From Magic City Morning Star

M Stevens-David
The Lincoln
By Martha Stevens-David
May 16, 2014 - 7:53:09 AM

  • Originally Published April 22, 2008.

About five years ago, my husband Leo, decided that we needed to buy a newer vehicle and he set about finding one with a vengeance. He made a list of all the local used car dealerships in our immediate area and after work each day, he'd stop and check out what they had available. We had discussed our needs and wants very thoroughly prior to beginning the hunt so I was very surprised when he came flying home the second night with want burning a hole in his checkbook.

I heard his feet come flying up the cellar stairs and he burst through the kitchen door with excitement barely contained and said, "Honey, I just saw the most wonderful car at a dealer on Minot Avenue. If you have time tomorrow you might want to go and check it out."

It wasn't like Leo to be all excited about a car because he usually kept his vehicles until the wheels fell off and I mean that literally. He'd only changed his old 1985 sliver Honda the previous year because on his way home from work one night, he found himself cresting a fairly steep hill at a pretty good clip and suddenly his left front wheel took off into the bushes at the side of the road. It was then that he decided that it was time for a newer car.

All evening long, Leo kept sliding little references about the car into our conversations like, "Honey, it's kind of a silvery blue and it's in really wonderful condition. It does have quite a lot of mileage on it but it's a one-owner car and was only driven to Florida and back twice a year. The dealers said the owners always changed the oil faithfully and it has never been driven over sixty-five miles per hour for as long as they owned it and it's made in the good old USA, too dear! You know, there's nothing better than an American made product!" With that, he leaned back against the sofa cushions and smiled as he pictured himself driving the luxury automobile all around our small town.

I could see the writing on the wall so I told him that I'd go to the dealer first thing in the morning to have a look at it. After we'd gone to bed, just as I was about to fall asleep, Leo raised himself up on one elbow and said, "Honey, that car has power everything, even power leather seats. You know, I've always wanted to have a car exactly like that one but I could never afford it before." Well, that sealed the deal. I knew that I was going to bring that car home if it was at all possible.

The next morning as he was leaving for work, he opened the cellar door and then he turned and said, "If you really like it, go ahead and buy it." I could see by the look in his eyes that he was really hoping that I'd love it too. "Don't worry dear," I said. "If it's a nice as you said, I'm certainly going to buy it." A happy smile slid across his face and he went out the door.

I arrived at the used car dealership a little after they opened at nine am and there it was alright, sitting right where Leo had described it. It was long, blue and cool. The sunlight glinting off the finish was just like there were a hundred, hundred watt bulbs shinin on it. I opened the door and slid into the leather seat and I had to agree with Leo, it was very clean and everything appeared to be in excellent condition. I got out and when I shut the door, I liked the sound the door made as it closed. It had a nice solid sound, just like America!

I walked all around the car and looked at everything that I thought I was supposed to check out and it wasn't very long before the salesman came over to talk with me. Trying not to show my excitement, I asked him a lot of questions about the previous owners and how the car had been used. His answers seemed natural and he didn't push me to buy or not buy, he simply answered my questions and I liked that. It wasn't too long before I found myself in his office writing out a check for the car.

Leo was beside himself with excitement and the very next day, he drove me over to get our new car. It was loaded with all the bells and whistles that the newer cars all had. It had air cushions for suspension so that when you hit a bad piece of road, you simply sailed over the bumps and potholes, never feeling the bone shaking jolts that you'd get with most other vehicles. The leather seats were softer than our recliners at home and could be adjusted four ways to Sunday. The tinted windows were power driven and glided up and down with just the slightest touch of a button.

There was a gauge on the instrument panel that gave a reading of the outside temperature as well as an interior temperature reading. It was designed with a warning buzzer to let you know the minute anything went wrong with the car's operating system. If you were running low on fuel, a buzzer sounded periodically so that you wouldn't forget to stop and get some gas. It was wonderful to think that all those brilliant engineers at the Ford Motor Corporation had taken the time and energy to design such a wonderful car! We were in heaven as we floated over the highways and byways of Maine in our lovely, state of the art, 1991 Lincoln Continental.

We had the car about six months before we began to understand just why the previous owners had gotten rid of it. At first, there were just a few little things that began to go wrong. The driver's side power seat, as you were driving along, would suddenly shift positions and you never knew just when it was going to happen either. The seat would adjust itself in any direction without any provocation. It would move slowly forward until your stomach was crushed up against the steering wheel or it might shift backwards until you were nearly lying down in the back seat. It might go up until your head was brushing the roof of the car or it might go down until you could just barely see out the windshield through the steering wheel. Every time the seat was going to change position, we would hear a slight whirring sound and that was the only warning we ever had. As our heart rate sped up and perspiration broke out on our foreheads, the car took on a life of its own. Which direction we were going to be going in, we never knew.

