Monday, January 9, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Hooligan



There was a point in my childhood in which my father drove a car known as “The Hooligan”.  As a young teen I was horribly embarrassed by this car, as I was almost anything my parents did.  Between the ages of 13-15 almost all children spend their time in a constant state of embarrassment by the actions of their parents, and most of these children did not have to ride in what I believe now to be a 1968 Plymouth Valiant in very poor condition.  The Hooligan was a vehicle in its last dying days.  As I recall my father purchased this car to serve as a stopgap between two company cars.  It appeared like an unwanted relative.  One day The Hooligan was just there. 


If you ever go onto Kelly Blue Book to gauge your vehicle’s potential resale value, the condition levels start at “excellent” and end in “average”.  The Hooligan was well below that threshold, somewhere between the levels of “dangerously poor” and “barely a vehicle”.  My father was committed to never putting a dime into the car.  When he made the purchase I am positive it was the cheapest car available in the Tri-County Erie PA area.  When that car moved off the lot, two sales guys exchanged high fives.  It probably cost more to get the plates and title than the actual purchase price.  My father was delighted in "the great deal" he got.


I remember when the muffler fell off.  It happened on my father’s commute home from work.  I was outside doing whatever jackoff things a 12 year old does with his friends outside.  The sheer amount of noise that car was making was similar to that of an approaching helicopter.  We didn't even know what it was at first.  As a child I wasn't aware that automobiles could make that much noise.  The sound grew and grew until my horrified eyes spotted The Hooligan rolling down the neighborhood street with an almost sneer on its rusty grill.  I am sure the neighbors thought we had somehow become destitute or that my father had lost the family nest egg on a doomed Las Vegas junket.  How had this seemingly normal middle class family succumbed to driving in this junker?


My father was resolute in not putting a dime into that car.  Even my mother, who I think decided to humor my father’s plan in a “pick your battles” gambit, voiced surprise in his unwillingness to repair the muffler.  It reached a point when The Hooligan’s engine started that glasses shook in our cupboards.  It was like having a NHRA Funny Car in a suburban garage.  My father was completely inflexible on his position, believing that The Hooligan could carry him to whatever date he had assigned for The Hooligan’s end of service.  There would be no repair.


When the windshield wipers failed it must have been a challenge to even my father’s legendary stubbornness.  Erie is well known for having the worst weather in the Continental United States, a near constant state of snow/sleet/rain breaking up occasional periods of overcast skies.  People in Scotland think, “Fuck that.  I’m staying here.” if presented the opportunity to travel to Erie.  My father just stuck his head out the window and hoped for a better weather forecast the next day.  He was actually proud of being able to drive the car without wipers in the driving rain and seemed disappointed when we questioned the long term wisdom of driving blind.


The final straw was when black smoke began pouring out of the hood.  The Hooligan looked like a B-17 that had been hit by Nazi flak and was desperately trying to make the White Cliffs of Dover.  My father, undeterred by something as minor as catastrophic engine failure, stuck his head out the driver’s side window like a dog.  I think that if he believed The Hooligan could continue in that state he just would have bought goggles and figured out how to wipe the soot off his face once he got to work.  I would like to point out that this man had plenty of financial resources to just go and get another car.  It wasn’t ever an issue of money.  It had become something bigger.  A quest.  Even when he had to break down and finally buy a new car, he thought fondly of The Hooligan, remarking “I got $50 more in trade for that car than I paid for it!”.  I think The Hooligan always had a special place in his heart.


I only tell you this story to confirm that I have continued on every man’s destiny of becoming his father.  I am currently driving my “winter car”.  This is a 2003 Rav4.  I have refused to put money into this car for years with the exception of replacing tires that had become so bald that even on dry pavement the possibility existed of flying off the road while making a routine turn.  The car sits outside all year and serves the purpose of driving The Bassets and transporting my kayak.  It has been quietly rusting out from underneath.  It serves as a daily reminder of man’s folly in his battle against time and nature.  It doesn't have much time.


The Rav4 is about ready to drop the exhaust system.  Even co-workers that have become accustomed to my eccentricities have remarked on the deplorable sound of the vehicle.  Little do they know this is only a small issue in the overall scheme of things.  The front passenger side wheel is making what can charitably be called a “disturbing” noise.  I think it might be something with the brake mechanism that has rusted into a fixed position, but it could also be the entire structure ready to collapse.  There is the very real possibility of me driving down the highway and the wheel just gives way.  I would guess the news media will refer to this crash as “spectacular” in the ensuing coverage.


As the brakes have become somewhat unreliable, I have had to adjust my style of driving.  I would describe my driving in my normal vehicles as “assertive”.  I am very much a read and react driver that makes firm decisions in my quest to pass all traffic in what is essentially an unwinnable road race.  In the Rav4 it has become a chess match.  I always need to plan three moves ahead.  All possibilities of the wildly unpredictable other drivers must be constantly calculated.  If I guess wrong I will likely end up in a pile of rust and glass shards.  It makes the daily drive quite exciting.


Any rational person would look at this situation and immediately junk the Rav4.  I am not a rational person.  I have become absolutely resolute in my desire to get through the winter in this vehicle without spending another dime on the care of it.  I can’t really explain why I have become so inflexible.  I just decided.  That was it.  It wasn’t until I heard the throaty complaint of the Rav4 engine this morning and the sickening crunching sound of the right wheel that it hit me.  I am my father and this is my Hooligan.  I am not sure what to do about it or if I even have a choice. I know that I will reach a point where the wheel falls off and I will calmly emerge from the wreckage with a screwdriver, take off the license plates, and abandon the remains.



The question becomes one of destiny.  Am I destined to follow the pre-ordained path of my own Hooligan?  It is a question of nature versus nurture?  Am I genetically inclined to push this rusting hulk of metal well past the point of usefulness or is it a learned behavior from this traumatic childhood incident?  Is the son cursed to repeat the sins of the father?  I don’t really know, but if I were you I would stay out of the way of any rusty 2003 Rav4 you hear struggling behind you on the roads.          

2 Comments:

At January 9, 2017 at 1:50:00 PM EST , Blogger Tit Dirt said...

See Bottle Rockets' "$1000 Car". I just picked up a 1990 Honda Civic "commuter" for $700. Game on.

 
At January 9, 2017 at 7:39:00 PM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

It's going to be quite a winter for both of us.

 

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