It has been persistently and stubbornly moist and cool here, this alleged spring.
The one good thing about this weather came last week when, driving home from the job, I noticed wisps emanating from the front of the hood. Had it been warm and sunny, I’d have missed them. This was not a continuous cloud; I’ve experienced that with the other car, when a head gasket failed and the billowing clouds would not abate. These were mere puffs, which might have been mistaken for the vapor from the exhaust on a cold morning, before the muffler comes up to temperature, as the moisture of the combustion process condenses and shows itself at the end of the tailpipe. Except the car in front of me had not just been started and I saw nothing from its tailpipe. Only when the breeze was right, and traffic was standing at a stoplight, could the wisps be seen, occasionally escaping from the front of my car.
Once home, I lifted the hood; confirmed, there was a film of fluid all around the sheet metal surrounding the coolant radiator. I called Mike’s Smart Service Subaru, the only shop the car has known these ten years, to have the situation evaluated.
Not having much in the way of time on a work day as of late, I made arrangements for a rental car, rather than take a series of buses or try to cadge a ride from someone who would have no interest in driving me around at that hour. Having checked in with AJ, Mike’s guy at the front desk (and every bit as much the gentleman that Mike is), I waited for the arrival of the Enterprise rep . AJ had mentioned that one of their cars was already on the lot; a quick scan revealed every space taken by a Subaru product, save one, occupied by a smallish silver sedan with a bowtie on the grill, looking every bit a rental car.
I decided it would do.
While waiting, several more cars drove onto the lot, each a Subaru; some containing more of Mike’s shop guys, some containing other customers. A Honda pulled in as well, but was followed closely by a police SUV with all his red and blue lights on; clearly the Honda was neither the rental car, nor another customer, but had invited the cops attention and was preparing to make a monetary donation to the community. A fine civic-minded supporter.
After a few more moments, yet another car pulled in. Behind the wheel was a nicely groomed, exceedingly young driver wearing a shirt and tie; an Enterprise employee for certain. (I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an Enterprise employee over 29 yrs of age.) With AJ’s words on my mind, I figured he’d have the rental agreement for the silver Chevrolet sedan, and return to his office in the car he was driving.
Within moments, it became clear that he intended to leave me with the car he’d driven; a bright red VW New Beetle.
Oh god no.
Now, I am mostly ambivalent to rental cars. At best, I see them as an opportunity to perform my own personal evaluation on cars which I only otherwise see in traffic, and would never think to own. Occasionally, this can be a passably amusing occupation, these personal road tests I conduct in my mind, as I drive from Mike’s to work or wherever I need to be, while one of my cars undergoes the wrench for some ailment or other.
In hindsight I should have asked the kid if he didn’t have a ’58 Ford F-150 pickup, preferably with a rusted-out bed, back at his office. A three-cylinder Geo Sprint with the door caved in? A ’73 Dodge Dart? Anything else?
The agreement reluctantly signed, I left the sanctuary of Mike’s parking lot, pulled into traffic that takes me the half-mile from his shop to I-5, and at once became conscious of being seen behind the wheel of a bright red VW New Beetle, feeling for all the world like a 19 yr-old sorority girl. To be seen in this car, a driver should also be equipped with a pink iPod, in a faux-jewel encrusted case, and a white miniature poodle.
I should have asked AJ for a paper bag to put over my head.
As I write this, the damn thing is in my garage. With the garage door closed. God forbid neighbors should see. It shall not come out at any time this weekend. I’ll use the Outback, thank you very much.
My only wishes are, come Monday morning when I head out for work, it will be very dark indeed. I may make it a point to leave early, before first light if necessary. And, for my other wish, that the radiator for the SVX arrives at Mike’s very early in the morning as well, so I can rid myself of this red embarrassment and return to my trusty black and tan steed, a more suitable ride for a man of advancing years.