Sick and tired of all the strange incidents, Leo took the car in for a through going over and two days later, after several checks and scans by expert automotive technicians, we were told that it was an "electrical" glitch and be damned if they could find out why it did what it did. Two hundred and fifty dollars later, the car came home in the same condition it left. The driver's seat still changed position at the slightest whim and our nervous systems were never the same again.

Then, the vehicle took on other unexplained maneuvers. The ingenious warning system that had been designed to let you know when you were running low on fuel, began sounding whenever it pleased. It didn't matter if you had just topped off your tank or if it was three quarters full or the gauge was pointing to empty. We'd be driving along and the mind altering alarm would sound. "Boing!" "Boing!" "Boing!" and you couldn't turn it off. After several miles of hearing that loud nerve rattling sound reverberating inside your brain, you were certifiable! You had no recourse than to pull over to the side of the road and turn off the ignition and hope that the friggin thing would reset itself.

Next, the wonderful, air bags that were designed to give one the feeling of floating down the highway on a cloud, began to take on a life of their own too.

Sometimes, wanting to go out, we'd go down cellar where our vehicles were parked and find that the elegant car had become a "low-rider" overnight. Or the front end might be riding high while the tail end was draggin. Or the rear end might be high and dry while the front end would be down on the wheels.

Then the radio decided to get into the act too. Once the key was inserted into the ignition, the radio would come on and it wasn't soft and low either. It was turned up the highest volume and you couldn't turn it off, turn it down or change the station! It was hugely humiliating to be driving anywhere in town on a nice summer's day and have the music blaring out of the windows at ear-splitting decibels. Older folks and kids alike, would turn, gape at us for a couple of minutes and then laugh right in our faces. And as the radio was pouring out its unrestrained onslaught, the radio antenna would be going up and down the whole time. Leo, would utter a string of blue tinged words, slink down in his seat and head for home, all errands forgotten.

Another trip to the Ford dealer and another series of "diagnostic" tests and we were left with another huge bill and no diagnosis. The head mechanic suggested we have the whole system completely overhauled at an ungodly amount of money. And hearin this, Leo gulped, paid the bill and walked out with the repairman's laughter ringing in his ears. This luxury car, the car of his dreams was a LEMON! A money pit! A dud!

After that, we only drove the car when it was absolutely necessary. Whenever we met another Lincoln on the highway or in town that was the same year as ours, Leo would point it out to me and sarcastically say, "There goes another fool just like us. I wonder when his front end will fall down!" or "I can just bet that his fuel alarm is sounding right now too!" or "A fool and his money soon part!"

There is nothing sadder than to see a good man's dream goin up in smoke. Leo's love for that car turned overnight and he now hated the sight of it and I'll never forget the day that the car had its final revenge.

It was a Saturday and I had taken our other car into town to do some shopping and Leo was going to stay home and mow the lawn. Upon checking the gas situation, he decided that he didn't have enough and he needed to drive into town to buy some more. "What harm could there be to take the Lincoln for a quick drive and back?" He thought to himself. So, off he went to get the extra gas. He later told me the humiliating story about the drive.

It seems that he had no sooner gotten to the end of our driveway when all hell broke loose. It was as though all the demons in the world had descended upon the car. He said he had never been so humiliated in his entire life. As he drove slowly through our quiet neighborhood, the car took on a life of its own. First the fuel warning gauge began sounding with extra loud "boings!" Then the driver's seat started its whirring sound and began shifting in all directions and then the air cushion suspension began going up and down. Next the radio and the antenna joined the parade and Leo said that the neighbors all came out to have a look at the car as it passed by and it was as if the car knew everyone was looking and laughing at it and it didn't care.

Leo pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the ignition as one of the neighbor's kids came running up just as the side window began going slowly up and down. The kid gaped at the car for a couple of minutes and then he said, "Gee Mr. David, this car is really wonderful! How do you get it to do all that?" As Leo drove off, he said that the car suddenly descended and he was driving a "low rider" once again.

That was the final straw! It wasn't too long before my husband came home with another vehicle and this one wasn't a luxury car and it wasn't a Ford product either. It was a Toyota and if he wasn't "in love" well, at least he was "in like." Everything worked like it was supposed to. This vehicle got us from point a. to point b. and that was good enough for us.

