Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where Cars Go When They Die

It's certainly not something I've considered often, this question of where cars go when they die. Metaphysically, most would argue that cars are empty, soulless vessels, their fates inconsequential. When it comes to the only car I've ever loved, I simply must disagree. The Little Red Engine that Could is more than a hunk of empty steel; she's a product of everything she's seen, everything we've done together, a metallic psychic imprint of my soul. Having saved me from more than one disaster (detailed here in my chapter Crash), I have come to suspect that there's a spark of spirit in that machine.

And so, it aggrieves me to say that my friend has reached the sad period of gradual decomposition that awaits all bodies fated to walk (or wheel around) this planet. Her decay generally affects inconsequential items. For example, one of her passenger door handles broke off a couple months back, and I laughed it off: Can you believe this engine is going to keep going while the rest of the car falls apart?

Unfortunately yesterday, the radiator fan motor went haywire and melted wires, generating a toxic plastic smell into the car's interior...and sending me on a wild goose chase. You see, twenty year old volkswagen diesels are notoriously difficult to find parts for. Add to the fact that this car is an ecodiesel (only 40 made in the U.S.) and in all likelihood smuggled into this country by a serviceman and you have a car virtually impossible to get certain parts for.

Having hit all the traditional parts stores and mined ebay and the internet for leads, I decided to try an unlikely savior: the "Pick and Pull" salvage yard. We searched under the hood of every crashed up Volkswagen, but to not avail. It was an unsuccessful venture, but a fascinating look into the blood and guts of cars nonetheless. Mined for parts, veins and innards strewn about: there's something terribly inhumane about it all. Then again, perhaps it only seems inhumane because there's something so fundamentally human about these discarded machines.

Rest assured, I shan't abandon the Little Red Engine that Could. There's life in 'er yet.

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Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
- Oscar Wilde


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