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Thursday, Sept. 27, 2001
I had the best of intentions. But it backfired on me.

Eldest daughter Beth began her campaign for a car to drive (I won't even call it a 'car of her own') back in the winter. She promised and pleaded and generally kissed my ass to a sickening degree.

And somewhere in the back of my mind I was agreeing, because there's one thing as a parent you must do on behalf of a car-less teen.

You have to drive them EVERYWHERE! And Beth has lots of places to go, oh yeah. And you have to sit and wait for her to finish whatever activity the moment calls for so you can drive her back home.

So one day I'm cruising the neighborhood and see it. Like a vision it appears before me.

A little red Toyota. For sale. For $700.00.

Now this appeals to my baser instincts, namely that I'm cheap when buying stuff which I know has the possiblity of being run into the ground. I was looking at it and noting the presence of tires, windshields and seats, all of which were included in the price.

The seller ambles out of his house and, surprise! He's a minister! A man of the cloth! He lets me drive it around the block. Hey, it runs! A little loud for such a tiny car, but gee whiz, stop yer bitchin'.

'Cause it's $700.00

I pretty well couldn't get my checkbook out fast enough. I waved away Beth's complaint that it was a stickshift, which she didn't know how to use. I waved away Ally's comment on the rust spots (well, rust holes, to be perfectly frank), drove my new $700 sports coupe to the DMV and changed the title. Done. There ya go Beth, drive THIS!

Well, she learned the stick shift part pretty quickly. It's amazing what incentive can do for your learning skills. And I sat back fat and happy, a little smug, having beaten the devil that is second hand car buying.

It took Ally just about a week. Cobra like, inevitably, she would strike.

She called me from work one afternoon and told me the car was in the shop. "Whatever for?", was my naive response.

"We're painting it and getting rid of those rust holes, you idiot."

With visions of smoke arising from my wallet, I hemmed and howled and threatened. No use. When Ally makes up her mind there's no stopping her. I sulked and let it ride.

$989.63 later, the Toyota looked great. And very red. And all was well with the world. With the possible exception of my bank account.

A week goes by and Beth calls me. "Dad I'm at Lou's Auto Shop. The Toyota was overheating and it scared me, so I took it here. Can you come pick me up?"

Now Lou is my business mechanic, and I trust him - a little. I talk to him and make sure he understands that I don't want a lot of money poured into this repair. Made sure he knew that future business was riding on this. I'm sure I frightened him into compliance. Yeah, me and my mighty fleet of two trucks. He was petrified.

$440.32 later, the Toyota runs great. Lou wipes his hands on a rag and offers up more wisdom. "Yep. Had to replace the radiator. Darn good thing. Almost rusted through. Oughtta let me pull that exhaust system, too. Pipes are rusted, all shot to hell. That's why it's so loud."

Properly chastised, I sit and watch Beth drive off in a car which is now somewhere north of $2000 in investment dollars. In actual value dollars, the Blue Book says it will resale for $1,495.00.

Oh yes, I had the best of intentions.

But I let the exhaust system go. For now. It's a comfort to me to hear the car from a block away. It's the only thing left for me from the days when it was a $700 bargain.

Rather than having a depressing ending to this tale, it get's even more sad.

Beth comes home in tears last night with that oh-so-familiar yellow paper in hand.

Dad says, "You got a ticket?"

Tearful Beth manages to choke out that she was doing 35 mph in a 25 zone. Now mind you, she's had her license for about 5 months. Had to go to court and listen to the judge explain to a group of new drivers their responsibility, the strict measure in which he would deal with them if he saw them back in court, had them watch the scary movie about drinking and driving.

Yes, all that. She goes to court on October the 9th.

I wonder what he'll have to say when Beth and I approach the bench in a couple weeks. Maybe I'll regale him with the story of the $700 Toyota and throw myself on the mercy of the court. Tell him I've taken her keys and I'm back to driving her around. You know, the suffering and duality of man approach.

Naw. The way this things been going, he'd probably have me on a county road gang, in one of those spiffy orange suits.

Come to think of it, that might not be so bad. I surely wouldn't be let out to drive anybody around.

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