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April 30, 2003

Posted by Teresa at 01:50 AM *

For the record: It was a 1988 white Honda Civic Hatchback, blue upholstery, license plate 5YF 600. I should have noted the mileage. I’ve had it for fourteen years. I loved it dearly.

It was the best car that ever was. It survived many mishaps, and danced innumerable fandangos. It sassed New York taxis, went light-footedly through blizzards, and carried improbable loads.

I found it on Staten Island. We’d been shopping for a car, and had visited asst’d other dealerships and driven their cars, and been judgemental but uncommitted. Then we went to Staten Island Honda. I settled down to talk car with the salesman, letting Patrick and Scraps wander off. They’re not car guys, those two. I was deep in a discussion with the salesman when Patrick reappeared, tugging at my sleeve. I excused myself and impatiently went to see what he’d found.

It was a white Civic Hatchback with blue upholstery, a floor model. I sat down behind the wheel, adjusted the mirror, ran the gearshift through its sequence — and suddenly knew without any doubt that this was My Car, and that it needed to be rescued from this place Right Now, before someone took advantage of its vulnerable position.

I went back to the salesman and worked out a fairly advantageous deal. Then I took my car home.

We had fine adventures.

This evening, the police showed up at my door. They’d been summoned by Peter, owner of the Saturn. I’d parked behind him earlier this evening. The hit-and-run driver of a green Jeep Cherokee had rear-ended my poor car so hard that its front end was driven deep under the Saturn, lifting that car’s rear wheels off the ground. The back of my car is shattered and deeply staved in. Parts of its rear luggage compartment broke loose and were thrown forward against the back of the front seats.

The police estimate the driver was doing at least forty miles an hour, at night, on a narrow ill-lit residential street. The police estimate that the driver was drunk.

It’s still a good car. It started right up, and I backed it out from under the Saturn. Then I put my head down on the steering wheel and cried, because it had started up just like it always did. I drove it to a parking lot after making a tight U-turn on 5th Avenue. It beeped at me the whole way, conscientiously advising me that one of its doors wasn’t properly shut.

I think I’m coping.

Cars are like dogs. Some are better than others. A few, you love. And you always outlive them.

Addendum: This morning I sorted things out with a Mr. John Stockinger at Geico, who was kind and helpful and thoroughly professional. I started by confessing my irrational fear that I was about to find out that some form we’d sent in had gone astray and never reached them, after which they’d cancelled our insurance. He actually understood this. (Policy fine, not cancelled. Big relief.)

After we’d gotten it straight that Geico was going to send their tow truck to the parking garage to haul my car off to one of their preferred auto body places for a triage inspection, I walked down to the parking garage to collect my belongings from the car. You can accumulate a lot of stuff over fourteen years.

The parking garage guys were also very helpful. I gather one of them had gotten the day off to a jolly start by scaring a fellow employee with a convincingly upset-sounding report about how one of the cars parked in an employees-only area had gotten its rear end caved in. The victim of this joke had duly gone to see my car. “It just about gave me a heart attack,” he said.

They all agreed that Honda Civic hatchbacks are great cars, but that they’d never heard of an insurance company not totalling a car as badly banged-up as mine.

The process of collecting my stuff was complicated by the sheer amount of shattered glass all over the car’s interior. The top of the back seat couldn’t be touched. It wasn’t just a matter of bits of broken glass sticking to the upholstery; the force of the collision had driven fine splinters of glass straight into the seat padding, and they stuck straight out like cholla spines.

Really, it was just as well we weren’t around for that.

And my car gave me an inexplicable parting gift. Back in the rear luggage compartment, underneath the midden of spare windshield washer fluid, WD-40, motor oil, Smofcon ice scrapers, rust remover, spare tail light bulbs, paper towels, plastic bags, first aid supplies, and the H. B. Fenn cold-weather breakdown kit—clear down at the bottom, underneath the jumper cables and the vise grip—I found a complete rappelling harness. I’ve been wanting a rappelling harness for my own peace of mind, but I know I didn’t beg, borrow, steal, receive, or purchase this one, and I don’t remember it being there the last time I did a full-scale packing job on the car. It’s a complete mystery.

