Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The One-Buck Vanpire

I drive a car of such a random undependable nature that I never know whether I will ever reach home alive or the trip will be relatively angst-free.

We got the 'ark' for a dollar from some fantastic friends who had come by a nice inheritance and no longer needed an oil-sucking hulk anymore. I was in charge of Cub Scout camps at the time and the van would be handy in hauling both people and supplies. It's a 15 passenger ex-border patrol vehicle with a host of quirks and flaws; for a buck, we couldn't pass it up.

We've taken it on several trips to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, and through Arizona. That van has chugged up mile-high peaks and through volcanic beds, past herds of deer and elk, across canyons, and out to the sea. I've hauled ten people plus all my camp supplies out of a snowed-in camp to the safety of the desert valley. We've gone four-wheeling and countless trips to the store in it. Somehow my husband keeps the vanpire ticking away with some kind of magic husbandly ju-ju.

A while back I was hit from behind by an illegal alien (possible retribution for its previous usage?), who then fled the country, leaving us with a $3000 repair bill. Thus started a long affair with various car repair shops. There have been at least two trips to the brake shop, transmission work, several changes of tires and a host of repairs done by my sweet husband in his less than spare time. Right now, it rattles loudly as the suspension is mucked up. Everywhere we go, the rattling of our van herald's the advent of the Murphy herd long before we pour from its doors.

This van's favorite trick is to quit randomly at intersections. The behemoth sails blithely out into traffic and dies dead. Life surges up out of my stomach and, choking as it passes my throat, sluices away, in a gush of past memories and present regrets. It leaves me shaking like an aspen leaf in the wind once the wretched van gets re-started. I gulp my guts back down and put the stupid thing back into drive.

As I drop my children off at school, I gaze at them, drinking in the sight of them, wondering if this is our last farewell kiss. They tell me 'good-bye' as if I'm going to a firing squad. Sometimes I wonder.

There was once an old lady walking her dog faster than my van was chugging. Her look of glee matched the annoying yap of her toddling dust mop. I only spared a glance, since I was willing the vanpire to go at least far enough to get to the house, since I was wearing my pajamas. I don't do the pajama thing anymore.

I have had to push that thing through intersections by myself (since our city police won't sully their hands helping anymore) and up hills to gas stations. At such times I must admit that I curse like a longshoreman. The crossing guard on the way to school knows my van and has seen my blanched face of sheer terror as the thing squats in the middle of her intersection. I can see her mouthing words of encouragement and advice (none of which is valid). I don't hear her as I'm too busy yelling for the kerschmackin' thing to GO!

My husband never seems to have these heart-stopping episodes. For him, the staccato sound of back-firing merely means that he's put on the gas a little too strongly. He calmly takes his foot off the gas and re-applies it and the car sails along just fine. I think he thinks my tales of traveling terror are pure bunk or my own inability to coddle the thing correctly.

I'm certain that you are asking yourself whether I am insane or simply incredibly stupid. Believe me, after a morning like this one, I am asking myself the same thing. I suppose I must say that it's mostly a supreme gamble, one which has most of my friends berating me for my negligence.

We are going to get a new car. Eventually. I just have a very deliberate husband, for whom change is difficult and time is short. Eventually, however, the planets will align, the forces of nature will converge, and we will put the vanpire out to pasture along with our other two rusting hulks. At such time, I, if I am still alive, will greatly rejoice.


  1. This is hilarious. I once had a car that had a short in the horn so it would honk whenever you had to hit the gas hard. Embarrassing. And who doesn't live in fear of being caught in a bad situation in their pajamas on an emergency trip to the school. I've been there!

  2. The choice to get a new car is a hard one. Being forced into it is somewhat easier. I'm in the market for a new car since our rollover accident, but haven't got up the energy yet to begin the search.