My friend the Satanvertible

(With a nod to S. Wells and apologies to anyone who read the earlier version of this post on that other website we shall not name.)

When I moved to LA six months ago, one of the first things I needed to do was buy a car. I come from a proudly used-car-buying, loan-averse clan, so my goal was to buy an old-ish car in decent shape, something I could write a check for and drive off happily into the sunset. Or down Sunset, whichever.

I found a couple of sensible used cars on Craigslist, and spent a Saturday looking at them. They were old Toyotas, serviceable but not great, one with damp-smelling interior and one with a balky stick shift. No, no, these would not do. And besides, they didn’t have the single indulgence I wanted: automatic locks. After three weeks of driving a nice new rental car, I knew I couldn’t face reaching across to unlock doors for passengers ever again. So I booted up my computer anew to have a look at other cars.

At this unfortunate point, I decided it might be fun to get a real LA car: a convertible. I found an ad on Craigslist for a red Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible at the same price as the smelly Toyota, and went the next day to look at it. The woman selling it seemed nice, though she couldn’t seem to find the car’s service records from its previous owner. “They were just here,” she said. “I saw them last week.” As she kept digging around in her closet, I said, “Oh, don’t worry about it – let’s just take it to a mechanic and get it assessed.” (Mistake #1. Should have gotten the service records).

lemonvertible

We then drove to a mechanic her boyfriend recommended (Mistake #2). The mechanic spent an hour checking everything on the car (or so I thought). He came back with a list of minor stuff that needed fixing. No major mechanical defects, but the list was long enough that it would take a fair investment to fix everything. The woman knocked a few hundred dollars off the price, and after hearing the mechanic assure me that the car would be in excellent shape if I got the recommended work done, I agreed to buy it. I had checked the Kelly Blue Book value, and if everything went right, I’d be getting a decent deal.

I bought the car. I got all the work done. And as I drove it home, I thought, I can’t believe I’ve just bought a convertible! Hello, LA life! It felt a little strange, a little ostentatious, but hey — if I didn’t buy a convertible now, when would I ever?

The next day it rained. As I read the paper over breakfast (pausing to peruse an article about the epic drought then afflicting Southern California), I wondered idly whether my new car’s soft convertible top was completely watertight, or whether there might be some bit of leakage. It was a pretty strong downpour.

I finished breakfast and headed out to the car. You know what happens next.

Friends, it was a rainforest inside. Water dripped down from along the windows, through a hole in the roof, through a bad seam where the rear window was. It was cataclysmic. This car didn’t need airbags; it needed life vests.

I called the woman I’d bought it from and shrieked at her, while she repeatedly insisted, “It’s never leaked before! Really!” She urged me to take it to a mechanic and have it checked out, then call her back.

So I dropped it off at a Mitsubishi dealership (Mistake #3). For a mere $95 (!) they assessed the situation. “It’ll cost $3400 to fix everything,” Francisco the dealer guy told me. “Thank you for your kind opinion,” I replied, wondering through my shock whether I might find some mechanic-in-training to fix it up with duct tape instead.

As I started to pull out of the dealership lot, I decided to put the top back up to make sure everything was still working. It went halfway up and froze, at which point I began shrieking again. “What did you do to the top?! You can’t give me back my car more broken than I brought it to you! That’s just wrong!!” At which point Francisco rolled his eyes and said, “We didn’t do anything. It just broke. What can I tell you?”

What would you do here? Run over the Mitsubishi guy? Threaten a lawsuit? Or slink off in your deeply flawed car, cursing under your breath? I chose Door #3. And then I decided what I had to do: Just sell the damn thing, broken top and all. This was becoming the Money Pit. (Seller lady never returned my repeated calls after I got the estimate, by the way).

satanvertible

I went on vacation, determined to forget about the car, if only for a week. Upon my return, I was feeling all Zen, ready to tackle the problem with renewed optimism and zeal. Maybe I could get the top fixed more cheaply at some non-dealership mechanic, and enjoy it over the summer — why not? If the top had gone bad six months after I bought the car, I’d have chalked it up to ordinary repairs, after. Just because it happened the very day after I bought the thing didn’t mean anything, did it? Such were the mental games I played with myself.

The Sunday after my vacation, I bopped around town in my car running errands, and all was well until my last leg, a short drive home from a local Best Buy. Lo and behold, my “it-leaks-but-at-least-it-runs-well” car, the vehicle one friend had taken to calling the “Satanvertible,” began sputtering and hacking, and the “check engine” light went on, a taunting, yellow beacon in the hot summer air. I made it home, barely, but was then afraid to drive the damn thing, lest we became stranded on some LA highway.

By now, it was clear that these weren’t simple car problems. This was a case of the universe conspiring against me. The woman who’d sold me the car was clearly evil, as was the mechanic who’d neglected to check the top, as was the Mitsubishi dealer who’d taken my $95 and returned the car even more broken. Was this what life in LA had to offer me? Perhaps I should just slink back to Washington, DC, where the liars were all safely ensconced in government rather than the retail or service industries. I felt defeated and depressed.

Another friend recommended a mechanic to me, and I glumly called for a tow truck, afraid to drive the lurching, sputtering car in aggressive LA traffic. When the truck arrived, the guy got out, assessed the angle at which the car was parked, and asked if he could back it into the street so he’d have an easier time hooking it up. “Sure,” I said, and tossed him the keys.

