Cash For Clunkers...And Memories

Monday, August 24, 2009

Can you imagine what it must be like to be an old gas guzzling vehicle right now? The Cash for Clunkers program has instigated genocide of the vehicular nature like nothing we have seen since Eddie Griffin got behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Yesterday I literally saw a rusty 1991 Jeep Cherokee wearing a Groucho Marx-type oversized glasses-nose-eyebrow disguise trying to blend into the background, like he was some sort of 2006 Honda Civic or something. Poser.

The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of Cash for Clunkers (remember: politics-free zone, please) but to give us an opportunity to reminisce about the Clunkers we have all loved or hated over the years. Most of us are passionate about our cars. We name them. We talk to them. We bond with them. We decorate them. We claim them as dependents on our tax returns. And then inevitable day comes and we have to either sell them or kill them, like CBS had to do with Dan Rather.

So today I’m going to share with you the memories of the clunkers that have come and gone throughout my life. I’m sure most of you have some fond memories of certain cars in your past as well, so please post a comment to share the joy with the rest of us. Here are my stories:

1982 Toyota Celica Supra
Year Adopted: 1991
Nickname: The Thunderbolt
My first car. I inherited her as a 16-year-old and I will love The Thunderbolt for the rest of my life. Though it was 10+ years old, the ‘Bolt was in good condition and lightning fast. It had a fifth gear that we called “The Police Gear” that could be used to outrun the fuzz like dropping the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace. Two passengers could squeeze uncomfortably into the back seat and I used to drive three of my high school basketball teammates to our games. We would crank L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” and look as intimidating as four tall, skinny, white, tattoo-less Mormon Priests could as we rolled to our basketball games.

The ‘Bolt gave me freedom. Freedom to go places. Freedom to hang out at my friends’ houses. Freedom to just drive aimlessly while listening to Depeche Mode as I sorted out the drama and angst of youth. I love The Thunderbolt. May she rest in peace.

1994 Jeep Wrangler
Year Adopted: 1996
Nickname: The Chick Magnet
My brother is fourteen months younger than I am and we shared The Thunderbolt in high school. As soon as I left for Ricks College my folks sold the ‘Bolt and bought a new, beautiful black Jeep Wrangler. Naturally I was livid at the injustice as I trudged to my classes on foot at Ricks while imagining my little bro picking up chicks in his new Wrangler. But when I returned home from my mission my little bro was still preaching in Bolivia, so I had the Wrangler all to myself for a year.

My favorite memory in the Wrangler happened two weeks after returning home from my mission. It was a warm summer day and the top and doors were off the Jeep. I was drinking a milkshake and listening to Smashing Pumpkins as the wind rushed through my hair. In a sudden moment of clarity I said to myself, “Dude! I’m HOME from my MISSION!” I left the post-missionary nerd mode behind as I cruised down 35th South, oogling at all of the girls who were no longer off limits. But no matter how fondly I remember my year with the Wrangler, I always felt like her heart belonged to my little brother, almost like I was dating a girl he had previously dumped or something.

1991 Geo Prism
Year Adopted: 1997
Nickname: None
The NMW and I were married in 1997 and she brought the Prism into our marriage. I also wanted seven pigs, three sheep and twelve head of cattle as part of the marriage arrangement, but my in-laws weren’t cool with that. I never really bonded with the Prism, but the NMW and I bonded with each other as we drove it repeatedly from Provo to her home in Winslow, AZ. We drove the Prism for the first two years of our marriage – car payment free - until the transmission seized on I-15 just past point of the mountain. I only have vague memories of the Prism, like Cheech and Chong probably remember the eighties.

1997 Kia Sephia
Year Adopted: 1999
Nickname: Satan
The Kia is important in my auto history because it was the first car I ever purchased and was responsible for paying off. The NMW and I were recently married and still living the student life, so the $110/month payment seemed like a billion dollars at the time. The Kia was cheap and under warranty so we bought it. The bad omens started almost immediately as our mailbox was inundated with recall notices for issues with the brakes, windshield wipers, CV boots, and the need to exercise demonic spirits that possessed the transmission. We drove the Kia for six years while living in constant fear that it would one day spontaneously burst into a ball of flames and kill us all. I never liked or trusted that car, and it hated me too.

1985 Ford Escort
Nickname: The Poop-Scort
Year Adopted: 1999
Back when we were partying like it was 1999 – because it was 1999 – the NMW and I only had the Kia to get to important places in Provo/Orem like school, work, church, Movies 8 and the Nickelcade. The opportunity of buying a co-worker’s old but running Ford Escort for $1,000 cash was impossible to refuse, like trying to bypass an $.89 chicken burrito at Taco Bell. The Escort was old but had fewer than 100,000 miles with a nice interior. While the battery mysteriously died more frequently than Itchy and/or Scratchy, the ‘Scort got me around town for four solid years.

