Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Say Hello to Chester

Vehicles are supposed to be female.  There’s a rule somewhere, probably in some old seafaring guide, a Viking legend or buried deep in a dusty pile of books in an etymologists’ study.  But this time, this time that just didn’t work.  I took one look at those wide-set eyes and pointy grin and knew immediately, his name was Chester.

I found Chester online, through some sort of search that lead me to Woodbridge Auto Auction.  A 1994 Cadillac Seville with barely 90,000 miles.  That pointed grin smiled from the ad.  “Black,” read the advert, though I could clearly see this Cadillac was not black.  Burgundy?  Brown?  Rustic bear?  Not black.  More like latte inside, ‘spresso out.
chester (3)
He was going up for auction on Saturday.  I would be in Orlando.  The auction house offered an option: pay for a hold to keep it off the auction; if you like it, the payment goes towards the cost of the car, if you don’t, refund. 
Getting a hold on Chester turned out to be much easier than getting to Woodbridge.  An airplane (from Orlando), Metro, a bus, and a strange walk along the highway with a Hungarian in search of cowboy boots later, I was peering under Chester’s hood.

I brought him home on a Wednesday.  He spent the next two weeks in and out of the mechanic’s.  One does not buy a 22-year old car from an auction house and expect it to be in working order.  No, one buys a 22-year old car from an auction house at a nice as-is price and gets a list of repair needs with the title.
Chester went to the mechanic who had managed Betty’s transition to hospice.  Woody’s an excellent mechanic, and most of all, understands attachment to a car.  He and his team replaced two broken engine brackets, sealed a hole in the exhaust pipe, located a tiny leak in the oil pan and generally tidied him up into tip-top shape.

I took him home and parked him behind Betty.  “This is your new brother.  I know it’s strange to be replaced by a sibling, but it’s what we have to do now.  Tell him all about the area, where we usually go, and what it’s like to ride with me, ok?”  I patted her hood and tried to ignore the pinch in my chest.
Betty and Chester (2)
For the next several weeks, I moved Betty and Chester around the neighborhood.  Every Tuesday and every Wednesday, for Wednesday and Thursday street sweeping.  Sometimes they rested together, one in front of the other.  Sometimes they were on different blocks. 

Slowly, I moved things from Betty to Chester.  First the crate of fluids---oil, brake fluid, windshield washer fluid, engine coolant, bungee cords, rags, the large sheet for hauling things on the roof.  Then odds and ends---maps, the car seat I’d recently gotten from a friend at church so I can drive other people’s children (and scare dates as a side-effect, apparently).  Putting Betty’s mixtape in Chester just seemed wrong.  He has a cd player, so I put in one of my favorite cds, U.S.D.A.’s Cold Summer.  He ate it.  Just ate it.  Wouldn’t play it.  Wouldn’t give it back.  Just gulp, gone.  I tried everything to get that cd out.  Paperclips, pens, every button on the stereo.  Eventually, I gave up and put in a mixtape I’d made before Betty’s that turned out to be too depressing.

Emotional music, songs like Low Man’s Lyric, November Rain and Landslide are great for moody nights when the darkness of your apartment matches the darkness of your soul.  They are not great for driving around traffic-clogged cities.  Chester needed a mixtape of his own.

I went out to him, “Chester, I made you your own mixtape.  I’m going to take this random one out so you can hear yours.”  I hit eject.  Chester was so happy to have his own mixtape, he spit out the depressing tape and my U.S.D.A. cd!  I smiled and knew we were going to get along just fine.

Chester is doing well so far.  Someone took a gouge out of his front bumper, about two feet over from where John at the local hardware store drilled the front license plate on (no charge; such a sweetheart!).   I may color it in with marker.  This past weekend, he took a piece of road debris to the face and will now need to have a doctor’s visit, but it looks like that shouldn’t be too costly.

Chester’s very spacious inside, so much so that if I put the seat all the way back, I can’t reach the pedals!  (So that’s what it feels like to be Munchkinhead.)  His trunk is a bit smaller than Betty’s, but it does well enough.  His hood is longer; he’s packing a V8.  And my goodness does he purr on the highway.  Slowly, I am learning him.  Learning how he handles, learning his size, learning his quirks.   We’ve managed to parallel park on the left-side of a narrow one-way street, now it’s just a matter of making it second nature.

I still miss Betty---she was laid to rest in July---but I am very glad to have found Chester.  We have many adventures ahead of us. 

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