Comments on Lamentations:
#1 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 02:59 AM:

Teresa, I'm sorry to hear about your car.

One of the tough things is that there are no funerals or other mourning rituals that help us let go and say goodbye as we do with people or pets. Watching the tow truck carry it away, or leaving it behind at the dealer's when you trade it in, is hardly the same thing. When I traded my first car in for the one I have now, I almost felt like I was abandoning it, or worse, betraying it. I could barely stand one last look as a "goodbye" as I drove off in my new car.

But you have all those wonderful memories of your Honda, and of all the places it took you to. And I hope whatever car you get now, painful as the thought must be so soon, will also be brave and great of heart and last for many years and take you many more places.

#2 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 03:06 AM:

Oh no! Poor car! And poor you! And I was only thinking yesterday about driving with you last summer. And now I have to think about all the other times as well. It was a great car, an adventurous car, a car with a seemingly endless capacity to fit in people and luggage. The next one has a lot to live up to

#3 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 03:50 AM:

Teresa, I'm so sorry. It was indeed a good ole hoss. You may recall that I drove it at least once briefly. Don't know what else to do but offer my sympathy.

#4 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 07:40 AM:

I have to admit, my first thought was "Thank God you two weren't in it at the time." But I also understand the feelings of loss, pain (and rage), and regret. I'm remembering my first vehicle, a full-size van that provided many years good service to me and to many passengers who traveled to SCA events all over the East Coast in it.

Best wishes for the cops to track down the drunk. Maybe there'll be some way to recover some money from the motherless son of iniquity, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that score. It would be good though if steps could be taken to try to discourage a repeat performance that does result in injury or death.

#5 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 08:15 AM:

I'm sorry to hear this news; you seem to be having a rough spell at present. I too remember your car, and indeed feel responsible for one of its parking tickets.

Mostly, though, I've drifted into a reverie about why it is that I don't feel about cars this way. At first I thought 'ah, but you feel about *computers* this way', but in fact I don't. For both computers and cars, once they're past the shiny new stage I pretty much just treat them as tools.

On the other hand, I *do* mourn houses I've lived in, and hate the fact that you can't normally go back to them to wander around and see how they've turned out.

#6 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 08:43 AM:

Please accept the condolences of another former Civic hatchback owner who lost her car in much the same way (4-car pileup in which my car was driven under the car in front of it). I have been known to refer to my Civic as "cruelly murdered" by the guy in the Blazer who plowed into the line of cars stopped for a light.

Good luck finding a new car and collecting on damages for the deceased, too.

#7 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 09:09 AM:

Oh, losing a faithful car like that hurts. I totalled my '89 Escort twice in three weeks. Only the second time did the totalling render the poor thing undriveable. I didn't deserve that car.

Sympathies, and good luck finding a suitable new comrade.

#8 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 09:17 AM:


Condolences on the car! I know just how you feel. My last one, a Dodge Spirit, made over 150,000 miles without nary a hitch until about the last 10K. I hated turning it in when I got a new one.

I have no doubt a lot of people here have stories about their cars—some of which may have saved their lives.

About 16 years ago when I was driving a used '77 Ford LTD—a real monster I got from a friend of my dad's (all we seemed to drive in those days were castoffs of political friends of my dad's but that's another tale). A guy ran a red light at a large intersection near Columbia Point going at about 40 mph and crashed right into the left front of my car as I was going through. My car went off at 45 degrees, up over an island, cut down a street lamp that landed on the roof; and up I went onto a sidewalk which split open the gas tank of the car.

I was fine. I wouldn't have been if that old monster had been any smaller or lighter than it was. I still remember Billy Joel's "Don't Forget Your Second Wind" was playing on the radio.

