Sunday, March 16, 2008


From the Detroit Free Press, Feb. 22, 2008, Business Section:

"General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac Vibe sport wagon and Toyota Motor Corp.'s

About a year ago while on my way to work, I stopped at a neighborhood ATM to get money for the week. I noticed my driver's window tipped forward at an odd angle as it slid beneath the rubber weather proofing trim. A small hump remained above the rim while I worked the keypad and waited for my money. It was still chilly in the morning at that time. A cool drizzle of rain fell. I got my money, put my card in my wallet, adjusted, and went to raised the window.

The glass clicked and sort of popped up then fell. A few seconds later it rose like a jigsaw puzzle piece turned sideways and forced into the wrong slot. I lowered it, heard ugly noises from inside the door, like the gnarled finger nails of gremlins sliding over old fashion chalkboards. I stopped, and raised it quickly. The window seemed to have fallen almost back into its path, but there were still gaps. I placed my palm on the glass to try and help it into place when it broke into a million little pieces and some large pieces that resembled aquamarine peanut brittle.

I went into to work and was reminded by several co-workers of the rain outside and my open window. I told them it was age, that I was forgetting things more and more. My plan was to hit the glazier immediately after work and have it fixed.

That plan almost worked.

I got to the glass company just in time to hear them say it would be forty-eight hours until the shipment would arrive. For two days I drove with an open window, leaning away from puddle splash and keeping the heater cranked in the morning. Once at work, an over sized, industrial strength plastic garbage bag was closed inside the door and duct-taped to the frame. I couldn't keep the secret. I mean, anyone who parked in the same lot as me already saw the cock-eyed front end, the peeling paint, the fossilized remants of a ribbon magnent burned into the hood of the Vibe. The gas-door had long ago ejected itself at a Speedway gas station, too ashamed to remain a part of the Aught-three. It was as if my car were trying to cut itself free of the whole, bit by bit.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2003 Vibe

I bought the 2003 Vibe, used, from a young German couple who had recently moved to this country. They needed cash to finance a fledgling business and I needed a car. "Gretchen," petite and perky with a seductive smile, greeted me when we arrived to inspect the car. "Carl," her fiance, was away on business, she said. I took it for a test a drive and noticed a couple of things: The car pulled left when breaking, there was a vibration in the steering wheel, the air conditioning got warmer when the car came to a stop. Little things I knew could be corrected, especially since the Vibe's warranty followed whoever held the title.

Except for one little blip in the fine print.

I made an appointment at the local Pontiac dealer to have the early problems looked into. About an hour after I dropped it off, the head mechanic came looking for me and asked me what color title I had. I told him it was orange and he told me that meant the car had been salvaged.

I turned several shades of a primary color that, when mixed with yellow, became orange. I told the mechanic I had asked my wife if the state was issuing new titles when I first got it in the mail. No one I asked had ever dealt with a salvaged car. To everyone concerned, it was a new look for a new millennium. Unfortunately, it was an old method of issuing a title for a car that had seen better days.

So instead of having a creased AC coil and the wheels balanced for free, it was going to cost me. I drove it away from the dealer and took it to a local mechanic who I knew to be fair on price and trustworthy on service. I told him the story and he of coursed, squinted his right eye, cocked his head, clicked his tongue off the roof of his mouth, and laughed.

Reluctant to confront the heavy accented couple because I was never clear on what the business was they were attempting to run, and still in need of a car, I kept the Vibe. I liked the way it smelled inside it, at first deluding myself it was the linger scent of Gretchen's perfume; I discovered later it was an air freshener from a spritz bottle. Anyhow, Vibe's do get great mileage. I've kept a running journal of it since I first got the car. I will soon be posting the entries from it. I will also be sharing the further adventures of the Aught-Three Vibe.