Hammer Time: The Seasons

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time the seasons

The girlfriend had become a wife. A beautiful wedding that would forever change two lives took place on a sunny Georgia afternoon, June 12th, 1999. My wife was the oldest of six and would be the first in her family to marry. I, the youngest of four, would be the last. Both families were conservative and traditional in that all too regional way. My cut-throat New Jersey mentality was tempered with a determination to do what I wanted to do in life. Damn the shackles of the corporate world and the pointless long hours. I would find a way to beat the system and enjoy free time instead of paperwork and fluorescent lights. ‘She’ wanted to be a mom. But that was years down the road… or so I thought.

After we had our honeymoon, it was time for us to start living a bit. The college driven refuse that had literally fallen apart in our house had to be replaced. The inside of the house was gradually taken care of with thrift stores and auctions. I was ecstatic at buying a $6 Lay-Z-Boy recliner and a $5 Macintosh. Then I realized I never watched TV and didn’t need a computer and resold them. My wife got picture frames and all different types of cheap art. I didn’t care. She decorated and so long as it didn’t break the bank, it was all good. Men have cars and tools. Women have art and gossip.

However I drew the line at this inexplicable piece of kitsch I called ‘Penis Cat’. A four foot totem pole with a slight curve and a cat’s head on top of it. She loved it. I hated it. Then she blurted out, “How do you think I feel driving the limo car?”

The limo car was a 1983 Lincoln Mark VI coupe in silver with 90,000 original miles. Given as a retirement gift from the Coca-Cola company, the jewel was passed over from grandfather to grandson, to the ‘car guy’ for all of $1500. The blue velour seats were God’s gift from Perry Como heaven and the ride was simply automotive nirvana. Throw in lights and switches that all worked with the smallest of finger pressure, and I had the best beater car on the road.

Except I drove a Clinton-era Camry and my wife was obviously sick of driving this Lincoln from the wrong side of the last decade. This was the second Steenkin’ Lincoln in the last five years and I was dumbfounded to find out she never liked them in the first place.

“You don’t like the car?” I said in a way that was part defense and part confusion.

“Aaaahhh no. I tolerate your car and you will tolerate my statute.”

“But that’s Penis Cat?” I blurted out. “It looks like those postcards I sent you of those fertility God statutes in Greece. Remember, the ones that had bigger penises than bodies.”

“My Mom had a heart attack thanks to those postcards. I want the cat statue and it stays.”

I proceeded to hang my jacket on ‘Penis Cat’ when I got home and pretty soon it just became “Jack Cat.” But what about the car? She hated it. I couldn’t argue. When I figured out that we would likely save over $15k in 10 years if I sold it and kept a compact instead, I knew the Lincoln had to go.

But replace it with what? My wife had $6000 to spend and that would be it. Toyota Camry’s and Honda Accord’s were available only at around the 100k mile mark at that price. That was even more miles than the Lincoln, which eventually sold for $3500. Corollas were fine. But they had a ridiculous price premium at the auctions along with everything else that was popular. To tell you the truth, the year 1999 was probably America’s high point when it came to the economy. Everyone had jobs. The internet bubble was giving an illusory sense of wealth. Nothing was cheap. If you had $6k, you were looking at a lower end car with at least 60,000 miles on it.

But then I saw it. A burgundy two year old Ford Escort LX. Automatic. Cold Air. A nice radio. Power nothing… and a dented hood. With 35,000 miles it was still under warranty. There was only one guy in the auction lane and as the ringman, it was my job to help bump that guy’s bid into the sellable range. The buyer bid about four times while I pretended the Coke machine was bidding against him, and when I tried to get it to the $5k mark, he walked. I immediately told the seller I would take the car for $5k and the deal was done.

Tax was $300. A new hood was $300. Throw in tires and a good cleaning, and I had bought what I thought would be her transportation for the next ten years.

Three months later she was pregnant. Call us old fashioned but we kept that car for four years until kid number two was ready to arrive on the scene. The Escort was nothing special. But my wife couldn’t get enough of how easy it was to drive it. To this day she still prefers smaller cars. That is with one ‘traditional’ exception that would make The Booth Babe cringe.

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4 of 17 comments
  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Sep 28, 2010

    Penis cat is now the property of the same mother-in-law who nearly had a heart attack from the fertility statues.

    Zbnutcase, my life has been very hectic as of late. Last week was probably the most exciting and heartbreaking time of them all and when I catch a breath, that experience will go on here.

    Booth Babe is getting close...

    Dan, my wife cares nothing for cars. She just wanted to keep penis cat.

  • 50merc 50merc on Sep 29, 2010

    Like they say, life is what happens while you're making other plans.

  • FifaCup Loving both Interior and exterior designs.
  • FifaCup This is not good for the auto industry
  • Jeff S This would be a good commuter vehicle especially for those working in a large metropolitan area. The only thing is that by the time you put airbags, backup cameras, and a few of the other required safety features this car would no longer be simple and the price would be not much cheaper than a subcompact. I like the idea but I doubt a car like this would get marketed in anyplace besides Europe and the 3rd World.
  • ScarecrowRepair That's what I came to say!
  • Inside Looking Out " the plastic reinforced with cotton waste used on select garbage vehicles assembled by the Soviet Union. "Wrong. The car you are talking about was the product German engineering, East German. It's name was Trabant.