Stories Told

I’m just thankful I don’t drive a giant SUV

The last winter I got to garage my car was in 1995. After that, not only did my wife fill half of our two-car garage with her garden gear, she claimed female privilege and filled the other half with her car. So my car was relegated to the driveway and I faced daily scraping all winter. And then after we split I spent a few years without a garage, and then I bought this storage-challenged house. Everything that didn’t fit? In the garage.

This season, the snows came early – and something inside me snapped. 15 straight years of gouging ice off my windshield! I will not make it 16!

I got ruthless with my excess stuff. One big pile from the garage went to Goodwill and another went to the curb. The car still wouldn’t fit, so I moved a bunch of tools and gardening equipment to the shed out back. Finally, I screwed hooks into the ceiling and hung the bikes. And with that, I drove my car in for the first time since I moved here more than three years ago.

And it is glorious! Every morning, I go from my warm house to my warm garage (the furnace is out there). My car starts easily and runs smoothly because it doesn’t have to fight the freezing cold. And when the ice storm hit last month I was mercifully spared from having to blast two inches of ice off my car – including breaking the car free from the driveway, to which it certainly would have been frozen.

But it’s a tight fit. The passenger-side doors open only a few inches before striking the wall, rendering them useless. The rear driver-side door won’t open all the way either, thanks to my workbench, but if my sons contort themselves a little bit they can get in.

My house was built in 1969. Consider that year’s Chevy Impala, a common family car. It was a whopping 18 feet long and almost seven feet wide – more than four feet longer and about a foot wider than my Toyota. And so I ask: Who in his right mind would build such a tiny garage in 1969? The Impala would fit in my garage only if I emptied it – no shelves, no workbench, no washer and dryer. And I would have to be super careful driving the Impala in and out, as it is almost as wide as the door!

The couple who built this place must have owned a Volkswagen Beetle!

Actually, I wouldn’t mind having the Impala. I love classic cars. Check out my visit to a big muscle car auction.

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Stories Told

It may not look like much, but it sure goes like stink

I drive a 2003 Toyota Matrix XRS.

Replacement Matrix

That’s what it looked like last year just after I bought it, still shiny and clean from the dealer’s detailing. It replaced a red base model 2003 Matrix that I wrecked on the National Road in Ohio. My red Matrix had been a sedate performer but I liked it anyway because it hauled me, the kids, the dog, and a weekend’s luggage with room to spare. So I was really happy to find another Matrix, and even happier that it was the top-line model with a much more powerful engine. No more struggling up hills and praying when trying to pass! I was also glad that this Matrix was painted Cosmic Blue (Toyota’s name for this color), as I never liked it much that my old one was red.

I have had the worst luck with the finish on this car, though. Paint has cracked and is chipping off several large areas across my front bumper. Every place this is happening corresponds to a place where there was some impact. Someone backed into me in a parking lot about a year ago, and then I slid into someone on an icy road last winter, and a month or so ago in traffic someone’s hubcap flew off their car and struck my bumper. I’ve had low-speed impacts like these with other cars I’ve owned and have come away with not so much as a scratch. I kind of wonder now whether this bumper is original to the car – a replacement bumper and a poor quality paint job perhaps? Fortunately, I guess, the previous owner sent along a bra he bought for the car. I think bras look dorky, but it looks a heck of a lot better than what’s underneath it.

But that’s not all. Clearcoat is peeling off in several spots on the back bumper. A pass through an automatic car wash, one I’ve used for years, noticeably scratched and abraded the hood and roof. And then last weekend while backing into my driveway I scraped the rear bumper against a stack of paving bricks I removed from the ends of my driveway last year but have yet to use or pitch.

Sheesh.

Having my car repainted would be a waste of money – it’s 7 years old and has 114,000 miles on it. So I am trying to accept the fact that I’m driving a car whose best looks have passed. I’m just trying to take what pleasures I can from it. My favorite is that satisfying feeling of my back sinking into my seat a little when I stomp on the gas to pass somebody. Now that is pure joy.

The slowest car I’ve had was a 1983 Renault Alliance. That car didn’t have enough power to get out of its own way. Read its story.

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