Monday, March 01, 2004

MONDAY MILESTONE: I hadn’t exactly been quivering with anticipation—I had actually forgotten about today’s significance, but a couple of minutes into my morning commute, I was reminded.

I stopped for gas on the way to work. After perusing the contents of my wallet, I figured I could buy $13.00 worth of 87-octane and still be able to afford a cup of ersatz quickie-mart cappucino. Alas, I miscalculated; the tab came to $14.07. The cashier had to spot me the seven cents.

This was NOT the thing to bolster my self-esteem on a Monday morning.

The car has been making a troubling noise, coming from the front end. Brake-related, I’m pretty sure. I have been dragging my feet on getting it looked at, not wanting to hear the bad news. It’s that difficult stage in a car’s life, where you know you’re not going to keep it very much longer, so you don’t want to put a penny more into repairs than you have to. Although the brakes, shit, that’s not really an optional repair, is it? I have to transport my kids in this car.

The tailpipe rusted and fell off a few months ago. Speaking personally, I could not care less, but I know from experience (this is the third time the tailpipe has rusted off) that the car won’t pass state inspection with a missing tailpipe. My inspection comes up for renewal in May. Also, I can’t just get a tailpipe installed; a whole new muffler is required. $150 or so, if memory serves. Can I dump this sucker before May? I’ve been thinking I need to hold on until August.

These are my thoughts as I drive. The radio is on, Cokie fucking Roberts is on NPR giving her regular Monday morning commentary. (NPR, do you realize how many of your regular listeners have really grown to curse Cokie Roberts?) Something about the all-important party regulars; next week it’ll be something about the all-important swing voters. I switch to the modern rock station. “All Apologies” is playing. Good song. I sing along, and I’m really belting it out, trying to hit those highs at the end of each line. When I’m in good voice I can hit ‘em, but not this morning. I wonder if the other drivers are staring at me at the stop lights, hollering along with Kurt Cobain. Back to NPR. Something about Haiti. Shouldn’t I understand more about the crisis in long-suffering Haiti?

But a few more minutes’ driving calms me down. Even the troubling noise from the car’s front end seems to subside. I remember the threshold we’re about to cross. I calculate correctly that if I drive directly to work, that I won’t see the magic number this morning, so I drive past my exit, taking a roundabout back-route to the office. I watch as the odometer rolls over to 200000.

It’s really quite a pretty sight. I manage a private smile. Even my father, my avatar of economy and good financial stewardship – even Dad has never kept a car for two hundred thousand miles.

We bought this car when my wife and I were engaged, in January 1991, three months before our wedding. I couldn’t get financing based on my own credit rating; so, in what I sometimes think of as the first moment of our married life, she signed for the loan. It has been downhill for her credit rating ever since.

Praises be to my dear wife. Praises be to the Honda Corporation, for outstanding design and quality control. Praise unto the hard-working auto workers in Ontario who did such a damn fine job assembling this baby. Praises be to those who’ve worked on the car over the years, notably the guys at Tao Auto on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. I’ve had to expend some worry on this car the last few months, but for many years, I never had to give it a second thought. It has been a great car.

Tomorrow I’m going to take it to the shop to get the front end looked at.

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