Archived Story

For better or worse, buying a car is a kick

Published 11:25am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Column: Tales From Exit 22, by Al Batt

Each day comes in thin slices.

I kicked a tire, hoping it wouldn’t kick back. I opened the hood and said, “Hmmm” wisely. There are things there such as insipid dispensers, frazzled modules and disputed transmutifiers.

I’d come to the troubling realization that I needed a new car.

I need a car because where I live, mass transit is a couple of semis hauling soybeans to an elevator.

You know it’s time to get a different car when the gravy light comes on the dashboard of your car and none of the tires are the same size. I hit a bug and the windshield broke. It’s Minnesota law that legally, I have to apologize to any insect I hit.

Shopping for a car is my second favorite shopping activity. Everything else is tied for first.

I’ve driven a car for a long time, but when it comes to cars, I’m a post turtle.

Some of you might be wondering what in the whole wide world is a post turtle. If you have ever driven down a country road and come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle. You know it didn’t get there by itself, it doesn’t belong there, it doesn’t know what to do while it’s up there, and you want to help it get down.

I’ve driven cars for years, but I know nothing about them. When I go to a car dealer’s, I don’t know what I’m doing there. It’s like grinding smoke. I’m a post turtle.

I used to know more. Starting most of the cars I’ve owned involved opening the hood. I held the hood with my head while I worked on the car. I wanted my high school graduation photo taken with my ’59 Ford, but it wouldn’t start that day.

Car salesmen seem, to me, to have mellowed over the years. I no longer need to carry a chair and whip when one of them approaches.

And there is no worry of getting hit by falling prices.

I learn things while car shopping. Such as, if you start saving now, you’ll be able to borrow more later. I couldn’t teach a car anything. There have been TV shows and movies about talking cars, but most of them were unusually quiet compared to the cars today.

I tried to get into one car that was so small, I had to open the door to change the radio station. It was so small, I could barely contain myself. The salesman said that I’d get 50 miles per gallon, even more if I’d get out and push it.

I looked at a luxury car just to see what it’d be like to drive something that I’ll never own. Pay that much for something, it should have a basement.

I sat behind the wheel of a sporty model. I don’t need a car that can go from zero to a speeding ticket in 4.5 seconds.

I know I should have asked the salesmen more questions, but that’s difficult for somebody that went to grade school in Hartland. I don’t ask questions without raising my hand.

I don’t know what kind of vehicle to get. Some people do. Jean Shepherd said, “Some men are Baptists, others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man.”

Does a car really say anything about the driver? Does a dented fender mean the driver has a bad knee or hip?

My neighbor Gnarly was having trouble selling his truck that had 297,000 miles on it for $1,500. Weasel advised him to set the odometer back to 50,000 miles to make it easier to sell. Weasel claims that he never learned how to swear until he learned how to drive. Weasel has rebuilt a carburetor while sitting on the commode. A few days later Weasel asked Gnarly if he’d sold the truck.

“No,” replied Gnarly. “I’ve decided to keep it. It has only 50,000 miles on it.”

Another neighbor turned 40 and purchased a dazzling, completely restored, bright-red LeBaron convertible. He calls it his midlife Chrysler.

I test drove a snazzy vehicle recently. It had a built-in GPS. I’ve never had a GPS in a vehicle before. I could tell it where I wanted to go and it told me how to get there. I spoke to it and it went to work. I was using the GPS when a guy ran the stop sign ahead of me.

I snarled “Idiot!” and the GPS took me home.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.