My old car got wrecked a few months ago, as you know, and I subsequently flew to Ohio to pick up a free 1994 Geo Prizm from Auntie Karen. But whatever became of that wrecked 1995 Toyota Tercel? That is the question that countless (i.e., no) people have asked me, and its story folds in nicely with the continuing saga of the ’94 Geo Prizm, which it turns out is the victim of a gypsy curse.
The Tercel was totaled, and the insurance company had told me they didn’t care what I did with it. (The general sense I got from Progressive was that they didn’t care about anything.) Two months had passed and the car was still parked in front of my apartment, all smashed and battered like the display at one of those “don’t drink and drive” assemblies we used to have in high school. I hadn’t felt like dealing with it. I knew from experience that it’s hard to just throw a car away. Most cars are too large to fit in your standard garbage cans. And you can’t just leave it on the curb for the trash collectors to take, because the curb is where ALL the cars are, and the trash collectors don’t know which ones are trash and which ones are just parked there.
I thought about doing what people do with old couches and bookcases they don’t want and just putting a sign on the car that said, “FREE CAR. RUNS GOOD.” I’d leave the keys in it, too, and just let someone come take it. Someone did that a few weeks ago with a TV, one of those old giant sets that weigh a thousand pounds and take up half the room. The sign they’d taped to it said, “FREE. WORKS. COLOR,” and they’d just left the thing on the grass next to the sidewalk. It sat there for a week, being rained on regularly, before it disappeared. My theory on why it finally got taken was that the “FREE” sign blew away, leading passersby to think it belonged to someone — maybe someone was moving in nearby, and they’d momentarily left it there — and so they “stole” it. Nobody wants to take something for nothing unless they think someone else wants it.
Finally I opened the Yellow Pages and started calling wrecking yards. I chose the ones whose ads said they paid $$$$ for cars, “$$$$” being how phonebook ads for wrecking yards spell “money.” I called three places. Two of them said they’d pay $75; the third said they’d pay $100. When I called that one back the next day to take them up on their offer, the man I spoke to said the going rate was $75. I said, “The guy I talked to yesterday said $100.” He replied, “Oh, OK, I’ll put down $100, then. The driver will have to look at the car when he gets there anyway.”
About 30 minutes later, a tow-truck driver showed up to take my car away. He looked it over, appearing to be very thoughtful and methodical in his approach, then said, “Looks like $75 is what we can give you for it.” As he said this, he pulled his hand out of his pants pocket and revealed it to contain a wad of bills totaling exactly $75. It was all the cash he’d brought with him. Good thing it turned out to be all the car was worth! What a lucky coincidence!
Before he got there, I’d removed everything I needed from the car. There wasn’t much: my spare eyeglasses, a CD or two, some Butterfinger wrappers I’d grown fond of. I thought about taking out the CD player. It was a fairly decent one, nothing special, but the Prizm had an even better one, so I didn’t need to transfer this one over. I thought about selling it at a pawn shop. But I knew all I’d get for it was maybe 20 bucks, and to remove it I’d have to get a screwdriver and hassle with the Tercel’s dashboard and console, and then I’d actually have to go to a pawn shop, which I try to avoid because those places always make me sad because it’s like seeing people’s dreams and ambitions on display in glass cases, and meh, it wasn’t worth it. Let the auto wreckers have the CD player. Let them play their Def Leppard and Nickelback albums on it before they do whatever it is they do to the cars they collect.
So the guy hauled the car away, and I moved the Prizm from around the corner where I’d been parking it to where the Tercel had been, my usual spot, there on the street in front of my apartment. Life continued as normal.
Then, two weeks later, someone broke into the Prizm and stole the stereo.
Now, it could have been worse. They just broke that little triangle-shaped window on the passenger side of the back seat, rather than one of the main windows. They didn’t tear apart the dashboard any more than was necessary to remove the stereo. They didn’t try to hot-wire the car or jimmy the locks or anything. I was actually pretty impressed with their efficiency. As roving bands of thieves go, these guys were highly skilled.
They apparently didn’t even open the glove compartment, which is good, because if they had they’d have seen that the spare ignition key was in there. I DON’T KNOW WHY it was there, it just was. Don’t worry, it’s not there anymore. Now I keep it in the trunk.
At first I didn’t believe anybody stole the stereo. I thought someone took it so they could return it to me. But then I realized I was thinking of that stupid clown story from last week, and my stereo really was gone for good.
If only I’d taken the stereo out of the Tercel before I junked it! I thought. I tried to console myself: Even if I had kept that stereo, I wouldn’t STILL have it; it would be in a pawn shop by now. But I knew that was a lie. In the parallel universe where I did keep the Tercel’s stereo, it was months, perhaps even years, before I got around to selling it. I know this about myself. One time when I moved apartments and was trying to consolidate my belongings, I had two car stereos and three VCRs waiting for the pawn shop, all of which had been sitting around, waiting for the pawn shop, since the LAST time I had moved apartments. So now, a mere two weeks after junking the Tercel, there’s no way I would have already sold the stereo. My laziness would have ensured that I still had it, and thus a replacement for when the Prizm’s stereo got ripped off. But instead, my laziness had prevented me from having a stereo at all. When will my laziness ever pay off?!?
Clearly I was not meant to own a car.
As luck would have it, my fat brother Jeff just traded in his car for a minivan, and he had the good sense to take his CD player out of his old car first, and he's now been kind enough to give it to me. Of course, I'll need to get that window replaced before I install the new stereo -- that, or move to a better neighborhood.