#9 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 09:27 AM:

Sorry to hear about your car. The pain of losing it will only be compounded, alas, by the car payments that the new kid will bring along.
I feel for you. It will take years to get over this, and *even if they had plates on the ba$+ard, he would not even get a ticket*. I know. Happened to one of my cars.


#10 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 09:33 AM:

Oh, crap! I am so sorry, Teresa! What a horrible helpless thing for your poor car, to be at the wrong place at the wrong time (at least you were not inside). Hopefully they might catch the hit-and-run driver, and they will compensate you, or your insurance.

May your new car -- whatever and whenever -- be as much of a friend for you as this one had been. Condolences!

#11 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 10:09 AM:

I'm sad to learn of the loss of your good and faithful servant, and not surprised that the end came when it was unable to anticipate, maneouvre, and avoid the drunken driver who smote it so cruelly.

I hope I'm premature in referring to its loss: any possibility the insurance company could be talked into straightening the frame and repairing the body work?

#12 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 10:24 AM:

T., I'm so sorry to hear about the beloved Honda. I think of it dearly, sitting in my driveway, waiting patiently for you to drive it home to NYC from New Hampshire. Its little white presence there is still something I anticipate sometimes when I'm driving down the street. I'm glad it's been able to carry so far away from home to visit with us here -- I hope perhaps it, or another car that will become beloved, can carry you here in the future.

#13 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:05 AM:

Oh dear Teresa, I'm so sorry. I never got to ride in you car as many of the commenters have, but I'm sure I'd have enjoyed it too. We had an Acura Integra for many years, also made by Honda, and I still miss that car. Sigh.


#14 ::: Milan ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:08 AM:

The story about/behind the car is really moving. Sorry for your loss. I'm sure another car is somewhere to be rescued......

#15 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:20 AM:

A drunk driver in a Jeep Cherokee, driving 40 mph down poorly lit residential streets, slamming into cars (possibly deliberately) and running off with almost no likelihood of the perp getting so much as a ticket? You never told me you lived in Dallas...

#16 ::: Betsy Devine ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:47 AM:

I still cherish 2 photos of my dearest old car, a 1983 Ford wagon that I drove back and forth across the country every summer, my two daughters in back with poke bonnets to keep off the sun, pretending we were all in a covered wagon.

One is a photo of the dear dead car, transmission dead, riding high on a car carrier, off to a new life doing something good for some charity. The other is a photo my older daughter took, years after we settled back east, of the inside of the back seat where she and her sister spent so many happy hours. But your eulogy will serve the same purpose for you--perhaps even better.

#17 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:57 AM:

Cars are like dogs. Some are better than others. A few, you love. And you always outlive them. Too true. My wife and I have stopped giving our cars names, hoping that it would make it easier. It doesn't.

I currently drive a 94 Dakota with nearly 200K on it an it still runs like a dream. I may have to give it up due to arthritis in my left ankle (it's a standard) and I was starting to think of being buried in it . . .

Crying is a good thing at a time like this. There are objects like cars and houses that are, somehow, the corkboard that memories get tacked to. When we lose that object, we know we are losing a connection to many memories we treasure.

May your search for new wheels be short, pleasant, inexpensive, and exceedingly successful.

#18 ::: Cathy ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 12:07 PM:

From our 1990 white Civic hatchback with the blue interior--gosh NY Honda, we know how you feel, someone just ran into us the other month. Luckily he stopped and gave his name (well, I sorta blocked him in until he did it!) But my air conditioning is about to stop running so I'm on the way out too.

It was a good 13 years. Our Saturn doesn't begin to compare to the wonder that was this Civic.

#19 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 12:28 PM:

It was the best car that ever was.

Better even than Hester? Now I don't feel so bad.

