I’ve owned some pretty bad cars and trucks. Cars that were reluctant to start. Trucks that wandered all over the road in spite of my fervent straining at the steering wheel. But the worst of them was my 1960 Chevy Impala.
The Chevy embraced pretty much every bad trait. It started hard. It wandered all over the highway. The engine emitted huge puffs of blue smoke whenever I accelerated. One sunny afternoon, the passenger side wheel fell off as I was driving along.
But the end-all of bad car behavior occurred on a frosty autumn day when my Chevy Impala actually stole itself.
A few weeks previous to this, an 8-track tape player was stolen from the Chevy. The thief ripped the player from its moorings to the bottom of the all-metal dash to which it was fastened. That was funny in a way because the 8-track player was broken. I didn’t care that someone “lifted” the player—except it indicated that a crook was afoot.
For those of you too young to really understand what an 8-track player is, allow me to explain. An 8-track player was a primitive form of music machine that, in-between scratching noises, mechanical squealing, and eating the storage medium, produced music from a tape on reels inside a plastic case.
Getting back to my Impala. So, on this particularly frosty morning, I decide that I would start the old Chevy and allow the car’s defrost to clear the ice from my windshield. Once I got the car running, I jammed on the emergency brake and then trotted back inside the trailer in which I was then living to give the old beast time to warm up.
When I poked my head back outside a few minutes later to see if the windshield was clear, the entire car was missing!
I ran outside and quickly spun around. Who would steal my old clunker? Was it the same guy who grabbed my 8-track? I took a second, closer look. Down the road, maybe seven or eight trailers distant in the trailer park and on the opposite side of the street, a dog was yipping. My car was there! I could tell it was still running by the cloud of exhaust curling up around the rear bumper.
I jogged down the street to reach my car and found a middle-aged woman was standing outside her trailer in a bathrobe staring at the Chevy. The yipping dog—a puppy—was under my car. Not only that, my Impala had smashed into a car up on cinder blocks in the woman’s driveway.
“That’s my car!” I told the woman. It must have rolled down the street. “The dog…”
I sprawled on the ground and peered under the car. The puppy was fine, but his leash caught under the tire. I reached under the car and set the puppy free. “I have insurance,” I said when I rose to my feet.
The woman seemed inordinately calm. Maybe she’d seen this kind of thing before. Maybe she had bigger problems, like a husband she’d freshly murdered lying dead on the floor inside the trailer. I, on the other hand, found myself shaken to the core.
In the end, my insurance company paid the woman in the trailer handsomely for her old clunker and then dropped my coverage. I eventually sold the car to a friend. He purposely abused the old clunker, but the car just kept on rolling along. For all I know, the Impala is still out there somewhere, defrosting itself.