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Old Cars
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Sartre said that hell is other people. He was wrong. Hell is an old car.

This has been a week of car troubles. Resolved now, I hope. For the time being.

I have lived all my life with old cars. Vehicles haunted by the specter of the irremediable defect. Who can say which rattle, which faint grinding, clank, or odd squeal, will prove to be the tolling of the bell? Every visit to the repair shop promises to end with the mechanic emerging from his operating room grim faced. And every turn of the key in the ignition can lead to the repair shop as easily as to the desired destination.

When I commuted to college I drove my parents' powder blue Plymouth. At least it was powder blue between the leprous fiberglass patches holding the body together. The broken heater and bald tires and defective brakes made the fifteen mile drive an adventure in the winter. I still recall peering through a three inch square aperture in the ice layered on the inside of the windshield as the car skated into a snow slicked intersection, the steering wheel clenched between hands I could see but not feel, trying to push the brake pedal through the floor with a cold-numbed foot which might as well have vanished.

The Plymouth smoked. Like a Titan rising from the launch pad. Thick blue billows swirled in its wake, blinding whoever might have been following me, not that I would have been able to make them out in the rear view mirror though the obscuring fog. I had to fill up with oil more frequently than gas.

The Plymouth met its end at the garage, sitting at the roadside, awaiting another fiberglass treatment. Someone swerved off the highway and totaled it. Old cars don't even have good luck.

Montaigne said that to philosophize is to learn how to die. Today, he would surely take that lesson from owning an old car.

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