Every single day I visit a car collector website known as “Bring A Trailer.” It gets its name from the decrepit state of the vehicles it features, many of which require a trailer to facilitate actual locomotion — if you want to get whatever currently listed project of the day home, you’re typically going to have to drag it back.
Get it? You have to bring a trailer.
I have discovered that one of the prime characteristics of this particular website is that it is practically ruled by a Nay-Saying Peanut Gallery. For every sound, reasonable comment regarding a vehicle’s collectability, requirements to put back on the road, etc., there are twenty others who shoot down the same vehicle for any number of flaws, either real or imagined.
It’s entertaining, even for a Muggle Curmudgeon like me, but it can really get annoying sometimes.
And to make matters even more interesting, it is considered something of an honor in the classic car world to snag a listing on “Bring A Trailer” because most of the ads are submitted by readers. So with the right luck, timing, and viewing audience, that old Peugeot you have listed on Craigslist in Topeka might suddenly gain truly national exposure, and you’re almost guaranteed to make a sale.
So I was reading a listing on BAT either yesterday or the day before, and someone made a comment along the lines of “everyone needs an Old British (or German, or Italian, or Whatever) sports car story to be a part of their life history.” After all, it’s those breakdowns and escapades that provide the color to our existence, as well as foster the development of an extensive Vocabulary of Profanity.
Of course, this type of observation can only be made by old people, because they either have the time or the money to withstand breakdowns or, like me, they simply don’t care anymore and basically expect pretty much everything in their lives to go to Hell and a Handbasket at one time or another.
In other words, having your stinking car break down on the way back from Target when you’re twenty-two years old is completely different than the same occurrence when you’re fifty. The first is usually a panic-attack disaster; the second an annoyance and eventual hit to the credit card. After all, there are lots — lots worse things that can happen in this world.
At least that’s how I feel about it these days.
Well, dear Readers (all three of you), in the spirit of complete honesty, my favorite non-Ferrari I described just a few days ago here on this very blog bit me in the
ass buttocks (not sure if it was the right or left) last night.
The set-up was thus — Early in the evening (say 8:00 p.m. or so) everyone in the household was either fast asleep or in bed or pretending to be in bed. Since I was saving my DVRed Masterpiece Theater episode for viewing later in the week, I decided to make a quick run to the store in my classically ugly Fiat wagon.
I took a leisurely back route to the store and, once there, found absolutely nothing I needed, and I almost immediately commenced the return trip home.
So far, so good.
About five minutes later, just after making a left turn onto a busy street, the Orange Bomb Fiat shuddered.
Then it stuttered.
Then it died.
I coasted to the side of the road and tried to figure out what to do. It was dark, I had no tools, and I really had no way to figure out what was going on under the hood given the circumstances.
I decided to do the next best thing: See if the stupid thing would start up again.
It did. Success!
I managed to drive all of about thirty seconds closer to home before it died again.
I coasted to the shoulder once more.
“Something funny is going on here,” I figured — I tend to devolve into a plain simple-mindedness in times of crisis. To others I appear calm, but that’s not really what’s going on.
I tried starting it again, and it fired right up, enabling me to drive approximately seventeen more seconds before it stopped.
This was really getting annoying, but I didn’t freak out as I coasted over to the side of the road again.
Instead, I began to review my options. Option A was calling My Lovely Spouse (or anyone else at home) for tools and assistance.
Since they were all sleeping and not usually inclined to help me with what they consider a “Hobby Emergency,” I bit the bullet and settled on Option B — calling AAA for a tow.
Hey, I pay for it. I might as well use it.
In the meantime, I had to exercise Option B1, which was figuring out a way to empty my full bladder whilst stuck on the side of a busy road with a broken down classic.
Option B1 is also known as a “Nature Pee” throughout my extended family, and they would be proud to know it was calmly executed. I only really risked an arrest for indecent exposure in addition to causing a traffic accident should someone have slammed into my disabled vehicle during the “event.”
Fortunately, none of that happened, and no one was wiser to my actions in darkened grove by the sidewalk.
Feeling refreshed, I received a call from the tow truck driver who indicated he was having trouble finding me.
I began to say, “Look for the flashing yellow lights on the wagon and the Flasher in the woods standing next to it,” but instead figured out he was dispatched to the wrong address, which I quickly clarified for him.
In the seven minute interval before he was due to arrive, I decided to, just for grins, try to start the car again in hopes it would at least idle so the battery wouldn’t drain because I had the lights on.
You guessed it — she started right up. I revved it up a few times to make sure she would stay running, and then I stood on the sidewalk awaiting the tow. When the guy rolled in behind me, I explained the car now seemed to working okay, but I wouldn’t really know until I put it in gear and tried to drive again.
“They told me you were out of gas,” he said.
“I told the AAA lady I might be out of gas, but I really didn’t know what was happening,” I said.
“I’ve got two gallons for you here, and it’s free (not really, of course — nothing is), so we might as well put it in the tank.”
“Okay,” I figured. “What the hell? Gas is four bucks a gallon out here. I’ll make the best of it.”
“Do you mind following me for a bit?” I asked. “I don’t live that far away.”
“Uh, sure, I guess. Your car is running?” he asked with a quizzical look.
“Yep. Let’s roll.” I didn’t really say that, but it sounds cool now.
I’d like to say it was an adventure driving home, that it featured fits and stops and feats of imagination and strength.
But it didn’t.
The wagon ran just fine the whole way.
As I waved to the tow truck driver when he merged onto the Interstate and out of my life, I realized I just became the recipient of the first “classic car story” with this particular Fiat.
I feel confident there are probably more to come.
I haven’t really had any time since to try to figure out what went wrong last night, but I’m sure it’s nothing that money, luck, a little imagination, and a lot of mechanical know-how can’t fix.
But that’s an adventure for another day.
Tonight, I’m simply grateful that I also happen to own a late-model pick up that never breaks down, and an older Miata Beater that always threatens to but never quite does.
And I would like to make the final point that, technically, the Fiat didn’t leave me stranded.
Apparently she only wanted to provide Fair Warning last night.