A car is more than the sum of its parts, right?
September 16, 2011 4:16PM
Cameron, Bruce W.
Updated: November 10, 2011 10:48AM
I own an automobile built by one of the better N.D. (Now Defunct) car companies. I’m worried that parts will become harder and harder to come by, so I take my faithful car into my mechanic, Melvin Wallet-drainer.
“I want you to give it a complete checkup,” I tell him. “I’m hoping to get at least another 50,000 miles out of it.”
“Man, are you funny,” Melvin replies. He has hair, fingernails and shirt stains that are all the same shade of black. “You could do Vegas, you’re funnier than that guy, what’s his name, been there forever.”
“What? Are you kidding? Nobody’s as funny as Don Rickles. I’m talking about the guy, does all those jokes with props.”
“Carrot Top? I hate Carrot Top.”
“No, you’re not as funny as Carrot Top.”
I tell Melvin to call me when he’s got an idea what it will take to keep my N.D. car on the road, and the next morning he’s on the line.
“Well, the good news is that a lot of your parts are in brand new condition,” he says, which is a real relief to hear.
“That’s great!” I enthuse. “Like what?”
“The license plate holder,” Melvin responds.
“That’s about it.”
“Well, how much money to get it in perfect running condition?”
“Man, you’re funny. Who’s that guy, does that show in Vegas where he’s got squirrels living in his clothes?”
“I’m serious. I can’t afford a new car right now.”
“Well, suppose we went in and replaced all the parts that are just about worn out,” Melvin speculated.
“With new parts?”
“Nah, with used parts. I got a car just like yours on the lot, I could just take parts from it. It’s not running very well, either.”
“OK. So, you take the good parts from this junker and put them in mine?”
“It’s not a junker, it belongs to a customer. I’m fixing it up for him.”
“How come he gets new parts?”
“He doesn’t. I’ll just use parts from yours.”
“Aren’t the defunct car companies still manufacturing new parts for their old cars?”
“Man, you’re funny.”
“I’m serious, Melvin. I know that these great car companies wouldn’t just go out of business and leave all their loyal customers in the lurch.”
“Stop it, stop it, you’re killing me. You need to keep that one in your act. It’s your best yet.”
Melvin then went on to suggest that I should “part-out” my car — cannibalize it for the hard-to-find replacement parts that other drivers of my particular N.D. model needed to keep their own cars on the road.
“Be worth at least a couple grand,” he says to me. “Of course, I’d have to charge you labor to take it apart.”
“How much would that be?”
“At least a couple grand.”
The idea of doing this to my faithful car — drugging it and taking it to a foreign country where it would wake up missing a brake cylinder — is too cruel to even contemplate. I think back on all the great times we’ve had together, such as when the air conditioner went out, and I spent all of July waiting for Melvin to get in the right part to fix it, or when the radio got stuck on a Spanish language channel, and I wound up feeling like I needed to tienda (shop) by Miercoles (Wednesday) to Salvo el mas de cuarenta por ciento en las gafas de sol de un par de hombre! (no idea). When I got food poisoning, wasn’t my car the first place I threw up?
And didn’t car companies spend money advertising to me my whole life, making me want nothing more than one of their N.D. models? I was so proud the day I took delivery of the shiny new car, so proud to show my family, so proud to take it back to the dealer the next day when the electrical system failed. Chopping it up into pieces now seemed as unsavory as subjecting a trusted friend to an ax murder.
“I can’t,” I tell Melvin. “That car means too much to me.”
“Man, you’re funny,” he says.