Your sad description of starting it up and driving it to a lot made me think of nothing so much as the Bill Mauldin drawing of the G.I. holding a pistol to the hood of his broken-down jeep, turning his head away in sorrow and misery.

#20 ::: Pfish ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 12:44 PM:

There's this Ikea commercial where you see a little red lamp being carried outside and placed next to a garbage can. Sad music plays. It begins to rain. You see through the window above the garbage can that the new owners have a new lamp. The new lamp lights the dreary outside world with a soft warm glow. Sad music continues to play.

Camera pans to a little old man, who says in a distinct accent: "You are feeling sorry for this lamp, aren't you? That is because you are crazy."

Crazy? Maybe....but it's the kind of crazy that knows that this car or this lamp has seen a lot of your life. It's a good, fuzzy, warm kind of crazy where you think that if you talk to your belongings they might somehow hear you, somehow perform better, somehow live longer. They hate to be abandoned, they loved you, you love them.

And I'm crazy. I feel sad about your car. It (he or she?) sounded like a good car that served you long and well.

#21 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 12:59 PM:

Condolences from us, and our red Civic hatchback. I have very fond memories of adventures in yours.

I have some hopes that since it started up, and you could drive it to the lot, that it can be healed and restored to you.

#22 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 01:04 PM:

Condolences from another 1988 Civic Hatchback owner. Great cars that handle magnificently and, as noted, can haul a lot of crap. (Back when I lived on L.I., it regularly hauled six SF fans on a weekly run to a greek diner.)

Back in 2000, mine was rear-ended by a pickup hauling a boat that couldn't stop in time. I was lucky, I guess; except for a bumber that sags one one side, some dents, and a busted tail light (which I pain-stakingly reassembled with fiberglass and epoxy) it was OK.

I'd been saving for a new car for years. I figured I'd keep the Civic for a few more months. I put the insurance payoff in a new car fund.

A move to Oregon, two years, and 28,000 miles later, I still have it. 220,500 miles. The new car fund has enough in it to buy 1.5 Civics (or three Kias!) but I'm patient. The idea of a 2005 Civic Hybrid Hatch is tempting.

#23 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 01:15 PM:

The idea of a 2005 Civic Hybrid Hatch is tempting.

Yeah, by then, the worst of the bugs should be worked out. Remember, kids, don't install .0 operating systems, and don't by first-year new cars (or first years after a major redesign.) Cars are complex, and waiting a year or two will mean you don't spend tons of time in the dealership getting recall problems fixed.

Of course, with the inanity that is automobile marketing, I expect the 2005 modles to hit the dealerships in about a month.

#24 ::: michael r weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 01:47 PM:

I suppose more than anything else it's a measure of my pitiful inability to accurately gauge the appropriateness of my own emotions, but I recall the first really deep grief I ever felt was during the long, dark night following the day my parents sold the only car I had ever, to that point in my life, known. I suppose I was six or so. I lay in bed that night, weeping silently (lest my older brother across the room hear me) for the poor, lonely car, sent away to live with strangers, people who could never love it as much as we did. Even though I had taken the damned thing completely for granted, of course, all those first few years of my life.

I guess I was a Nervous Boy. Oh, and I played with dolls, too, much to my father's fairly insistent dismay. :)

#25 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 02:18 PM:

Poor Teresa. Poor hatchback. I lost my first car to a similar act of random stupidity. In my case, the perp was a guy in a pickup truck who had dropped a mattress in the road. I managed to miss the mattress, but when you're driving 55 mph on a dark evening in Christmas eve traffic, and some brain-trust tries to back up a half-ton pickup in the fast lane of a freeway with no shoulder, he's kind of hard to miss.

I had just made the final payment on that car two weeks before. Dammit. It still burns me up. He did get ticketed, though. And I got my deductible back. There may be hope for you, Teresa.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 03:05 PM:

I have never owned a car, so I can't really know what you must be feeling, though your writing conveys it vividly enough. I'm very sorry for your loss, and my wishes for the best possible outcome (whatever it may be) go out to you.

