Requiem for a Hyundai

Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that Pedro is dead.

Pedro was my 1987 Hyundai Excel whose passenger door only opened from the outside and whose hood was horribly disfigured as a result of an accident that occurred prior to my owning it, and also as a result of my doing somersaults over it as a means of impressing the easily impressed.

In the 2 1/2 years I owned him, Pedro provided me with good, reliable service for a total of about 10 minutes. Actually, he may have run well for longer than that. Perhaps he performed properly for the auto mechanics who, in a bizarre automotive joint-custody situation, had possession of him 11 months out of the year.

It may comfort you to know that Pedro died quietly in his sleep. Unfortunately, he fell asleep while I was driving him. I was on the freeway when Pedro suddenly stopped making any noise, and despite my heartfelt cursings and beatings, he refused to start again. I knew without even looking that whatever was wrong, I couldn’t fix it, so I set out on foot in search of a working pay phone. (Finding a pay phone is easy. Finding a WORKING one, well, that’s something else.)

I found a phone, deposited a quarter and dialed the number to my apartment. Then the phone told me I had to deposit another dollar. This is because I was in Orem, and my phone number in Provo started with the new 812- prefix that was all the rage at that time, and the phone didn’t recognize it yet. It thought 812- was long-distance. (What a stupid phone.)

So I hung up, but the phone refused to give me my money back. This caused a great rumbling of anger to boil up in me, and I called the operator to ask for a free call. This she gave me — but there was no one home at my apartment. So I thought I’d try one of my friends. Not thinking, I put in a quarter and tried to dial. The phone not only didn’t connect the call, it also didn’t give me my money back. And this was all the cash I had. I can say with great confidence that I was now more angry than anyone has ever been in the history of the world. No longer caring the repercussions, I began to beat on the phone with the receiver, hoping to break something, anything. Snapping my wrist in two with the force of my beatings would have been sufficient. I just wanted there to be breakage.

Well, nothing broke. They make those pay phones pretty sturdy, and my wrists are thick and meaty. In retrospect, I can understand why the phone didn’t break. I mean, if you’re going to manufacture non-working pay phones, it stands to reason that you’re going to make them strong enough to withstand the fury that will surely come each time someone tries to use them. Otherwise, they’d all be broken after one day.

After I’d exhausted myself trying to destroy the phone, I walked a small distance to UVSC, in the hopes that they not only had telephones — they just got electricity last spring, after all — but that they had a courtesy phone, too. As luck would have it, there was a courtesy phone (a push-button one, even!), and I was successfully picked up by a friend.

Once I got home, I called a tow truck. Naturally, I had neglected to leave the keys in the car, which meant I had to go back out there again and meet the tow truck guy. We arranged a meeting, and I told him to tow Pedro back to a mechanic’s place right across the street from my apartment. (This is so I can look out my bedroom window and make sure they’re actually working on the car, as opposed to just sitting on the hood, smoking. This is what they usually mean when you call and they say, “I have two of my best men on it right now.” They mean there are two guys literally ON your car, listening to country music on your radio.)

The tow truck got there faster than I did, and by the time I arrived, the mechanic and tow truck guy had already determined that Pedro was not worth saving. Seems he had been burning oil — and who among us hasn’t done that at one point or another? — and once he had burned up all his oil, his engine had seized up. It was the automotive equivalent of a massive coronary. The only way to fix Pedro would have been to give him a new engine, which would have cost more than he and I were worth put together.

So the tow truck guy and I pushed the dead Pedro across the street to my apartment complex’s parking lot, where he sat, decomposing, for a good two months while I figured out what to do with him. All the wrecking yards I called wouldn’t pay more than $25 for him, and I didn’t figure it was worth $25 to have to sit around all day waiting for a guy to show up to haul my piece of junk away. So I considered pushing Pedro into a BYU parking lot and letting BYU tow him off. Then, when the towing yard called to say they had my car, I would just tell them to keep it, like a wealthy philanthropist. But I figured rather than towing it, BYU would probably just give me 10,000 tickets. Even after the car had sat there for weeks and weeks, the BYU traffic “officers” would keep piling more tickets on. Some of them would probably make it part of their daily rounds to stop by and give Pedro another ticket. Then they would walk away, whistling, thinking they were doing such a marvelous service, as they headed up to the Wilkinson Center to ignore all the cars parked in the red zones and give tickets to the ones that had been parked for 16 minutes in the 15-minute zones.

And besides, there were no BYU lots close enough to push the car to. Then we got word that my apartment complex was going to pave the lot across the street from us. They sent around a notice that any car left in that lot during this certain week would be … TOWED. My friends and I, under cover of darkness, pushed Pedro across the street to that lot and left him there. He was eventually towed, and now I imagine he has been recycled — reborn, if you will — perhaps this time as a good car, or maybe a can of tuna.

So let us not mourn the passing of Pedro. Let us remember instead that he was a piece of junk, and that we got him for free from our parents in the first place, and that we have replaced him with a brand-new car on which we will be making payments well into the 22nd century, and which is already having engine trouble. Then let us wish we could just buy a bicycle.


[ This column, which you’ll notice is not terribly funny, was written out of necessity more than anything else. Pedro died in July 1998 — six months before this column — but people who read the old columns about him would occasionally e-mail me and send their regards to him (what, I’m a message service for my freakin’ car?). It was awkward to have to explain to everyone that Pedro didn’t exist anymore, so I figured this column would get the word out.
UVSC was Utah Valley State College. (I wrote a song about it.) It’s the “other” college in the Provo area, constantly (and deservedly) living in the shadow of BYU. It used to be a technical school; then it became Utah Valley Community College; here it had been a state college for a few years; and then it achieved its final form as Utah Valley University. The perception was that it’s easy to get into UVSC, that classes were simple, and that it was only a school for BYU rejects. As with most stereotypes, many of these perceptions were quite accurate, and UVSC was the butt of many a joke back in the day, less so now that it’s a semi-legit university. ]