Student Driver

Like many students, I drive an older car. Like really old. Older than you. It is a 1991 VW Golf Cabriolet. Fun in the sun!

I bought it with my daughter 50/50, split the insurance, the gas, the repairs. It was cheap to buy, is cheap to run, and fun to drive, no question.

My advice to you, dear reader, is that if you are buying a used car, spend the money and have it inspected by a professional. I did not. Now, to be fair, I know cars. I have had many VWs, everything from a 1979 Westphalia van, to Golfs, two Cabrios, and the current little red devil. I am quite comfortable around an engine.

Shall we say, I missed a few things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, but she certainly has her quirks, and yes, it is a she. She has a name. Her name is Arabella Arsewhette. You see, the roof leaks, so when you sit in the car after the rain, you get her last name.

Anyone with a name like that must have a personality to match. Arabella is no exception. We brought her home in the summer. It was lovely, top down, no stereo, my two kids singing at the top of their lungs. A stereo was the first thing to go in. Priorities! The nice chaps at Sound Advice installed it for us . . . and the speakers didn’t work. Eventually, they got them going, or at least some of them, and off we drove with the dog covering his ears in the back, the kids still singing.

After the summer, things got really interesting. Once it started to rain, we found out just how leaky the roof was. One requires a rain coat to drive on particularly inclement days. Plastic bags reside on the seats in a vain attempt to protect the occupants’ bottoms.

With rain, comes the need to de-fog the windows, especially the front one. It is, dear reader, important to see what is in front of you, and hanging one’s head out of the window does not work. Especially on the highway. The blower/heater only works when you corner left. It goes faster the more you turn and the faster you go. So, to defog the windows, we either have to go round a round-about at high speed, or use the manual method which is my daughter in the passenger seat cleaning the window with a sponge.

As I like to say, it is all manual. The gear shift, the roof, the window defogger, the windows.

The safety features are state of the art. Of 1991. It has seat belts and a roll bar and brakes.  No mod-cons either. No cup holders. That too is improvised. The driver, when solo, must hold the cup between the legs. This makes shifting interesting as Arabella is, of course, a manual transmission. This was all fine until my coffee cup blew its top due to high pressure (a story for another time).  When there is a passenger present, they have defogging and cup holding duties.

Just recently, she was drinking oil. Guzzling it. Poor Arabella needed rehab. She was an oil-oholic. This had the potential to be o rings, which was going to mean a full engine replacement at a cost of $2,500. I don’t know about you, but this student does not have that kind of cash at hand.

I took her in this morning, fearing the worst, perhaps the decision to say goodbye as she was inoperable and would need to be put out of my misery. I patted her bonnet as I left, and crossed my fingers, looking philosophically at my wee dog as we became walkers by circumstance rather than choice.

As we were trudging home, the mechanic called. “Well,” he said, “we’ve had a good look at her, and it’s not going to be a major engine job.” He sounded quite cheerful.

“Oh thank goodness,” I said.

“It is,” he continued, “the seals for the pistons that have dried up.”

“What causes that?” I asked guilelessly.

“Oh,” he said, “It’s old age, they dry up with old age.”

I must admit here, dear reader, that I paused, trying not to laugh. I am, don’t forget, a mature student. I suddenly felt an overwhelming sympathy for my poor little car, suffering from the inevitable effects of aging. I immediately thought of my knees, still struggling through soccer games, the worn parts and the injuries sustained over a lifetime of contact sports, well worn, but still serviceable, just like Arabella.

There was no question of what decision to make. Arabella Arsewhette will receive her new parts and a new lease on life. I feel a newfound affinity for the old girl, and a smattering of jealousy too. I would love a few new parts, but like her, I am a classic, and I will roll on too.

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