I sold my car two weeks ago; a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am with 165,500 miles on it, and I’m not getting a new one. Everyone I tell thinks it was a bad idea.
“Why did you sell your car right before winter?” They want to know. “How will you get around?” “How much did you get for it?”
I sold the car before winter because it was a piece of fucking shit. Incredulously, the car kind of made it through last winter in the Rady, but I had a lot of problems with it. It broke down more than once and absolutely could not be driven when there was any accumulation of snow or ice on the streets.
I’d been having a problem with it where it wouldn’t start from time to time; it probably had something to do with the fuel pump, even though I had charged a new one to my credit card over the summer. The guy who changed my oil at Wal-mart a few weeks ago said I had a “loud knocking sound” coming from the engine and probably needed a new water pump. The guy who ended up buying the car said it looked like the car was about to need a new timing belt.
Whatever ailments the car had, they are no longer my problem. I listed the car on Craigslist for $2,000 and sold it to the very first person who looked at it for $1300. The man who bought it reminded me of a Latino version of my dad. He was kind and handy and knew a bit about cars. He said he was shopping for his daughter, who had X amount of money to spend, and that he had been giving her rides for the past three months and he was “sick and tired” of doing that. He said between him and his son they should be able to do all the necessary work on the car, which was exactly what it needed (and reminded me of my situation when I bought the car.) If I hadn’t moved across country and had a man in my life that could have helped me fix problems with the car, maybe I’d still have it…but in reality, nothing has made me feel more helpless and alone my whole time in Colorado than when my stupid car would break down and I had no one to call for assistance. I rather not rely on an unreliable car, especially through the winter.
My dad found the car for me for $800 on Craigslist in June 2010 and it was less than what I had saved, so when I bought the thing I also got it four new tires and brakes.
When my dad was helping me find a car I told him I didn’t really care what it looked like, as long as the vehicle seemed like I could “put a lot of miles on it.” He didn’t know it at the time, but I had big plans to drive that car around NJ for the rest of the summer and then pack it with as much of my stuff as I could fit and use it to move me to Colorado. All I really wanted from that vehicle was for it to last until I arrived safely in CO, which it did, plus another fourteen months, give or take.
Upon first arrival in the grand old Rocky Mountains I drove that car everywhere; all through Denver, over to Summit County, up and down mountain passes, exploring state parks and to and from concerts and work. Then one day last year as fall was turning to winter the car wouldn’t start so I had it towed to a nearby auto shop and was told it needed a new fuel pump, with an estimate of $800. I went home and put an ad under the craigslist “gig” section for an at-home mechanic. I had a few replies and with the help of my dad (who was 1,808 miles away) selected one of the repliers, who I call Craigslist Mechanic #1, to fix my car. I arranged to have the car towed to his house without ever meeting him or going there myself.
Craigslist Mechanic #1 immediately changed the fuel pump spark plug and said the car started right up with the new plug and that I didn’t need a new fuel pump. I gave him permission to do a few other minor repairs and then arranged for him to deliver the car to me at my work. As I was giving Craigslist Mechanic #1 directions to the Fortune 500 Company I had been working for at the time, he said, “Oh, I know exactly where that is, I used to do in-patient rehab right around there.”
“Did he just say in-patient rehab?” I silently asked myself as the conversation flowed on, but didn’t want to ask for details.
Sure enough when Craigslist Mechanic #1 arrived to my work with my car with his missing teeth and Nascar attire, it was quite obvious he had or has a liking for hard drugs, and so did his lady friend who was following him in a run-down mini van. I gave him the cash and tried to keep the conversation short for fear that someone from the company would see me associating with these people in their parking lot. He was nice and honest with me and I actually tried sending him more clientele a week or so later, but his number had been disconnected.
