Riding the South

The blog of Scott and Jenny Morris

Clunkers, kids

and bank accounts

By Jenny Morris

Of all the ways I figured our next vehicle would move on to the next life, my money was on a parking lot crash while Daughter No. 2 jockeyed for a better parking space at Hobby Lobby.

If past performance is any indicator of future actions, my bet would be safe, even if the car wasn’t.

When a car’s blue book value is less than half a semester’s tuition at our local college, it doesn’t take much to total it out. Come to think of it, fixing the results of the last aggressive parking maneuver cost us $100 more than the Focus is worth.

But who can put a price on the ability to say the words “Go buy the cat food yourself?”

When Daughter No. 2 heeded that command this week, her trip was short lived. So Scott activated dad-mode and went to work with the jumper cables.  

But the car wouldn’t click. The car wouldn’t clack. The car wouldn’t even whimper — although I was doing a pretty good job of it myself. I was in no mood to put more money into this car—or any car.

The current crisis was one in a long line of vehicle problems that progressed from the aforementioned parking lot fender bender, through a totaled Chevrolet, a new Toyota water pump, a repaired Buick window cable, a replacement Focus alternator, and now this: a car’s death while in a slumber state, 30 feet from our side door.

Realizing that senior year — the last in a line of six — started in less than three weeks, I dug the Sunday classifieds out of the recycling bin in case I was in the market for another car. Then the Focus was carried off in style. (Have you noticed they don’t actually tow the vehicles anymore?)

Meanwhile, Scott held on to the hope that bad battery cables were the culprit. I held on to the hope that my check book balance could stand this latest hit, all the while broadcasting to the household that I would see the Focus junked before I wrote a bank-account draining check.

The first estimate was staggering: $600 to diagnose how much damage was done when the timing belt slipped. “But the car wasn’t moving,” I walked around muttering, “How could anything slip?” After the exploratory charge, the cost might rise another thousand. I almost hyperventilated.

But then the morning after the mechanic called, Scott did a very brave thing, right in the middle of our kitchen. He turned to me as I left for work and said, “I think we should fix it.” He eyed me warily, as I stood with no immediate reaction.

Neither of us could have predicted the next words I’d say. In retrospect, I’d like to claim that after a night of spiritual contemplation, I had relinquished any hopes of earthly solvency. But I suspect that life, at least the part governed by automobiles, had beaten me with this latest round.

So I said the words every husband loves to hear. “Let’s do whatever you think best.”

And one day after that, he got to hear its corollary: “You were right,” when our honest mechanic replaced battery cables and a fuel filter, and charged us less than $80.