I drove my little Honda CRX all over the place and it generally gave me very little trouble. In fact, at our peak, we were a 5-Honda family. My brother, sister and I all had CRXs (Sister got the one my dad had after he got his little Honda del Sol.) And when I was married, the Future Ex had a very nice Accord.
But the terrain I was driving was not conducive to long-term body cohesion. Between Cleveland and Albany, there was tons of snow, slush and salt. So by the time I got to Baltimore… well, that’s a story.
I’ll have to do a whole post one day on the circumstance involved with my relocation, but suffice to say, it was hectic. By the time I got spun out of my brother’s place and into an apartment and job of my own, I really didn’t know which end was up. I just put my head down and went to work. I didn’t know squat about what I needed to do with my car. I still had my New York driver’s license and it had another year or so before it expired. I figured I’d take care of everything then.
Remember that this was before PCs were prevalent… well… they were getting there but I sure didn’t know anything about them. This was 1997- 98 and I had never even seen the Internet before.
So my plates and registration expired shortly after I moved here. I was vaguely alarmed that I had expired tags, but I pretty much had my head in the sand. I just didn’t want to deal with it because I knew it would be a giant hassle. Hassle is my Achilles heel… I’ll do anything to avoid it, including stone cold denial.
The hassle would come from the fact that I’d moved several times between the time I bought my car and when I’d need to register it in Maryland. Also, my car loan had been bought and sold by various lending institutions. So once I made my last car payment, I never received the title. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was supposed to. Once I realized I’d need it, I went into full avoidance mode.
I drove around Maryland for almost 2 years before it caught up with me. I was walking out to my car from the subway platform and noticed a Maryland Transit Authority cop sitting in the parking lot. I didn’t think much of it because they hung out there a lot anyway. But as soon as I pulled out, she pulled right in behind me and put on the dreaded lights as I came out of the lot.
I should have stopped right there, but I figured I’d be helpful and circle around back into the parking lot, so to not tie up traffic outside the station. Big mistake. Seems they don’t like it when you don’t pull over immediately.
Anyway, I had to bend over and take it… they got me for expired tags, invalid driver’s license and one other administrative thing that I can’t remember… socked me for something like $600.
I was like, “But I just moved here.”
She asked, “When?”
I said, “In January.”
That was completely true. I did move into my current apartment January, and it was now August. The part I left out was that I moved in January of the prior year.
Anyway, she explained that you have 60 days from establishing your residence, to register with the DMV. Like I said… “Oops.”
So they had to remove my tags and tow the car. Luckily, I only lived 3 miles away so I had them tow it home, as opposed to an impound lot. That still cost $100. It was funny watching them try to wrench the plates off. The bolts were completely rusted on there. By this time, there were 2 other cop cars hovering in addition to the tow truck. It was quite a spectacle.
So I did what I do best… I just acted dumb and remorseful, and it seemed to work (in that they were nice, didn’t cuff me, or send me to the slam). I did my best to question them on what the hell I had to do next. I wasn’t playing there… I had no idea.
So the next day, I called off work and sat down to make some calls and try to find my title. Eventually I tracked it down at the Department of Records in Columbus OH, and they were able to overnight it to me. I thought I was home free until I went to the DMV. It seems I’d have to get the car inspected before I could get it registered. They gave me a 15-day temporary tag so I could get that done.
Well… that was the theory… Long story short, there were a ton of minor things wrong that would have to be fixed, but the main problem was the undercarriage was rusting through. The amount of money I’d need to spend (about $2000) on fixing it far outweighed the worth of a 13-year old car, so next thing you know, I’m in the market for another car.
I decided to go to CarMax. I like their “see the price, pay the price” system. When negotiating a price, I’m always afraid I’m getting screwed. (Remember, I’m NOT a “car guy” and the salesmen can smell that a mile away.) Bluz Sister came with me for moral support and that ended up being a great call.
I decided to buy a 3-year old 1996 Dodge Neon, 5-speed manual transmission, in deep blue… my first blue BluzMobile! It actually had cruise control and functioning A/C. (The A/C had quit in the CRX after about 2 years and I never had it fixed.) The price was good enough and I’d always liked Neons, ever since they came out.
What I didn’t know was that you had to have in-state insurance to take the car off the lot. This is where having my sister there paid off, because she put me in touch with her insurance guy and he was able to get me fixed up right over the phone.
I loved my BluzMobile but after about 3 years, it started acting squirrelly on me. I had one big repair done but felt another one coming on. Just say, my “Spider-Senses” were tingling.
I went into a dealership that I saw was having a sale in August of 2002 and bought another Neon. This one was a used 2002 with only 11,000 miles on it, but much more stripped down… no cruise, no power windows or locks, but it was also a 5-speed, and it had a cassette player. That was actually a plus for me because I’d spent the prior 20 years making professional quality mix tapes expressly for the car. I wasn’t ready to give that up yet and I had not yet embraced digital music. (I wouldn’t have a CD burning PC for another 2 years.)
It wasn’t until I got this car that I noticed how many silver cars are on the road. Seems like 1 out of every 5 cars you see is silver.
So I’ve been driving my silver, stripped-down Neon for 8 years now. I’ve had to replace the battery a couple of times and have the trunk fixed because it was leaking water that was winding up on the backseat floor. Oh, and I had to have a new door put on because it got broken into in the subway parking lot. Fuckers pried the top of the door away from the roof, unlocked the car, and then pulled out the ignition core. I found it on the floor of the car. They must have been disturbed in progress because the cops said it didn’t take much more than a screwdriver to start the car, once the ignition core is removed. Since then, I bought a “Club”, for security purposes.
Anyway, I only drive the thing 6 miles a day… from here to the subway and back, with occasional trips to the store or around town... maybe a trip to Pittsburgh once a year. Over 8 years, I only put just under 4,000 miles a year on it.
But last month, I fell into an opportunity to get a much nicer car, a Chrysler Concorde, the same age but with only 21,000 miles. Naturally, it's silver too.
My new baby!
The price is good and I should get about half of it back when I sell my Neon. (At CarMax… I am avoiding the hassle of selling it privately!) It’s got cruise and power locks/window, and is in general, a much nicer ride. Finally, a Big Boy car!
It also has automatic transmission. That will be an adjustment. I’ve been driving a stick every day since 1979. There have already been some moments when I find myself waving at a gearshift that isn’t there (the shifter is on the steering column) or pawing with my left foot for that non-existent clutch pedal. But I’ll get used to it. It’s already proven much more beneficial in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams.
My big decision will be whether I replace the stereo or not. Unbelievably, this one has a cassette player too. I have an adaptor where I can plug in my DiscMan, which I usually only do on longer trips. I’d like to have one of those CD/MP3 stereos put in, so I can carry my whole catalog around where ever I may roam. But it would probably get stolen. And I do have to get my rear end icons transferred:
I just got my papers in the mail, so next stop will be the helpful folks down at the DMV.
I sure hope it’s not a hassle.