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Give Me an Oil Change and a Color Printer Cartridge Every 5,000 Miles

I drive the cockroach of cars. I don’t mean that it’s nasty, or ugly, or crawls up your nose while you sleep. In fact, it’s rather tidy and smells no worse than transmission fluid and a few escaped french fries. I mean that it will still be zipping down to the drugstore and the dry cleaner many years after I and everyone I know are dead.

I’d like to pause here and mention that my dry cleaner is next door to a fine retail establishment named “Condoms to Go.” I’ve never gone inside to ask about their business model, or why they need to specify that when you buy a condom you must take it out of the store with you. There’s probably a horrible story behind that, and I’m not brave enough to listen to it.

Now, back to my immortal cockroach-car. When cars want to live practically forever, they come to my house. The same is true of cats, by the way. Until last year, I had owned just two passenger cars over the past 30 years. My wife had owned just two cars over the past 20 years, which makes her a money-wasting party girl and the reason we can’t have nice things.

We drive our cars a long time. We drive them until we could hand the keys to a starving crack addict in Guadalajara, and he’d walk away shaking his head. So when we bought a car last year it was an event we’ve experienced only three times since we met. My happy little Toyota sprang one too many oil leaks, and the repair bill would have been scathing. Since the Blue Book value of my ancient vehicle wouldn’t have bought an iPad (even without 3G), I gave it to charity and moved on.

We hunted for cars. We found a car. We negotiated for the car, which is another story, but I did get to fling metaphorical poo at the salesman, which was fun. We brought the nice car home and parked it in my wife’s spot in the garage—because now I would be driving her old car. The cockroach-car. The Honda that had traveled 265,000 miles and was going strong. It could have driven around the world ten times. It could have driven across the USA 88 times. It could have driven to Condoms to Go over a million times.

The cockroach-car has endured because my wife has nurtured it in a way that I don’t get unless my fever is over 103 degrees. For example, cheap gasoline may be okay for the peasants, but not for the cockroach-car. My wife adhered to a complex maintenance schedule. Every 5,000 miles she visited one of three auto shops, each with different capabilities. That’s the kind of attention and determination that produces a cockroach-car that will last forever.

When I inherited the cockroach-car, I also inherited its maintenance log. I was impressed. I’ve even entered a couple of oil changes into the log since then, and I’m following her maintenance schedule to the extent to which I’m capable of understanding its nuances. But I had no idea how rudimentary it was until yesterday, when my wife showed me the new log she’s created for her new car. See for yourself:

Auto Log

I was even more impressed with the new log, especially with the color coding. I counted nine colors, if you include black. That’s a different color for each 12 words in the log. The only flaw is the most recent maintenance on January 19, for which the exact mileage was left unrecorded—it’s written as “51,??? Miles.” This defect exists only because I was the one who took the car in for that maintenance, and like an inattentive child I forgot to write down the mileage. Apart from that omission, the log is perfect.

My wife is known to be an organized person. I am not. As an example, her closet has special hangers, and dividers on the shelves, and bins on the floor for things like her jammies. She won’t add a thing to her closet unless she gets rid of a thing, otherwise the clockwork perfection of the environment might be flung out of balance. My closet looks like I threw clothes in a cement mixer and ran it for five minutes. Therefore, I indulged in some gentle teasing about her rather compulsive, though effective, organizational paradigm for her maintenance log.

When my teasing was done, my wife looked at me from across the couch for a moment without saying anything. Then she stood and left the room. A minute later she returned with a piece of paper from my office. She handed it to me and sat down to continue watching Downton Abbey, still without speaking. I saw that she’d given me a page from a lesson plan I’ve been working on for an acting class. It looks like this:

GT Page 2

Okay, I guess I have some organizational obsession in certain areas too. I don’t have enough to avoid general slovenliness, but I have too much to poke fun at people who really are organized. Fine, then. I’m just going to shut up, shuffle clothes around in my closet to no purpose, and have fun driving my cockroach-car.

A photo of the Literal Cockroach-Car…

A literal cockroach car exists, and I really wanted to show you a picture of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that could be freely used, and I’m against ripping off an artist’s work without his or her permission. However, Carl Carruthers has a fantastic photo of the Real Live Cockroach Car that you can enjoy by visiting his site at http://flic.kr/p/7zr8H5.

6 Comments

  1. beadstork says:

    Ah, yes, the cockroach cars. They are almost always Hondas and Toyotas, and they would survive a nuclear holocaust. Even the EMP. I’ve had a couple of them. American cars, sadly, almost never make it to cockroach car status. They’re more like Mayfly cars – dead in a day or two.

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      That’s the tragedy of it. I’ve owned some American-made trucks for work purposes. They were solid beetles, but far from cockroaches. Except for the International Harvester 3/4 ton pickup the color of vomit. I feel certain it’s still running somewhere.

  2. HA! That cockroach car is awesome! And I am so impressed that your wife treats her cars like that so they last that long! I thought it was good that we get ours to the low 200,000s – but mid-200,000 and still going strong?? *impressed whistle*

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Isn’t that cockroach car just the coolest thing ever? The photo was taken at the Houston Art Car Show, which I now feel I must visit this year. And yes, my wife has an amazing ability to keep things going. Without her I’d have been dead ten years ago.

  3. Larry Merris says:

    Your writing is so damn addictive, I would rather read than write, you’re causing great mental stress and getting me in trouble with my editor (wife) who expects daily production. Go figure. Thanks for the great posts.

    1. Bill McCurry says:

      Thank you, sir! My wife listens to my first drafts as I crank them out, and she edits a bit then, but after that she just pats my shoulder when I weep about how everything I ever wrote sucks. In the end, it sounds like we’re both lucky.

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