Our 2003 Buick Century was never what I would call a beautiful car. Dark blue, almost purple in fact, with enough dents to make it look like part of the design scheme, “bumpy style” I called it, it wouldn’t win a ribbon in a car show. It probably wouldn’t even be allowed in a car show. The taped over shattered back light with the peeling tape probably wouldn’t help either. After 5 years together though, we were quite attached to Herbie, as we called him, after THE Herbie which for some reason we felt was appropriate – something about the Century just hearkens back to that original Volkswagen Beetle, and parting from him was somehow sad. Not that we would miss the loud grinding noise from the gears when putting him in reverse, or the stuffed vacuum cleaner – reverse jet engine like crescendo that rose from the car if you dared push on the gas pedal, we would not miss that at all. We will miss Herbie though, as our first car, he has a lot of memories in him, encrusted on the carpeting in the form of cheerios from that family trip we took to Detroit, as a sticky fruit punch stain on the back of the drivers seat from that great Philadelphia vacation, and as a pervasive odor of sickly sweet apples from that rear-view mirror deodorizer that we got in Washington DC. Come to think of it maybe I’m better off without those ‘memories’ infecting my life and my nasal passages.
Herbie has had quite a number of physical ailments recently. First his back light got smashed as I mentioned above. Smashed by a kid on a bike, rode right into the back, how embarrassing is that? He will be sitting in a junkyard somewhere and the tough ’89 LeSabre across the way will ask him where he got that nasty wound, and instead of grunting “nam, 57th airborne”, he’ll mutter “kid, on a bike, long story”. Ah, the difficult social conundrums of junkyard life. Then he’s had chronic issues with his catalytic converter, a part I didn’t know existed until I saw the bill for the replacement part. Ouch. Then the mechanic tells me that my car is ruining catalytic converters so it’s not his fault that it died again. Ha! Mechanics can get away with telling me anything. And of course there is the oil leak, transmission fluid leak, and a crack somewhere in the mysterious part of the car called by insiders “the shocks”.
Then there was the odometer episode. The odometer died. It had been kind enough to last until 100,000 miles, so I could snap a picture of the momentous occasion while cruising down the eighty (not recommended), but now it was dead. Kaput. No big deal, right? Wrong. I needed to pass inspection, I needed an odometer. So I bought a used one. That came with an extra 50,000 miles built in over the approximately 105 K that had been on the original. I guess it only would have been a big deal if I had resold the car, now that I opted for car donation, no harm done, huh?
In the end it was the oil leak that did him in. Too much to repair it, just not worth it. I could have sold him for junk or for parts, but I decided on car donation. Here’s why. I did a quick Google search for “junk car cash [my city]”, try it on your city, the results were truly scary. It was either some toothless vagabond in a beat up pickup truck with the metal tied down on top with some large rubber bands, or Vinny, yeah, that Vinny. Seriously, it was like a bunch of used car dealers got thrown out of the used car dealership business for being too sleazy and opened up scrap metal businesses. Like sleazy to the 10th power. So I donated my car, got free towing, quick and easy, and a tax deduction for the car donation. Plus I know that Herbie will now be responsible for bringing happy memories into the lives of others. And not the stick fruit punch stain kind.