Today was an expensive day. I took my trusty 1998 Honda in for its 150,000-mile maintenance checkup. As the fixes started added up, I succumbed to the realization that my reliable (and sexy) silver Accord was nearing the end of days. Among the choruses of “I’ve been saying that for a while now” and choirs of “It’s about time” even I admitted that with our growing family – father, mother, twin brothers and two rambunctious labs – we’re going to need a bigger car.

I bemoaned this fact to my mother, lamenting that the poor little car is only 12 years old. She mentioned the longest lasting car she ever owned was a Nissan Maxima, which existed in our family for 13 years. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the car “lasted” all those years . . .

I was in second grade. My dad was away on a business trip. My mother bundled me and my 4-year-old brother into a car and off we went to the car dealership. We returned home in a shiny new 1987 red Nissan Maxima.

This car was high-tech. The two front door handles had numeric keypads you could program to unlock the power doors should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of locking your keys in the car. (My beloved Honda doesn’t have power doors, much less a keypad.) Upon gaining admittance to the car, the “lady” was there to guide you. Instead of an obnoxious beeping or dinging, this car would share any potential problems with you.

“Lights are on.” / “Keys are in the ignition.” / “Right door is ajar.”

She would gently and repetitively chide you until you resolved her perceived problem. I’m certain she would have given navigational notations and provided maps should she have been a 21st century vehicle.

My dad returned home from his trip. My mom greeted him, “I bought a car.” (For those of you assuming he was shocked beyond belief – I do believe he was rather surprised, but full disclosure requires me to note that this was neither the first nor last time my mother would obtain a new car while my dad was out of town.)

Fast-forward nine years. I was now 16 and a licensed driver zooming around from home to school or work in “my” car. The [allegedly] reliable 1987 Nissan Maxima; it was anything but.

At some point in time, the lady lost her discerning ability to comment on actual issues. The problem was that she wasn’t able to simply keep quiet. She would pipe up with her thoughts randomly. This became a problem. First, if we were zipping down the 101 freeway, she might suddenly announce “Right door is ajar.”

This would be very disconcerting to the passenger who was suddenly concerned that his or her door was open. Secondly, the aforementioned passenger was usually far more frightened of the fact that a previously unknown woman appeared to have materialized into the car and might just be the reason the believed-to-be firmly shut right door was now ajar. Even well past the era of Knight Rider, I still had friends leap out of the idle car shouting “The car. Is. Talking!”

This could easily be written off as a mere annoyance if it weren’t for the next situation that popped up. I emerged from a theatre rehearsal one afternoon and discovered a large puddle under my car. I enlisted the help of a friend and, as a result of our keen observations gleaned from staring at the puddle from various angles, we determined the car was leaking oil. Approximately four miles later we pulled into the Japanese Car Auto Mechanic at the Fallbrook Mall.

“Actually, it looks like you’ve got a bit of a gas leak here,” the attendant informed me. He then instructed me to drive the car until my tank dipped to just about a quarter full.

My friend decided walking home was a safer option. Given my impeccable driving skills, I think he was afraid I might hit a curb, cause a spark and end both of our lives in a blazing ball of punctured gas tank glory.

The tank and accompanying leak eventually got fixed. To be honest, I can’t remember if I actually drove it home that day or demanded they employ the seemingly safer option of siphoning the tank down to a quarter-full.

It would forevermore be known as the Firemobile.

Apparently displeased with my efforts to ensure vehicular safety, the Firemobile picked up a new habit. When coming to a complete stop (at such rare occurrences as a stoplight or LA traffic) the car would begin to shudder violently, as though trying to eject all passengers. She would occasionally continue forward when the gas pedal was reapplied, but this was not guaranteed. I once had the fortune of trying to explain to Triple A Roadside assistance that I did, in fact, need the car towed from the end of my driveway because it was blocking entrance or exit of any other car.

On my 17th birthday, I became the proud owner of a 1998 silver Honda Accord. I have never had any mechanical problems with it – despite incidents like driving into (and through) a fence. The Firemobile remained in our driveway for occasional usage several years after my Honda arrived. But no one ever looked at it the same.

Sadly boys, when you read this archived blog in 16 years, I don’t have high hopes a 1998 Honda Accord will be awaiting your next trip in our driveway. But now you understand why there is such reluctance to part with my trusty Accord.


Filed under Cars, Miscellaneous

5 Responses to Firemobile

  1. I remember listening to Disney Showtunes in that car as you drove me to school. Mom and Dad were brave to allow that.

    I also remember you driving the fam to IHOP for my 13th bday and I remember dad FUH-LIPPING out in the back seat.

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