Do you want magic? Email me.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 03:06 PM:

Hell, these are mostly fans. I shoulda used the word 'grok' and be damned. I know what you're feeling, because you told us, and very eloquently. But as a never-owned-a-car guy, I can't grok it in fullness.

#28 ::: Janis ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Poor baby car. I always feel like people look at me a little strange when I talk about my car as if it were a beloved pet. They do so much for us and work so hard. My oldest brother feels the same way, and he's the only person I can talk to on the phone and tell him about leaving the car at a train station parking lot with a flat tire and being worried that it's scared because it's mommy isn't there with it. *rolls eyes at self* He restores old cars for a hobby, so he definitely knows the feeling.

They're good, hard-working devices, and it's reasonable to care about them.

#29 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 04:49 PM:

Look on the bright side: the Honda Civic Si is a brilliant little car with the smoothest stick action imaginable and, tardis-like, is bigger on the inside than the outside (my girlfriend has one).

You could get one of those. You would probably like it a lot.

#30 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 05:16 PM:

Teresa, I'm sorry. What an awful way to lose a car! I am glad that you and Patrick weren't in it at the time, though.

Bob, unfortunately, an impact like that, front and back, the frame would never be sound again, and the insurance company is very unlikely to be willing to take the chance. Valiant little car though it is, some risks are not worth taking.

#31 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 05:22 PM:

You know, drunk drivers--it's a law really --never actually have insurance when they hit you! My husband was parked--PARKED--in a lot perusing a map when a drunk driver's car litrally flew over the embankment and smashed into his car so hard, it was moved several parking spaces over.

He was lucky.

And despite the loss of your dear old friend, you two are lucky, too. I shudder thinking about you actually being IN the car when all this happened. We would be mourning something infinitely more precious to all of us right now.


#32 ::: David Greenbaum ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 06:02 PM:

Terrible news - the unexpected death of a beloved jalopy hits hard. Very Glad potential occupants elsewhere at crash-time. Buy a new puppy soon, and own it another another trouble-free fifteen years.

I and my '90 Daytona groan in sympathy as the Daytona undergoes a tank/fuel pump transplant. This may be the last repair for Pooky, who is starting to rust out. 170,000 miles (100,000) are mine, and Pooky doesn't burn oil, doesn't make noise, and hauls crap like a champ, but we're in the last year, I think.

One day, I need to tell you about the brainwave I had that caused the demise of my beloved '87 Pontiac wagon. Causing accidents, from 500 miles away!

#33 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 06:34 PM:

Teresa, condolences. It may be harder to deal with if you thought the car was safely parked; my first got whacked that way twice before I had to give up on it. (The first time was "lucky"; the space in front was a driveway, so the frame and the front end weren't damaged -- but the car was towed as an obstacle and the cops didn't try to notify me the day I was supposed to drive fellow folkdancers to a beach....)

Paul Ruddell: Dallas isn't the only place where hit-and-runners get away with a lot; when I was the first of five cars (and a fire hydrant) damaged by a drunken idiot in Boston, the officer trying to cope with the mess said he assumed the owner would report the car stolen. (Not bloody likely with something that was blowing more smoke than anything I've seen rolling under its own power, but with an image car like a Jeep Cherokee it's not impossible.)

#34 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 06:34 PM:

A place to visit if you need to understand the ephemeral nature of vehicles: A pick-your-own part lot.

I visited one in search of a brake light housing for my DX. It was . . . dread-full. An end of the line, no-illusions place. Row after row of hulks, some piled atop the other, all without tires. Some were missing just a headlight casing or mirrors. Others were stripped down to the frame.

It's awful to contemplate your trusty flivver ending up in such a place, but it will, unless you arrange a viking funeral.

I hope to donate my Civic Hatch to charity while it is still driveable. Then I'll have at least the illusion that some teen might buy it to turn into a roadster*, or that a poor family will get a few years of service out of it.