He started it up, and the engine burbled pathetically. “What did you say is wrong with it?” he asked.

“I think something’s wrong with the transmission,” I told him.

“Do you mind if I try something?” he asked. “Let me pop the hood.”

Readers, this random tow truck driver popped the hood, reached into the sputtering mass of metal, pushed a wayward rubber valve cover onto a spark plug (or some such), and the engine commenced to purring. My god! He’d fixed it!! I was overjoyed. He’d repaired what I feared was a $2000 problem for free, but more important, he’d shown me that LA was not a town of pure evil after all — that there were still some decent folks who would do something nice for you, even if they had been staring unabashedly at your breasts in a really irritating way just moments before! From that moment on, I began to feel differently about LA.

I thought of this story today for two reasons. One, I was too tired to write an entirely new TGW post, and this lemon story was ripe for the picking. And two, because after five months of nonstop sunshine, it finally poured like hell this past Friday, only the second time since I’ve lived here that it has rained. The inside of the Satanvertible got soaked once again, reminding me that I need to unload that piece of crap before the drought is truly over.

So. Anyone wanna buy a used convertible? I’ll give you a good price. And I’ll even throw in the existentially comforting knowledge that there are still good people in the world; that car trouble is but a fleeting annoyance in a world of wonders; and that no matter how wet the inside of your car gets, it shall always dry out again.

24 responses to “My friend the Satanvertible”

  1. Oh Godfrey says:

    It was extremely kind of you to omit the detail of who told you to “go for it!” when you called them for advice as to whether or not a red convertible was too clichéd.

    I can’t believe you’re still friends with that jerk!

  2. You do look good in a red convertible, LP. You’ve got to give yourself that.

  3. Rachel says:

    Parrish, of all the brilliant sentences you’ve written, this is one of my favorites:

    Perhaps I should just slink back to Washington, DC, where the liars were all safely ensconced in government rather than the retail or service industries.

    And while I’m heartily sorry about your bad experiences in L.A., it sounds like the good ones (including meeting the fine people giving you enthusiastic–if suspect–car-buying advice) have more than balanced them out.

    Bryan’s right–when you buy again, don’t throw out the convertible baby with the car-trouble bathwater!

  4. Jeremy Zitter says:

    an earlier version of this was posted on (gasp!) another website? i thought TGW had exclusivity rights!

  5. Jen says:

    Darling. Sell the goddamn car.

  6. Trixie Honeycups says:

    i think it would be cool if you got a horse and buggy.

  7. Jen says:

    Yes, let’s all get horses and buggies!! Trixie, you’re a genius!

  8. Trixie Honeycups says:

    thankyou for noticing.

  9. stephanie wells says:

    Riding in a buggy behind a horse’s ass would still fling less shit in your face than that car.

  10. LT says:

    the demonized car still doesn’t dim that lil’ halo of yours.

  11. Dave says:

    Sell the car but get another convertible. It’s my fantasy of L.A. With a special hood and visor for driving around, of course. Keeps out the alpha rays, Max. You don’t get old.

  12. Marleyfan says:

    I’ll give you $100.00, but you’ll have to deliver it to Washington…

  13. LP says:

    #1: He has innumerable fine qualities that compensate easily for that one small error in judgment.
    #2, #3: Duly noted, thank you. Bryan, I especially liked hearing you say how natural it seemed for me to come pick you up in a hot red sportscar. I still always picture myself behind the wheel of a champagne-colored ’93 Saturn, so this was welcome news.
    #4: That’s what that other site thought, too.
    #10: LT, I love you.
    #11: Dave, I am all about fulfilling your fantasies of LA. As best I can, anyway.
    #12: Sold.

  14. Tim Wager says:

    I feel duty bound to confess that I, too, advised you to go ahead and buy that little red number. I’m with Jen, though: it’s time to sell it. I could still picture you behind the wheel of a red convertible, but perhaps something more like this.

  15. Jen says:

    I don’t know…. that looks like a penis….albeit a small one. I don’t think Parrish swings that way, babe.

  16. Dave says:

    that looks like signifies a penis….albeit a small one.

  17. J-Man says:

    WhatEVER.

  18. Marleyfan says:

    Marleyfan is indeed alive, albeit very tired-work (implementing a new program), kids’ volleyball, baseball, and CATS musical rehearsals…

    Thought I seldom comment, I almost always find time to check-in.

    And welcome back Parish, missed you (and Dr. Cedarbrook too, is he STILL on his honeymoon?)

    To heck with Obama and Hillary- Marleyfan in ’08!

  19. Stella says:

    It may be a small consolation but the electric system of the 93 champagne-colored saturn that was kindly donated to stella completely failed one hot august morning driving down 13th street. furthermore, the windows and doors are still manually operated. and the birds that live in the poop tree still poop on the car. so the satanvertible may be a lemon, but on sunny days you win the cool stakes. and i know that’s a relief.

  20. Trixie Honeycups says:

    i want to plant a poop tree

  21. Bryan says:

    trixie, if we ever play together in a band, can that be the name of it?

  22. Bryan says:

    maybe miranda july will play miscellaneous percussion.

  23. Trixie Honeycups says:

    bryan,
    absolutely. and if we can get miranda july in on it, all the better.
    maybe jeremy could recruit her next time he sees her about town.
    have a good day, my poop blossoms
    xo trixie