30 May, 2008

Here in my car

First things first. But not necessarily in that order
     –Augustus de Morgan
Here in my car
I know I’ve started to think
about leaving tonight
although nothing seems right
       Cars, Gary Newman
Grr, auto parts store clerks should be able to answer simple questions. I had a question about the firing order of my cars spark plugs because I thought I might have hooked them up wrong during my last tune up; it was running a bit rough. He gave me totally bogus information that made it even worse. Thanks gods there is the internet. The coil order is not the firing order of the coil but instead corresponds to the spark plug numbers, and so it was an easy fix once I knew what I was doing. Funny how that works, eh?
I love my little car; I really do. It is what we would have called in Germany in the 80s a ‘hooptie.’ This is an automobile that is neither stylish nor powerful. The beauty of a hooptie is that it does what a car is intended to do: it gets you from a to b. It does this without all the bells and whistles, and so is generally quite cheap. A lot of smart people in Germany drove old BMWs as hoopties. Ugly and old, yes, but reliable and functional. I was not so smart; I wanted a new car.
As a college student I look for things that I can do on the cheap. I have grown wiser about money than I was when I cashed my first paycheck. Not everything is worthy of scrimping on; some things are worth paying top dollar for (coffee beans, for instance) and other things should be purchased in a bargain basement or done without.
I have not used any credit in the last five years. If I want something I save up the money and buy it. It sounds like a lot of discipline but really it is just that I know my weaknesses. Credit was one of them; so I gave it up. I think it probably takes a stronger man to do things in moderation, but I decided cold turkey was the way to go for a while. I quit smoking and drinking the same way. I really don’t see the need yet to start using any of them again. Sometimes I think I am trying to trick myself by telling myself I am strong enough to use just a little. I tried to quit smoking many many times before, and I always started again thinking I would have just one.
Anyway, I love my car. It is a 5-spd 94 Saturn SL2. I bought it for $900 three years ago. I have put maybe $600 into it over the years; new brakes, new tires, oil, plugs and wires. But that is all, and it has served me well. My insurance runs just $250 a year. That gives me operating expenses (minus gas) of just over $700 per year. It is not pretty, but it is surprisingly peppy, and being a stick shift I can drive the hell out of it.
It’s not doing so well anymore; it has a blown head gasket so it leaks oil. It is not worth the cost of replacing the gasket since it is something I cannot do myself. I will have to find a new hooptie when I get to Alabama, I think. Plus the AC in this one is not too great and, in Alabama, AC is not something to scrimp on.

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