My favorite ‘Scort memory happened while I was interning in Las Vegas during summer break of my MBA classes in 2002. I was trying desperately to impress the General Manager of our business unit so I could get a job after graduating. My chance to shine happened one day when the GM had to take an emergency flight and asked if I could take him to the airport – in my car. At this point the driver’s side door no longer opened and the A/C was broken, which is a only a minor inconvenience in Las Vegas in July when the temperature reaches 184 degrees on a cool day. As the GM followed me to my car I opened the passenger door, slid my 6’6” body across the gear shift, rolled down the windows, and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary as we roasted all the way to the airport. In an unrelated story, I was not hired to work for that business unit after I graduated. The ‘Scort was a great investment and it pained me to see her go to that giant scrap heap in the sky.

2002 Honda Accord
Nickname: Sally
Year Adopted: 2004
Yes, I drive a car named Sally. The kids named her after the Porsche in Cars because they are both silver. The NMW and I met Sally back when she was the display vehicle with a ridiculously low price to attract customers who could then be baited-and-switched to a fancier model. You see, Sally has no power windows, no power doors, no alarm, and an engine consisting of a hamster jogging rather lazily in a crank wheel. The salesman was shocked – shocked! – that somebody was actually cheap enough (we prefer frugal, practical, and/or provident living-ish) to buy the base model. But Sally was affordable and easier to pay off than a Bolivian prison guard. Five years and 125,000 miles later, Sally just keeps chugging along problem-free, never breaking down. I hope I’m still driving Sally five years from now.

So those are the stories of my clunkers. I'd like to hear yours, so please post away. While getting some cash for these four-wheeled important parts of our lives would probably be nice, I'm happy just holding on to the memories for now.

Like NMH? Grahamtastic Stickers makes it possible.

Lenny's Birth Announcement

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Please share in our joy (and pain) of the newest addition to our family! (Click to enlarge)


(Props to my bro T-Boar for the birth announcement idea.)

Like NMH? Grahamtastic Stickers and Husband Hero make it possible.

18 Hours, $150 bucks, and 0 Kids. Fun? Hardly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tell me if our day last Friday doesn't sound like a surprise romantic getaway for the Normal Mormon Wife dreamed up by her thoughtful, fun-loving husband:

-I take the day off work without the NMW knowing anything about my plans beforehand.
-Our three children are cared for by friends for most of the day, giving us sweet privacy.
-We spend $150 in less than 12 hours.
-Our adventure begins at 7:30 a.m. and lasts until 3:00 a.m. the following day (Saturday).
-Heavy, heavy hallucinogenic drugs were freely administered throughout the day.

Well, folks, our day last Friday proceeded exactly in that manner. But not only was our day a complete surprise to the NMW, it was a surprise to me as well. And instead of heading out for some ditch-the-kids-for-the-day retreat, the NMW and I spent most of the day in the Emergency Room as I was diagnosed with a kidney stone. The kidney stone's name is Lenny.

Lenny is a jerk and I hate him.

I woke up on Friday morning with a sharp pain in my right abdominal region and I just chalked it up to the usual stuff - a cramp, Taco Bell related gas, the fact that our house was built on a Native American cemetery, etc. - and tried to get ready for work. But the pain increased to the point that I had the NMW take me to my doctor at 9:00 a.m. My doctor found a lot of blood in my urine and referred me to the ER for additional testing.

I thanked my doctor and proceeded to vomit in his trash can.

We managed to drop off our kids with a friend (you know who you are, you little lifesaver you - thank you!) and we went to America's Funnest Spot - The ER! Here is how the rest of our day unfolded:

10:00 a.m. - Arrive at E.R. and pay $50 copay. No sign of George Clooney or Anthony Edwards. We're off to a good start.

10:45 a.m. - I have been admitted and now look and sound like a woman in labor. I am wearing a hospital gown and groaning in pain while the NMW strokes my hair like a doulah and says, "Remember to keep breathing..." They say the closest a man can get to childbirth is passing a kidney stone. Out of respect for my sweet wife, we will have no more children.

10:54 a.m. - The nurse hooks me up to an IV with pain meds. The drug immediately burns through my body like a big gulp of Stephen's Gourmet Hot Chocolate on a cold December day, easing my pain for the first time in four hours.

10:57 a.m. - I groggily ask the NMW with a smile, "What's the name of THAT drug?", referring to what is in the IV. The NMW is now afraid I will end up on an episode of A&E's Intervention.