The Lincoln stayed in the basement all that summer and when fall began closing in on us, we knew that we had to make a decision about the car. We needed to use the space that the Lincoln was occupying for our other car for the winter. We thought about having it towed away but when Leo learned the price to have it picked up and towed off, he balked at that. Then he thought about selling it to a place that would use it for all the new parts that we had replaced on the car or maybe he could find the place where evil cars go to get their just rewards but fate intervened before that could happen.

I'd gone into town shopping and as I came out of Big Lots, there happened to be a taxi waiting for someone in front of the store. As my eyes slid along the big car, I realized that it was the same make and model as ours and I had a brainstorm. "Maybe this man might want our car for parts," I thought to myself. I marched over to the taxi and opened the door. "Excuse me," I said to the driver. "But we own a car exactly like yours and we want to give it away. Would you like to have it?" The driver who appeared to be Mexican looked at me as if I was a crazy gringo lady and he edged closer to the driver's side door. I saw that I needed to back up my statement so I whipped out my check book, tore our address and phone number off a blank check and gave it to him, saying, "If you can come out to our house and drive it away, you can have it, free of charge. Just call first to let us know when you are coming so my husband will be home." The man nodded his head as though he had understood what I had said and I closed the door and walked away, happy with myself because I had found an ingenious way of dealing with the problem. And I was happy that maybe I had done a good deed to help someone else too.

Two days passed and Leo kept teasing me about my "good deed." "Honey," he said, "Think how that poor taxi driver must have felt. Who in the world opens a door and offers anybody a "free" car? Nobody that's who! I bet he went home and told his family, "Do you know what happened to me today? A loco Americana lady came up to me and gave me her car, free." "Oh sure," his family must have said. "And do you think the moon is made of gold too?" And they had a good laugh at his expense.

But, Sunday morning, our phone rang and it was Felix, the Mexican cab driver. Leo spoke with him and they made arrangements to meet that afternoon. When he hung up the phone, Leo turned to me and said, "Honey, that was the cab driver. He and his brother-in-law are coming over at three to look at the Lincoln. It looks like they might take it off our hands." A big smile of relief spread over his face.

Sure enough, precisely at three, we watched as the taxi I had see in town, drove up into our driveway and two men got out. Leo hurried out to greet them and to show them our car. I listened as he brought them into our basement and showed them all the new parts that we had put on the vehicle. The two men conversed with Leo half in English and half in Spanish and then I saw them drive away.

Leo came upstairs and mixed us both a drink and said, "They want it and will be back tomorrow to drive it away. I told them that I would leave it at the end of our driveway with the keys in it and the title on the driver's seat. Now lets make a toast to good riddance to the car from hell!" We clicked our glasses together and took a good long drink and smiled for the first time in months. We hadn't smiled since that car had come into our lives.

The next morning before he left for work, my husband started the monster, drove it out to the end of the drive and parked it. I watched as he gave it one final pat and I felt sad that his dream had turned into such a disaster. I too felt a little sorry that the thing had turned into such a money pit but I was going to be glad to get on with our lives. The car was gone when we got home from work later on that night. We heaved a sigh of relief and said that old, oft said saying when something thought to be good, has turned into such a disaster, "Goodbye and good riddance and may we never meet again!"

With the Lincoln gone, it was as though a pall had been lifted from our home. Sunshine again shone through our windows and our home was filled with laughter and love and we never gave a thought to that car again. Not until two days later that is.

The Mexican's honeymoon with the Lincoln was short lived, much shorter than ours. Imagine our shock and surprise when arriving home on Wednesday night to look up and find the Lincoln once again sitting arrogantly in our driveway. Leo stopped our car and we looked at each other and at the other car. Was it really back? How could that be? We got out of the Toyota and walked slowly over to the Lincoln. It was back all right! In all its final glory, the air bags had totally deflated and it was resting on all four wheels.

It looked pretty much the same as when we'd last seen it with one exception, there was a small note taped to the windshield. Leo reached out, pulled the paper free and opened it up. It read:

Hola Ban-da-hoes! Translated: "Hello Assholes!"

Tank Ku for de Lincoln but che is a piece of chit! I gets down da road two miles and che go "boing!" "boing!" "boing!" Den che fall down! Den my seat, che go up, den che go down, che go front, che go back! Dis seat, che maybe kill me! Den, a leetle more down de road, de whole car, de frnt che go up, de back che go down and den che all fall down. I liks the moosic but I no like da big moosic! I bring dis piece of chit back! I no want her! I tink che have the el Diablo in her ass!

PS: I tink me, maybe I see dis lawyer, I have de berry bad nightmares since I get dis car and I hav a big pain in my head! Maybe I sue ju too!


Martha Stevens-David

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