* Do people on the East Coast know that 88-89 Civic Hatchbacks are favored raw material for illegal street racers?

#35 ::: John Isbell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 06:58 PM:

I love my Honda. Sorry about yours, you wrote it the best car memorial I've ever read.
Bush and Cheney have three drunk driving arrests between them. Not good, but hit and run is worse.

#36 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 07:56 PM:

Another Civic owner here (1989, 250K miles) expresses sympathies on your loss.

#37 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 08:43 PM:

Another former owner of an '82 Honda Civic hatchback nods in agreement.

I know someone with one of the new hybrid Civics. He just loves it.

#38 ::: Kate Salter ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 08:44 PM:

Teresa, My deepest sympathies. As it's been said, thank g-d you folks weren't in the car at the time. This of course doesn't help the feeling that someone was callus enough to take away your best friend when your back was turned.

I hope you can find a car that you are comfortable with to replace your incomparable one.


#39 ::: Lucy ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 10:41 PM:

Wait. You've been wanting a rappelling harness for your own peace of mind? Because you'd so often need to rappell ... where? You live in a ground floor apartment.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 10:44 PM:

You've seen that place I work?

#41 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:04 PM:

I've been known to do spirit-transfer rituals between sets of computer hardware.

That rapelling harness rather makes me think that similar ritual could well be regarded as appropriate at the completion of any car-shopping tasks you should find yourself needing to perform.

#42 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2003, 11:14 PM:

Car shopping? No time soon, for the same reason I wasn't at Minicon.

#43 ::: Tim Frayser ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 12:52 AM:

My God. It must be like losing a family member. I am so sorry.

#44 ::: John Owen ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 07:01 AM:

Sorry to hear about the probable demise of your faithful Honda, for such a stupid reason, too. I too had a Honda Civic Hatchback, a brilliant little car, which I kept for about five years, swapping it for a new Accord Aerodeck. A couple of other Hondas followed after (we trade up after every 5 years, doing far too many miles a year to chance keeping them longer), and now I'm looking for around for my first non Honda car in twenty years (the new Civic being too small, the new Accord too big!)and it's damned difficult figuring out which other car company can offer similar reliability, performance and value for money. My sympathies for your loss.

#45 ::: Sue Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 07:19 AM:

Poor car, poor Teresa.

My first car, old blue Ford Escort rust bucket went to the Great Car Park in the Sky when the leaks in the bodywork got so bad that the lights kept blowing a fuse due to all the water in it.

Car two, the pretty red Metro I chose because it matched my favourite lipstick was rear ended by some idiot.

Now I have a Nissan Micra, the size of a postage stamp.
It is I am informed by friends, a SPC (silly purple car) and yes, the colour did play a part in choosing it.
I suit purple, I couldn't understand why everyone doesn't want a purple car.

Sadly, the purple suitcase, bought for Taff for only a315 - no one else seemed to want a bright purple suitcase and now well travelled in the USA, didn't survive the trip home from Minicon.
It came out on the luggage carousel in a humungus plastic sack. Fortunately, nothing was missing or damaged but I suppose the vast piles of tye dye and work clothes bought at Mall of America were the death of it.
I will miss it. The airline will pay for another one but the nice lady said she couldn't guarentee purple for me.

#46 ::: Lisa Firke ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 08:09 AM:

Deepest regrets about the valiant Civic.

While people are bringing forward suggestions for possible replacements, I'll just plug the Toyota Prius. Hybrid engine, great mileage, very nimble, and surprising big inside/small outside.


I've also heard rumors about a Civic hybrid, as well, which might be even better if you're totally brand-loyal.

#47 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 11:00 AM:

It's almost certain Geico will total it -- no insurance company will pay more to replace the car than it's worth. I had a car totaled (a 1983 Dodge "Charger" (in scare quotes, this had nothing to do with the legendary muscle car of yore)) for a broken windshield and rear light. The car was worth $500, the new glass would cost almost $2000. So, they said "Totaled. Here. Have $500." and (then) ended the comprehensive coverage (since, by thier lights, there was no car left to cover.)