A few weeks later the car was parked outside my house and wouldn’t start again, and Triple A sent a tall, handsome mountain man in a cowboy hat to my aid. The cowboy said it seemed like my car was out of gas, so he put $10 worth in and got the beast running. He told me never to let the gas get below a quarter tank and never to buy cheap gasoline. The car ran steady for another month or so, but then came my least favorite night in Colorado.
It was early February and we were just coming out of a below 0 cold spell; I’d say it was about 15 degrees out on the night I’m about to recap. I was driving home from work on the interstate during rush hour traffic when my car decided to stop running. I coasted over to the shoulder and sat in the broken down car, wondering what to do. I wanted to call my dad in NJ, but that would have been ridiculous, so instead I got my sleeping bag out of the trunk and sat under it in the passenger seat, apparently waiting for some miraculous rescue.
When after an hour or so it appeared nobody was going to pull over and offer assistance I put on my gloves and walked through the biting cold across the highway, up an off-ramp and into a gas station. I was fighting back tears as I fumbled with my debit card to purchase a red gas canister; and apologized to the cashier that I was “having a bad day.” I asked the gas station cashier to show me how to work the red canister, and when he looked at me like I was a fucking idiot, I burst into tears, then and there, in the middle of the gas station in front of a line of people. The attendant continued to watch me cry in bewilderment until the man behind me in line took the canister and demonstrated how easy it was to use. I filled the thing up, walked back to my car and spilled gas all over my gloves while dumping it into the tank. Of course the car still wouldn’t start and I finally called a tow truck.
I was back in my car under the sleeping bag waiting for the tow truck when a police officer finally pulled up behind me to see what was up with the vehicle in the shoulder. It had been there for over two hours and I couldn’t believe it took that long for someone to stop. The police officer let me sit in his heated car while we waited for the tow truck, and I had the thing towed to my house until I figured out what I was going to do with it. (Luckily I still had a few tows left on my Triple A membership.) While I ate a plate of frozen waffles for dinner I placed a second ad on Craigslist in search of a mechanic to install a fuel pump.
For Craigslist Mechanic #2 I selected a fellow who said his name was Jack Truex and that he had a “garage” located one block off Colfax, on Garrison. I knew this supposed garage location was not in the best part of town, but it was easy for me to get to by bus and Jack sounded like he knew his stuff over the phone, so I arranged to have the car towed to his garage. When I hopped in the tow truck and told the driver where the car was going he replied, “I’ve been a tow truck driver for 20 years and I’ve never heard of a garage at that location.”
I should have taken that as a sign and told him to dismount my car and I’d fix it myself, but no, I carried through with yet another one of my brilliant ideas.
We arrived to Jack’s garage, which he told me would be marked “#7”, and although the whole block was really shady looking there was in fact a row of garages people rented at this location, and there seemed to be a good amount of cars parked in the vicinity so I assumed everything was relatively legit. I met Jack, who was in his 30s and kind of good looking in an east coast Italian Stallion kind of way, and he told me he should have the car ready in two days. I left him the key and rode the bus home.
From the day I left my car with Jack Truex to the day I got it back an entire month passed. He ran me through all sorts of hoops, saying he ordered this part and it hasn’t come in, or now it needs this part, or now he thinks it’s the computer module, not the fuel pump. One time he called to tell me he lost the key and asked if I had a spare. When I lied and told him I didn’t, he called back an hour later to tell me he “found it.”
I don’t know what the hell Jack Truex was doing with the car – looking for parts at a junk yard? Fucking up? Driving it? Not working on it? I called him repeatedly and accepted his excuses even though it was causing me stress and tears. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the bus down Colfax alone at night after work to investigate the situation, though after about three weeks I got a ride and brought a guy friend in the garage with me to see what was going on. Jack Truex showed us that he was working on the car, said it’d be done soon and we left.
It was toward the end of week three of not having my car that I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been carpooling to work with Blair and he was ready to kill me, I couldn’t get a straight answer out of my awesome mechanic and I couldn’t rally up any agro guys to go beat the shit out of him, so I did the next best thing. I had my friend call Mr. Truex and tell him he was my lawyer, and that if I didn’t get my car back his ass was about to get sued. The law threat worked and I got my car back and running the very next day, which was also the one-month anniversary of the day I dropped it off there.
