I never could afford to maintain a car, not even when I worked fulltime. Needing a car was never high on my priority list. When I was 20 years old I owned two cars and didn’t even work. You could get a decent used car for $30, less than minimum wage for a week’s work back then. I haven’t owned a car in 35 years. I’d love to own one but am not about to put any effort into it maintaining it or anything else for that matter.
When I drove a cab in L.A. the son of the guy I drove for offered me a decent old car. It ran, but I knew maintaining it would be more trouble than I could afford. I told him thanks but he’d be better off giving it to someone who is able to take care of it. I know myself.
In 1968, before I moved to L.A. at age 21, I owned two cars, a 48 Plymouth and a 59 Studebaker Lark station wagon. I had to decide which one to take to L.A. What a luxury dilemma that was – and I didn’t even work. I chose the station wagon. It cost $80 and was one of the best cars I ever owned.
It got me to L.A. and lasted a while before it started overheating. The gas stations back then were all full service. Every time I’d pull up for water a mechanic would come out running. “What seems to be the problem?”
The problem was it was always the most expensive thing they could find, something I could never imagine paying. I need a new radiator or a flush job, something beyond my comprehension.
One day I pulled up again to a water hose, not looking for mechanical help, just wanting to let the engine cool down for the water flow, and here comes the mechanic asking what the problem is. I’m waving him off. “No no, that’s alright, I can’t afford any repairs, I just need a little water.”
But here he comes anyway, must have been the 30th mechanic I’d encountered during such drop ins. He asks me to unpop the hood.
“Looks like you need a new radiator cap”, he says.
I tell him there’s one on there.
“Yeah”, he says, “but it’s no good – you need a new one.”
“How much are they?”, I ask.
“Let me see if I have a spare one in the back”, he says.
He goes into the shop and comes out with a used cap and puts in on and the car is good to go. That was it, no more overheating. I had to go through 30 mechanics to get to that guy – and I wasn’t even looking when it finally happened. I had given up. Can you blame me? But I am not afraid to admit that repairing and maintaining things was never my forte in life, probably because I always assumed I’d be a millionaire by the time I was 20 and other people would be doing it for me. I assumed wrong.
I don’t know how long that car lasted, maybe a few months. Something minor went wrong with it. But it wasn’t minor enough for me to do anything about it. So, like all the other cars I have ever owned I let it sit on the street until one day I walked by and it was gone – in the same way that one day you and everyone you know will be gone – poof – towed away forever, just like that.