment. I can’t tell you how much my frugal soul appreciates that. And even with repairs (which have been necessary over the years), I’ve never put out enough money to equal car payments.


This last round of repairs frightened me, I won’t lie. Converting my car’s engine from its original generator-regulator system to an alternator broke my heart. I think it broke my mechanic’s heart, too. But it had to be done. And so it was.


My struggles during this car-less period were primarily due to transportation woes. But there was more. As I wrote a while back, I couldn’t help but see the Volvinator’s problems as metaphors for life. For my own aging process. And, to be perfectly honest, there was one more problem: I just wasn’t ready to let the old girl go. I’m still not.


As of yesterday, she’s back and running beautifully. I even had her washed and she turned quite a few heads at the car-wash.



“One owner before me.” “1966.” “Only 114,000 miles.” “Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.”


I’ve made a lot of memories in my car. But one of my favorite memories is of the car’s life before me. On the day I bought her and was about to drive home, the lady who sold the Volvo to me gave me a picture of the original owner and told me a bit about that woman. She said the late owner’s name was Gertrude. Apparently, Gertrude’s husband had bought the Volvo for her when it was brand-spanking-new. Gertrude loved her husband dearly, and couldn’t bring herself to tell him she simply did not like the car. After a few months of driving it and being none too happy about it, she decided to come clean. But something happened before she could tell him: her husband had a fatal heart attack. After her devastating loss, Gertrude simply couldn’t part with the car – a gift from her beloved husband. So she kept it all those years. Right up to her own passing. Bless her heart. I love that story. And I love the photo of Gertrude.



And I love my old car. Long may she reign.


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