11:15 a.m. - The pain meds are making me hallucinate. I ask the NMW if I am holding keys in my hand (I'm not) because I can feel keys in my hand. I ask her if I'm wearing shoes (I am) because I can't feel them on my feet. I start laughing and tell the NMW I just saw the star of My Name Is Earl's drivers license and he has a huge afro in his photo. Lastly, I tell her that I thought I was in our front yard watching the kids throw cherries at the house for several minutes before I thought they should stop. Who needs TV when you have narcotics?

12:50 p.m. - The ER doctor tells me I have a 4 mm kidney stone, writes me several hundred prescriptions, then discharges me. As we leave the hospital I thank the staff for their excellent care by throwing up in their bathroom. (I've always been terrible with good-byes.)

1:30 p.m. - We are now back at home where I can repeatedly vomit in the privacy of my own bathroom.

2:42 p.m. - The NMW realizes the refrigerator is not working. She immediately calls a serviceman to come look at it before the weekend kicks in.

3:15 p.m. - Our neighbor tells the NMW that water is leaking from our property onto his, most likely from a leak in our sprinkler system.

4:08 p.m. - The NMW withdraws $2,970 from savings and flees for Mexico. (I mean, can you blame her at this point? Maybe it was a bad idea to build our house on that Native American cemetary after all.)

7:00 p.m. - After vomiting the entire day, we call the ER and they tell me I need to come back for another IV, anti-nausea medication, and more pain meds (yipeeee!). Another wonderful friend agrees to hang out at our house until we return, which ends up being six hours later.

7:20 p.m. - Another $50 copay.

7:30 p.m. - There are about twelve depressed people in the ER waiting room as Two And A Half Men airs on TV. I have never seen more than two seconds of this inane show and it immediately gets on my nerves. The NMW and I play a game called, "How long can pass without the laugh track?" The record? Twelve seconds. I think an actual script of that show reads as follows:

Dude 1: "Good morning." (queue laugh track)
Dude 2: "And good day to you, sir." (queue extreme laugh track)
Boy: "Sir? More like sirloin!" (queue outrageous laugh track for seven straight minutes)

Yes, I wrote that myself. If my HR career doesn't work out maybe I can write a sitcom. Sitcom? More like sit-bomb! (queue laugh track).

7:48 p.m. - The NMW tells me the ER waiting room "Smells like Otto's jacket." This is a code word we swiped from The Simpsons to say it smells like marijuana. Not only does it smell like Otto's jacket in here, but his socks and underwear are probably in here too.

8:02 p.m. - WWE Friday Night Smack Down is now on TV. Nothing takes your mind off of your pain like watching steroid-fueled wrestlers whack one another over the head with metal chairs as the announcer yells, "OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!" I'm pretty sure this IS the Telestial Kingdom.

9:11 p.m. - Still in the waiting room and the NMW is hungry. She uses twelve dimes to buy a Rice Krispy Treat from the vending machine in the waiting room, but the machine has problems accepting dimes. She has to push them in real hard or else the get spit back out, like a George Brett wad of tobacco circa 1982. It takes her about thirty tries to finally get her snack. Every person in the ER gets a kick out of the display, especially the guy who smells like Otto's jacket.

10:35 p.m. - Finally get admitted.

11:34 p.m. - Finally get my IV. But this is a really, really bad omen. 11:34 is the worst time of the day because it's hexed. Or at least the NMW and I think 11:34 is hexed. If you turn a digital clock upside down at 11:34 is spells "H-E-Double Hockey Sticks" so we try to avoid 11:34 at all costs. With my luck they probably accidentally gave me IV's consisting of barbecue sauce, Elmer's glue and Clorox. But I've heard hospitals are not legally liable for weird things that happen at 11:34, what with it being hexed and all.

1:50 a.m. - Discharged with several dozen more prescriptions.

2:15 a.m. - Stop at 24-hr pharmacy to get prescriptions filled. Oh, and to also watch crack deals transpire down the street.

3:00 a.m. - Get home, thank babysitter, perform a voodoo doll ritual on Lenny (the kidney stone) and go to bed.

Well, five days later and I still haven't met Lenny. He's just hiding out in my ureters, bungee jumping and whatnot. I can't wait to meet this guy. I bet our encounter will go something like this:

Me: "So, Lenny, it's...uh...nice to finally meet you." (queue mild laugh track)

Lenny: "Same here. Thanks for letting me crash at your place the last few days." (queue regular laugh track)

Me: "Lenny, I hope you like knock-knock jokes 'cuz I've got one for you. Knock knock." (queue uproarious laugh track)

Lenny: "Who's there?"

Me: "Urine." (queue extreme laugh track)

Lenny: "Urine who?"

Me: "Urine big trouble now, bucko!" (queue laugh track where they guy's head literally exploded he was laughing so hard)

***Fade to black***

Like NMH? Grahamtastic Stickers and Husband Hero make it possible.