My brother went to a junkyard, bought some beat up but servicable glass for $250, and installed it for me for $50. Wasn't the best job, but hey. I paid $200 for the car originally. So, that 1983 Charger, which I got 60K miles out of (and it was over 100K when I got it.)

Finally, the block cracked. It wasn't worth a new engine -- even though a new short block and my labor could have done it for just shy of a $1,000 -- the body was borderline. So, I junked it. Got $200 for it.

End result? Well, I think I made a profit of $200 on that car....

(Next car, no credit, bad rate on a three year loan. Was 18 months in, destroyed by idiot turning left for no reason. Insurance paid that off, used what's left to buy much newer version. I'm two payments from owning that car, and I'll stay in it until forced out. I don't love cars -- they range from a useful tool to a huge pain in the ass -- but I hate monthly payments. If I do have to replace this, it'll be with a hybrid, which should be tweaked tech by that time. This one has 105K, and is going strong -- should hit 200K easy.)

#48 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 11:08 AM:

I just got a scrape on the new $3000 fender that someone's insurance company paid for after their teenage daughter pulled out right in front of me in their Jeep Cherokee. So I feel your pain.

My trusty old Isuzu P'up lived through 15 years of being driven through El Paso traffic, frequently by Michelle, before it finally succumbed to the repeated abuse. I've been there.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Geico just called to say the car's totalled, and they'll be getting a figure on its street value from an outside company. Given that we have a $500 deductible, I doubt it'll come to much.

I have fantasies about finding the guy in the green Jeep Cherokee and blackmailing him into buying me a replacement Honda Civic hatchback.

Stefan, tell me more about these street racers. Would they want a good old '88 Honda, runs just fine but the body's smashed? Please advise soonest.

And yes, I've met unbolt-your-own second-hand auto parts lots. It's how I kept my primer-gray '61 Rambler Sedan (a.k.a. Hester) running. I eventually just bought a whole second wrecked '61 Rambler Sedan, kept in a friend's back lot, to cannibalize for spare parts.

If you're moved to existential despair by the sight of all those forlorn junked cars, try going to a lot that harbors unfriendly wildlife. I distracts you from such depressing philosophical ruminations, and encourages you to get in, find your parts, and get out again as soon as possible.

And speaking of Hester, Alan Bostick, if you think this gets you off the hook for pulling out in front of a semi at four in the morning with no headlights, think again. I continue, in a spirit of Christian charity, to be glad you weren't hurt. If I were a better person, that would be my first thought, instead of a tardy afterthought to "You killed my car." I am trying to be a better person.

(And yeah, it was a lot like the cavalry sergeant who's having to shoot his jeep. Thanks.)

#50 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 11:56 AM:

My sympathies, Teresa! I lost my dear Toyota Corolla sedan at 15, when she was just about old enough to drive herself; she was bought for me new by my parents my senior year in high school. She was silver-blue with a dark blue interior.

I didn't know what to call her for years and years and years, until about halfway through the first season of B5, when she finally got around to telling me that her name was Delenn. She passed away from transmission cancer three years ago, and I'm still in mourning. My beautiful black Corolla is comforting me, however; her name is Ivanova, but about 100 miles into our first road trip together, she let me call her Suzushka.

I hope you can find another soul mate. I'm proof that it's possible, even though it'll never be quite the same.

#51 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 12:29 PM:

From what I understand, street racers buy old Civics -- Hatchbacks preferred -- drop new engines in them, and then make them cherry, with stunning paint jobs and lots of chrome. Then they race them in places like industrial parks after hours, risking life and limb of themselves and passers-by.

Why Civics? Amazing handling for cars of their class. Low and agile.

