Sunday, June 10, 2007

A new Mahtmobile

Friday night I travelled out to the suburbs of Chicago—the land of ample parking and affordable cigarettes. I am always amazed at how fantastically different the world outside of the city feels. The automobiles are generally larger, the people less likely to fix a suspicious gaze upon you until you leave their line of sight.

I was out there to audition a new Mahtmobile. Out on the fringes of Aurora was my grandmother's former vehicle—a mid-90s Buick LeSabre—resting awkwardly on the dividing line between sedan and pontoon. It is not difficult at all to picture the car from the driver's seat chopping through water, the front end lifting each time the accelerator is engaged.

Traffic, low blood-sugar, and the lack of music in my current automobile conspired to make me incredibly crabby when I arrived and looked over the car. Once I learned about its fuel inefficiency and visualized myself attempting to parallel park it on a crowded city street, I had developed an initial dislike for the car that bordered on antipathy. Still, possibly out of spite, I took the car for the weekend. As I pulled away from my grandmother's house, I guessed that I had perhaps an 8% likelihood of actually purchasing it.

It was fun to drive, even though it has some weird design elements (the headlights, for instance, are controlled by pressing a 2" square button located on the door for reasons that have not been made known). The radio is an enormous square thing, set into a dashboard that is not designed for tinkering. This was a big let-down for me, as having a decent stereo system is nearly as important to me as having a running engine.

Taking it home, I found myself in a lane with concrete walls on both sides of me. Construction on the highway had caused them to sequester one lane as an "Express," with no exits or chances for escape. This was made even more harrowing by the new car being much larger than what I am used to driving, and I was unsure of the width the entire time. I kept checking my position in the side mirrors, expecting at any moment to see a shower of sparks blooming from the passenger side.

Driving it on Saturday, I actually started to like it. I talked about the fuel inefficiency with Craig, who pointed out (correctly) that I simply do not drive enough for that to be a major factor. Last year, I made it from early July nearly to Xmas on a single tank of gas.

I took it over to Rich's on Saturday. Rich is my friend who I could trust to look under the hood and warn me of potential trouble. Mostly, he kept saying how clean everything was. He found no mechanical faults, just an air filter that needed to be replaced.

In the midst of all of this, the 8% became closer to 80%. It seemed I was buying a new car. The price and reliability seemed too good to pass up. It is a rarity to be able to take possession of a used car whose entire history is known, and as this one truly was driven by a little old lady (not even much on Sundays), I knew that I was not likely to have such fortunes seeking out a car in the future.

As for the giant, blocky stereo: that may turn out to be a blessing as well. It has a cassette deck, and I can use my iPod with an adapter to not be reliant upon commercial radio for music while I drive. The size and shape of the radio also makes it an unlikely choice for theft, as it would not even fit into most cars today without removing the heating system from the dashboard.

Rich and I went through the trunk, which was stuffed with what looked at first glance like just a bunch of crap. As we peeked into the bags and pulled things out, however, we were treated with a surprise visit from my grandmother's late husband, the initial owner of the car who passed away in 1996. His basement had always been rumored in my family to contain "one of everything," and often more than one. He had seemingly bought nearly every regular or novelty product ever manufactured at one time or another. And anything down there (if you could find it) could be purchased by any family member for 26¢. When I was 18, I had gotten quite a few things for my first apartment from that basement.

So it was a pleasant reminder of the man when we discovered that the trunk was stuffed with emergency blankets, roadside assistance kits, window shades for sleepy passengers, tools, jumper cables, and virtually everything—practical or impractical—one might have wished to have in the trunk when driving a long distance. Much fun was made at the expense of the "Auto John," a bottle attached to a funnel presumably to allow a driver to avoid pulling over at all while driving. It did not, thankfully, appear to have ever been used.

It appears that I have indeed ended up with a new car. While it is obviously an "old man" car, and I probably wouldn't need to consider a new vehicle should I opt for a career change to pimp, it has enough quirks and history to it that I feel confident that before too long, it will feel like me.

Now I just need to learn how to maneuver it into my parking space in fewer than three attempts.


Rachel Green said...

That sounds wonderful! I'd lov to have a vintage car.

Unknown said...

I gave up my beloved mini to keep my mum's car after she died. Although quirky it was lovely to have something so practical that was hers. Be aware though, Maht, that a car takes on some of the original driver's habits. I have got three speeding tickets in this car - the first three of my life. Thanks speedy mum!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

maht - I think you owe your readers pictures of this behemoth. Ian

Reading the Signs said...

Yes please, Mr. Moon - pictures!

It's strange how a car can become a kind of second skin, an aspect of who you are.

nmj said...

hey mr moon, i am a non-car person, but i love that you now have your grandmother's car, it sounds fabulous, i think it suits you x

Whittle Think said...

And now all you need is a fine hat to go with it.

The Moon Topples said...

Leather: Well, I'm not sure how vintage 1996 is, but I'm glad to have it all the same: I've never had a car with an actual grill in front before.

Minx: I shall be on the lookout for grandparently idiosyncracies. Thanks for the warning.

Ian: I'm sure I'll post a pic or two soon.

RTS: The trouble is, none of my lenses will be very good for displaying the sheer size of the thing. I'm gonna have to play around some.

NMJ: Perhaps you'd be interested in buying my old car? If you're paying, I'll gladly deliver it to Scotland.

Whittlethink: And what makes you assume that I do not have a fine hat?

Unknown said...

maht - I believe I have a hat I could give you that would match your car fairly well. The true hat source however should be Jeaneane and her wonderful cap that I wore in the moj taping for that cable thing in Wheaton or wherever. I would pay a small amount of money to have a picture of you wearing that and standing in front of your car.


Nikki Neurotic said...

Hope you enjoy the new car. I'm sure that you'll get used too the p.parking bit soon enough.

Unknown said...

Looking forward to piccies of this new beast. having no knowledge of cars whatsoever (they are red or black or silver or whatever) I'm now imagining this huge long thing where you can barely see the driver above the steering wheel.