Saturday, July 14, 2007

Long Overdue Tribute to My Writing Assistant

My trusty research assistant, nearly 23 years old, 211,000 miles, and still going strong.

Many WWII airmen say their B-17s, B-24s, P-51s or P-47s became like their children or their friends. Rarely did airmen fly their entire tour in only one aircraft, but often they flew most with one ship. They painted a naked lady or other suitable nose art on her, taped up snapshots of girlfriends, and named their guns. Pilots got to know the individual subtleties of their particular aircraft--slightly different trimming perhaps, or tighter controls.

Ground crews got even more attached. Each ground crew was in the war for the duration. They became attached to the aircraft and the crews. Many a crew chief would beam with pride as his aircraft roared into the sky. It was also a great point of pride among ground crews that their particular planes rarely had to abort a mission due to mechanical problems When a plane was shot down, the ground crews were devastated. When a crew finished its tour and went home, the ground crew stayed behind and broke in a new crew.

Throughout my writing career, I have been lucky to have a similar relationship with my car. I'm not one of these people that names his car or buys it birthday presents, but I do have a real sense of respect and dare I say 'love' for this vehicle. I consider it my number one research assistant over the years. It has taken me to interviews in Washington State, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. It has driven me to the airport and waited patiently in the parking lot at Jackson, Wyoming while I winged off to further interviews. And it has taken me back and forth to my teaching job for 15 years without fail. If I needed to today, I could drive it across the country and know I'd get there with no problems.
Side view

My car, a dark blue Honda CRX two-seater, was born in Japan back in the early months of 1985. It must have been a good day at the factory. When I bought it in 1992, it already had over 100,000 miles on it. Today, it has 211,000. It routinely gets 45 miles to the gallon on the highway (which is more than it is supposed to get), and 30-35 in town.
The CRX came out in 1984. I remember going to the lot and looking at the new ones, thinking how much I'd like to own one. At the time, I had a 1959 VW Bug that topped out at about fifty miles an hour and no gas gauge but a stick I'd dip into the tank. Little did I know that one day I'd own one. The CRX was a very popular make for about ten years, then was discontinued by Honda. I see fewer of them all the time, though they are making a bit of a comeback with younger hot rodders, who trick them out and make them look sporty.
A brand-new 1985 Honda CRX. Mine used to look like this, before time and an over-sized farm vehicle took their toll.

It has no dome light, no radio or CD player, no air conditioning, no rear window defogger, no windshield squirters, and no rubber on any of the pedals. The driver's side door lock only works with the key. In the winter, the heat kicks in roughly the same time I get to work, not a good thing at zero degrees. It also has cracks running all over the windshield, none of which is in my line of vision. In most states in the United States that have annual inspections, this little car would fail miserably.
Two years ago, I almost lost it. I was parked at the District Track Meet to watch my son compete in the shot put (he was district champion that year and went on to be fourth in the state, incidentally). My car is so small that a girl on the track team backed her 3/4 ton farm pickup into the front end of my car, pushing in the radiator, sending pieces of blue plastic flying through the air, and shattering the headlights. I was certain it was totalled. The insurance company looked at it, said it was worth less than the repairs needed to fix it, and totalled it out, paying me the book value.

I hammered the hood flat, put new lights on, and have been driving it ever since. It is becoming quite an ugly car, and my friends think it's time to give it up. But I can't. I will drive this car until it can't go another mile.

I owe it at least that much.


Richard Havers said...

I think it could do with some nose art. How about a Stones tongue logo?

r morris said...

We have a TV show in the US called "Pimp My Ride" where people nominate friends with ugly cars and then a gang of expert auto detailers comes and gives the car a complete makeover.
I think my little car is a prime candidate for this show.