Truex said he put in a new fuel pump and computer module, and I paid him somewhere around $700 cash. I say Truex is a deceiving piece of shit and I hope his shitty garage and business has already burned to the ground.
After finally getting my car back it ran well for a few months, until it wouldn’t start again one day in June, only a week after I had been let go from my loathed office job. I was actually babysitting when the thing broke down; I had taken the kids to dance lessons and it wouldn’t start in the parking lot when we went to leave. A nice lady drove the kids and I back to their house, and when the kids’ dad got home he drove me to my broken down car and I sat and waited for a tow truck, which I paid for with the money I had just made babysitting, since I was now fresh out of Triple A tows.
This time I had the car brought to a reputable and recommended mechanic’s shop, Phillips Automotive. The shop installed a new fuel pump and showed me the one they took out, which was the original GM fuel pump, which meant that Craigslist Mechanic #2, Jack Truex, never installed a new fuel pump like he said he did. I hate his guts.
I charged the new fuel pump to my credit card, and while I was at it decided to also charge two used tires on the card since the tread on my back two had worn down so badly that driving the car in the rain felt as unstable as a one-year-old on ice skates.
The car continued to last me the rest of this summer and into the fall, and I continued to drive it all over the fucking place, knowing that my time with it was limited. Unfortunately I had to use to last bit of credit left on my Visa card in October when I locked my keys in my car twice in a three week period; locksmith costs totaling $200. That’s when it became all too apparent…I simply couldn’t afford any more car problems.
This past Halloween weekend my car pulled the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wouldn’t start when I had it parked outside a friend’s apartment downtown and this caused me stress because it was Sunday night and two-hour parking began the next morning at 8 AM. I was worried and fretted to my friend. We were preparing to go see The Motet at The Bluebird Theater, but what was I going to do with the car? Would I get it moved before the parking police came by? Where would I have it towed to? How would I pay to fix it?
As I was expressing these thoughts, my friend turned the music on and it picked up in the middle of the song we had last been listening to that day. It was Phish’s version of “Loving Cup” and I kid you not the verse that came through the speakers as my friend sat on the couch with his guitar was, “Yes I am stumbling, and I know my car won’t start…Yes I am fumbling, and I know I play a bad guitar…”
I laughed at the irony, went to The Motet, left the car overnight and managed to get it started on the tenth try before street parking police came by the next morning. When I got home with the car Monday morning I posted it on Craigslist and on Tuesday morning called back the one guy who had given his phone number in an e-mail. The guy was at my house 20 minutes later, inspected the car, took it for a test run (so grateful it was behaving) and made me the offer of $1300. I accepted, but told him I couldn’t sell it until the next morning, so he gave me a $200 cash deposit and left. I immediately got into my car, went to Wal-mart and spent the deposit money on one of the first $100 women’s mountain bikes I looked at, a helmet, a lock and a seat cover; all in about 15 minutes because I was rushing to get to work.
Of course it had to snow the morning I sold the car. I told the purchaser it needed snow tires before he made the offer, but apparently he didn’t care. He said he drove great in the snow, and we made the title/cash exchange. I wished him luck, as I truly felt he was going to need it.
I know $1,300 isn’t all that much money, especially when a car is involved, but I think I made out well (expect for having the take the bus around town). I figured what was going to happen was; the car would break down, I wouldn’t get it started, I wouldn’t pay to fix it and I’d have to junk it for $250. That was my seventh shitty car, or maybe my eighth. This ain’t my first rodeo, and I can’t deal with that crap. A car is just not in my reality… right now. But the bus is…and my new bike is…and old man winter is…
I’m putting some of the car money toward a ski pass, so let me know if you can give me a lift to the mountains this season. Cheers!