I've seen the cars in parking lots. Same model and year as mine, but rendered lovely and sparkly. One was deep glossy black.

I suspect body damage would be a big minus. I like to think that the minor dentage on my right-rear quarter panel wouldn't disqualify it from a second life as a racer, but I suspect the racer kids would rather find a car with a great body and ruined engine, rather than the other way around.

#52 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 02:09 PM:

Clearly, the rappelling harness is a gift your devoted car was saving for your next birthday, knowing how badly you wanted it.

May I ask what happened to the Saturn?

#53 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 03:13 PM:

This is off topic, and a number of you may already know this, but here is some small comfort. Many of the looted treasures are being recovered, or had been removed for safe-keeping.

It's still bad. Very bad. Much that was irreplaceable is still gone forever. But it's not quite as bad as people first thought.

#54 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2003, 09:18 PM:


I really love the Honda Accord we bought about 18 months ago. It's the best car we've ever owned.

#55 ::: Lucy ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2003, 03:52 PM:

Work. Right. Forgot about that. I haven't worked in a multiple story building in about fifteen years. Of course a rappelling harness would be handy in case of emergencies.

#56 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2003, 11:19 PM:

The rapelling harness brings to mind a news item on last night: A climber in rugged territory had a half-ton boulder fall on his left forearm, pinning and crushing it. To escape, he finally had to put a tourniquet on the arm and perform a self-amputation.

Where's the rapelling harness come in? Because AFTER performing the amputation, he STILL had to rapell down an 80-ft cliff to get to where he could contact rescue personnel. Talk about having a bad day....

(And I remember Hester! I almost ran you over with her once.)

#57 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2003, 02:23 PM:

Actually, Bruce, from what I heard, it was more like a bad _week_. As I understand it, he spent several days waiting to be rescued before committing to the arm vs. the rest decision. I believe running out of water played a part; much further waiting would have been fatal.

Teresa, got enough rope to reach the ground, to go with that harness? Tall buildings are rather shy of intermediate ledges with good anchors on the way down. Personally, I could get by without a harness a lot easier than without a rope!

#58 ::: marty ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2003, 11:06 PM:

One of my favorite cars was a Honda Civic Station Wagon. I think it was a 1988. Bought it new and it was a constant love. Finally because of medical reasons I couldn't turn the wheel in difficult places, like parking. Had to sell it and buy a car with assisted steering. It isn't a Honda and I am waiting for Honda to build another dream car. (Has to have room for 14 medium sized boxes) It will.

Meanwhile, I hear the Honda Civic is now being made as a hybrid. Not, alas, a station wagon.

#59 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2003, 10:00 AM:

I have delayed posting to this thread because we were still in the process of losing our little white 1990 Honda Civic. What hurt is that it was mostly okay, but the air conditioning couldn't be fixed any more. Yesterday we traded it in for a new Civic and got $500 for it. I patted it goodbye after clearing all our stuff out of it, being sure not to neglect the clip-on mirror that's gone from car to car with us (and now has no place to go, as new cars have a mirror on the passenger visor already). Then I took a picture of it, sitting in the dealer's lot, looking a little bewildered as we drove off in another car. "You're coming back for me, right? I'll just wait here for you, okay?" (And what could I tell it? "If I knew you could talk, I'd have kept you!")*

We had a little blue Civic before we had the white one, but it got totalled by some clown**. It wasn't the first time Cathy'd been rear-ended at an intersection: the other time more or less removed the back six inches of the car. While we were getting around with clear plastic ducktaped on the back, the road noise sounded just like the door was open.

So, now we've had Hondas in red, white and blue: civic pride, ar ar.

Anyway, as one former owner of a white Bush I-era Civic to another, my sympathy.


[*] A vehicle that can converse is a Turing car.

[**] Mental image: doors open on the other car, and a dozen or so clowns pop out and start writhing around the street, clutching their necks, calling out for their clown-lawyers.

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