Ed’s been teaching me how to drive manual transmission for a while, and he’s been after me to trade cars for a week so I would be forced to get more comfortable with it. Ed’s car is not exactly a nice car. Ed’s car is a 1997 Volvo 850 with terrible air conditioning, broken radio buttons, old leather seats that look like the Ringwraith-stabbed pillows in the Prancing Pony, and a headliner (interior roof fabric) that’s held in place by a lattice of thumbtacks. It has a Kelly Blue Book trade-in value of $64. For the whole car.
However, it does have a manual transmission and I’ve been making no real improvement in that skill recently. I finally decided to take the plunge and borrow the thing.
And so, around 20:00 on Friday, 26 July, I relinquished my little red PT Cruiser and took Ed’s car. About halfway home I realized that this was my first time driving a standard without anyone else in the car. I didn’t stall, but I think my slow acceleration was aggravating to every other driver on the road. Most of the next few days went like that, where I accelerated slowly but stalled seldom (unless something was disrupting my focus and I forgot what the clutch was for – sorry Ed). I made some improvements and got more comfortable driving a stick, but I was starting to think, “Gee, this will make for a very boring story.”
Then Tuesday happened.
Ed had been avoiding my car. For three full days he had been using his motorcycle exclusively, even when there was a pretty good chance of rain.
“Do you have a problem with my car?” I’d asked, as if I didn’t know the answer.
“Yes. No!” he corrected almost immediately.
He said it’s because it’s an automatic, but I’m pretty sure he also hates the horrible turning radius and also the fact that it’s an adorable little PT Cruiser. Yet, alas, after three and a half days the motorbike was no longer enough. Tuesday came, and he needed to bring a cooler full of ice twenty minutes up the highway. “Maybe I could bungee-cord it to the back of my motorcycle…” But of course, Ed’s sensible enough that he sucked it up and took my car even though he hated it. What I didn’t realize was that my car hated Ed back.
I got a text from Ed at 22:08 [dear = gear]:
The last thing I need is a $2000 (or more) car repair! Suggestions were made about what else it could be (snapped cable?), but it didn’t look good. I told Ed to have it towed to Alternative Automotive because my parents trust Howard, and I went and got Ed so he could go home. I called Howard the next morning to make sure my car was received and the problem was understood, and that afternoon I got a call back.
“I have a PT Cruiser ready for you!”
“What was wrong with it?” I asked.
“Well…the axle broke. In half. It’s an inch thick diameter of solid steel, and it broke in half.”
“…how does that happen?”
Apparently, judging by the rust that already existed in the place where the axle had cracked, there was a fracture in it at the time it was manufactured and it was just “waiting for a time to break.” Which means Ed was probably not actually driving my car like he was on Dukes of Hazzard.
Wait a minute. “Waiting for a time to break”?
Yes. My car actually waited to break until Ed was driving my car, after he had shown hatred and neglect for my poor vehicle. Fortunately, it was like a $180 repair. After getting my car back, Ed and I still kept each other’s cars until Sunday afternoon. The conclusion of this little adventure? I’m better at driving a standard, but I’m a little suspicious of my own vehicle’s integrity. I probably will want some kind of foreign car with a manual transmission in the future, something that has an excellent reputation for reliability. And the official story being passed around is, as our friend Rachelle so gleefully put it, that “Ed broke Rae’s car!”