gall and gumption

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Saab, Saab, Saab

When I moved from New York back to California I needed a car in a hurry. I bought a 1971 Datsun Roadster from my cousin, and drove it for about six months. I had moved into an apartment about halfway between downtown Oakland and East Oakland. My relatives all lived out in the suburbs: my Uncle Tony, who died not long after I moved there, lived in a hilltop subdivision in Castro Valley, the sort of place I loathe. When I told him I was moving to East Oakland he said, "You'll get killed over there," and I said, "I'd be more of a danger to myself over here where you live."

The Datsun made an impression wherever it went: it was a convertible, cute as could be. An SUV could have run over it without even knowing it had hit anything.

My Aunty Fay, who lived in Hayward, went behind my back and told my mother that one day the Datsun would break down in some part of dreadful part of Oakland and I'd get kidnapped by an axe murderer and cut to pieces. I did not know about this conversation until my mother said, "I'm sending you some money. Buy a Saab."

It was the first nice car I had ever owned. It was a 1988, so it was already an older car, but it had been well cared for and had low mileage for these Swedish cars that just go forever. It was the first car I ever fell in love with, that it was fun to drive for the pleasure. I learned what the word "handling" met driving that car. I got four years of good service out of it, better, it appears, than I had a right to expect from a Saab. It didn't have to go in for repairs often but when it did, boy, you felt it. For two of the six years I've owned it it was in Indiana with my father. I retrieved it from him and drove it out to California when I came back from Nevis, and when I left California to come to what we shall call the D.C. Metro Area or Exurbs I drove it all the way. Well, Tom did at least half of the driving and put up with my nagging and my dark dark silences.

After a six-month bureaucratic ordeal and various other hitches I finally got temporary Maryland tags and took it to be inspected and as I expected it did not pass. I can put $1000 into it and buy some time with it, or I can unload it somehow and go get a new car. My mechanic here is one of those Saab maniacs. You can spot them because they always have a bunch of old carcasses of Saabs around the yard of the shop, because they strip them down to the bare body, or else they live in hope of resurrecting them. My mechanic told me he had the same model and year as mine -- the 1988 9000 Turbo (you gotta have the Turbo) -- and put 300,000 miles on it. I'm up to 176,000 but I am not a mechanic.

The thing is I want another Saab. Friday after I dropped it off the assistant mechanic drove me to the Metro station and we chatted along the way. "The Saab is a less than ideal car to have," he said. "They're unreliable and expensive to repair."

"But you seem to like them. You're driving one," I pointed out.

"I have six of them," he replied.

The greater fool etc. etc.

So other possibilities are a Volvo, a Subaru (not particularly fun to drive), a Honda (bo-ring!). I've been window shopping used cars on Craig's list and as I drive around I see things I covet. Most of what I covet has one consistent feature: lots of trunk or back space so I can load it up with my belongings and drive back to California. So of the alternatives a Volvo wagon is the most appealing. They seem to go forever, and maybe the newer ones are more comfortable.

Or I can defer this whole question till I get permanent work and just go ahead and buy another year or so with this one. Of course the new car is what I want. I really want it to be a Saab, too, even though that is very foolish of me.

Meanwhile I have about a month to putter about in the old thing and make up my mind.

This is terribly boring isn't it? This is the sort of thing that people mean when they say, "I don't want to read about a bunch of personal crap."

Well, I'm sorry, but some days it feels like my inner life is withering away. This is one of those days. Just so you know.


At 10:04 PM, Blogger Mizaar said...

Jeez, don't sell the Saab. When I traded mine in for something practical, I regretted it so much I went back to the dealer the next day to buy it back. He said, "It's gone." You think your mind is withering now, wait til you drive a practical car. Those practical car mechanics always seem to know exactly how much you're worth, and it's depressing; whereas Saab mechanics are really crazy pianists or deadbeat poets, and they just assume money grows on trees,so they don't need it from you. Anyway your mom told you to get a Saab.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Hmmmm. I like the way you think.

Of course you know you're completely mad...

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not boring!
I like hearing about the practical details and catastrophes.


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