A good turn

Paying the car forward

We didn’t have a car in the autumn of 2002. Janice had just gotten back from taking the boys on a tour of the Northwest’s graduate schools, stopping in Chico last, and nobody was looking forward to a carless Minnesota winter.

Then at a reception for a group show Janice was in, a friend of ours said he might know of a Civic we could get for nothing. It belonged to a neighbor of his, and he thought there might not be much wrong with it. I had heard the not-much-wrong-with-it line before, and I still went to see the car’s family a couple of days later. The woman who owned the car and her husband turned out to be lawyers with their hearts in the right place, like Andy Holcombe. They signed the title over to me, gave me a fat folder of repair receipts, and wished me luck. She said she’d smelled gasoline in the passenger compartment, and that’s how she knew it was time to move on.

I didn’t want to drive a bomb, but if I could get it home and find a way to pay for the necessary repairs and insurance, we’d have a car. It had been sitting closed up for some days, and inside it reeked of gasoline. On the other hand, I had the title in my pocket, so I fired it up and drove home with the windows down in December in Minneapolis. It sat until I could drive it to a repair shop with any hope of paying at least for the diagnosis, and the fix was I think $82.

It was a good runner, and still is. While we were on a camping trip in our godawful Taurus wagon, the Civic even got itself stolen. A few days after we got back I saw it in a vacant lot a few blocks away, and the replacement ignition made it a two-key Honda ever after.

The godawful Taurus soon expired, and when we moved I drove the Civic from Minneapolis to Chico with all of us in it. Fortunately the boys were much smaller. So was I.

It’s taken us camping and retreating and to Chico Country Day and Bidwell Junior High and Pee Vee and Butte College and Los Angeles. I’ve never had a car nearly this long in my life, and now it’s got to go.

Since it was given to me, I’m giving it to KZFR—which can use the money—a good next step for a good old car.