Monday, November 28, 2011

Motoring With The Chatterbox

     Announcing Chubby Chatterbox’s first guest blogger, my son CJ (Chatterbox Junior) who has chosen this moment to humiliate me.
      People have referred to me as a “Car Whisperer,” a term I am not particularly fond of; I don’t have conversations with cars. Well, that’s not entirely true. I may thank my car from time to time when it completes a particularly arduous task like towing a trailer or getting me home safe in the snow or pouring rain. I might also utter a colorful metaphor from time to time as I repair and maintain my cars in a rainy driveway. This isn’t, however, a story about my love for cars. It’s a tale about how my love and understanding of cars led one father to ask his son to meet his four wheel needs.
     If you’ve been reading my father’s blog for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly come to realize he is a wonderful storyteller. His imagination and zest for life make him the life of the party and the source of endless laughter and contemplation. While he is a great many things, a car person he is not. I once scolded him in my early teen years for not changing the oil in his car for three years. His rebuttal to my scolding was:
     “Well, it hasn’t been 3,000 miles yet.”
     “Dad, it’s three months or 3,000 miles,” I said.
     “Well, I simply don’t see the difference. Speaking of distance, did you know that every road once led directly to Rome?”
     This is how conversations usually go with Dad; mechanics has never been a common ground for us. I appreciate him for his many talents and gifts and he appreciates me for mine. This is why when he needed to buy a car he came to me. 
     The request started out simple enough. He didn’t want a new car. He didn’t care about them enough to make payments, and he didn’t want to spend over $7000.00. For him, a car was about getting from point A to B. He told me he did some of his best daydreaming behind the wheel so this vehicle needed to be as safe as a Sherman tank. So, on a Fall day I swung by the house to talk to him about what he wanted:
     “Do you have an idea what you’d like?” I asked.
     “Not really,” said Dad. “Just take into consideration everything you know about me and buy the perfect car.”
     “Can you give me a bit more info to go on?” I asked.
     “Well, I want it to feel big in every way, but actually be small.”
     “Ok….What about options? Do you care about power windows or air conditioning? How about a CD player?”
     “Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about that. I’d like it to have windows, and I suppose AM radio would be nice.”
     “Dad, all cars have windows and AM radio is not really a cutting edge option.”
     “Did you know that AM radio was invented by—”
     “Dad, stop!  We’re here to talk about what you need in a car so I can find one for you.”
     “Right. Well it should get good gas mileage, but have plenty of power.”
     “So you want something with lots of power, but something that gets good mileage? That might be tough to find.”
     “That’s why I came to you, my boy! Also, I want to like it, but hate it too.”
     “What does that mean?”
     “I don’t want to worry about it getting scratched or dinged, but I want to like the way it looks.”
     I sighed as I realized the only car that could satisfy my father might be the one he painted with his imagination brush.
     “Ok, what about color?”
     “Anything but white!”
     “Ok, simple enough.”
     “And not bright red.  Definitely no green. And probably not yellow or black either.  Perhaps  alizarin crimson or azure.”
     “I’m not an artist, Dad, so in plain terms what are alizarin crimson and azure?”
     “Burgundy and sky blue.”
     “So you want a big and small car with windows, lots of power, something that gets great mileage and is the color of dark red wine or the sky?”
     “I knew I called the right person for the job!” Dad exclaimed. “Remember, keep it around $7,000. Cheaper would be better.”
     I sighed again and set off to locate the perfect vehicle for my father. I scoured the Internet for cars and eventually called on a late 90’s Toyota RAV4. It had just over 100,000 miles and was advertised in “Good condition.” I headed out on a crisp Fall day to inspect the RAV4. When I arrived, I saw that it was quite dirty. This was a good sign as spotless used cars are usually clean for a reason….to distract you from issues lurking beneath their glistening hoods. The woman who owned the RAV4 said she was selling it to buy a new car and she hadn’t had any trouble with it. I crawled under the car and checked it from top to bottom while Fall leaves blew around me. It had been well maintained, and was dark burgundy—one of Dad’s color choices. The owner was asking $7000 but I snapped it up for $6,300. Back home I gave it a tune-up and thorough cleaning. A death metal CD was in the stereo and I removed it, assuming Dad wouldn’t rock out during daydreaming sessions. I called him that afternoon and told him I’d spent all of his money.
     “You found something already?” he said. “It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours! Wow, I knew you’d be fast, but that’s the quickest I’ve ever lost $7,000.”
     “You didn’t lose anything,” I answered, indignantly. “You got a great car for $6,300.”
      “So where’s my $700?”
      “I used it to give the car a full tune-up. It’s ready to go and should last for years.”
     Later that week, Dad came to pick up the RAV4. I could see on his face that he loved it. It’s been five years now since I bought my dad his RAV. It fired up dutifully for us at the airport a while back when we returned to the stormy Pacific Northwest from Cancun. Dad affectionately refers to it as his rig and I expect he will drive it for the next twenty years. 
     When he recently found out I got some free death metal music out of the deal he said, “So where’s this CD?  After all, I paid for it.”
      “But Dad, if you knew what death metal music sounded like you’d hate it.”
     “Maybe I’d surprise you.”
     Give me a break! The man still digs Barry Manilow.


  1. Aha! It is obvious the storyteller gene has been passed on.

  2. i think most of us are happy to use cars without understanding them. My main requirement of a car is fuel efficiency and reliability - colour and enormousness and mph are very much secondary issues

    Good story though and well told :)

    Must run in the family

  3. I agree with Bruce....CJ's storytelling talents are considerable. I always liked the Rav4. I thought the older models (like yours) were charmingly quirky.

    I'm looking for a late model car that has the sex appeal of a Maserati, can scream like a Ferrari, has the fuel efficiency of hybrid, and the reliability of a Toyota. All for however much money I can find underneath the couch cushions. Think CJ could keep a lookout for one for me? ;)


  4. Excellent story. Although, what's wrong with Barry Manilow?

  5. Great story..... and I have to admit.... I am just like your dad. I do my best daydreaming behind the wheel. And by the way you should check out Barry Manilow's death metal Christmas album.... its different?

  6. Looks like the limb dosn't fall too far from the tree. You both are very much alike when it comes to storytelling. Excellent.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  7. I so agree 100% with Bruce! hahaaa! My daughter had a black Rav4- she loved it! I can picture the two of you having that conversation, sounded like one of the millions of conversation I had with my Dad :)

  8. LOL - what a fun story. You BOTH are a hoot. :)

  9. Hi Steve: I'm catching up on your blogs after a long spell of trying to get my own writing in order. I love this piece. Knowing you a little, I'm thinking that you have either spawned a writer or you are playing with us--taking a respite from taking responsibility for this fabulous tale of everyday life. Doesn't matter. Life goes on ,yours and your son's. You may be building a family business that will be passed on when you've passed on.
    Keep doing what you are doing. JO