I know a few people who seem to change vehicles the way most of us change clothes. Their vehicles are not always new. They are just different. These people like vehicular variety.
Dicksons, on the other hand, drive our vehicles until they are members of our family and beyond. We have even named some of them. Our current senior wheels arrived when the fi rst Precious Jewel graduated from college in 2004, and it was not new then.
Not surprisingly, I know each of my cars pretty well, but one of them stands out in all Dickson minds. It had so many “adventures” while it was in our care that my friends gave it their own nickname: Bad Carma.
It appeared to be a perfectly normal vehicle, a station wagon chosen for safety and its highway gas mileage. It performed as I expected, and I felt comfortable and safe driving both in town and on the interstate for several years. I was especially fond of its “bun warmers.”
Never did I imagine what troubles would befall and ultimately destroy my nice sedate car. Never did I sense her ultimate karma.
My car’s first “adventure” got underway one fall morning when I looked out the window and she was not in the driveway.
The Dickson men had been moving vehicles around the night before, so I inquired where mine went.
“Nowhere. It’s in the driveway,” came the response.
But she was not. We called the Fayetteville Police who came promptly, and shortly thereafter friends began calling.
“Margaret, I just saw two men in your car on Robeson Street.”
“Margaret, I just saw two men in your car on Owen Drive.”
This went on for four or five days until she was discovered abandoned not far from downtown Fayetteville, dirty, out-of-gas and with a flat tire but otherwise unscathed. I did not allow her to come home until she had been, as we say these days, “detailed,” but even then, I was not quite confi dent of her cleanliness. So, I put on kitchen gloves and hopped in with spray cleaner and paper towels. To my astonishment, I found the ID card of the person the police established as the “perp,” a man who was scooped up immediately and who shortly thereafter went away on a state-funded vacation. His adventure with my station wagon was the last straw in a long criminal record.
Normal life with my station wagon resumed, but not for long.
Lightening was about to strike twice in the same place — upon my car in my driveway.
It was an unseasonably warm Friday the following January, and as was my custom, I was up before dawn to meet my walking chum. As I passed my car in the driveway, I felt crunchy debris underfoot.
By the time we returned it was light, and I still get goose bumps by what I found.
A concrete cherub the size of a toddler, beloved by our neighbors, had been ripped from their bench to which it was glued and heaved through the passenger side window of my car, still wearing the festive red ribbon his owners had festooned him with for Christmas.
His creepy, sightless eyes were staring at me through the broken window.
The grit I had walked over an hour earlier was glass shards from that shattered window. I felt like taking a long, hot shower.
Many weeks and dollars later the seats and the gearshift assaulted by the concrete toddler were restored.
By this time, our second Precious Jewel graduated from college, and in true Dickson tradition, received a used car. An avid camper, she took my longsuffering station wagon to rural Canada, where her tired and wounded self was parked for nearly two months.
Late that summer, I was expecting to receive a call that Precious Jewel was out of the wilderness, but I did not expect to hear every parent’s greatest fear and greatest relief rolled into one.
“Mom, don’t worry. We are OK.”
The station wagon had gone up in flames on a gravel road in next to nowhere, immolating the belongings of Precious Jewel and two friends but blessedly sparing them. Precious Jewel said she knew they were in trouble when the paint on the hood bubbled and smoked wafted from the air conditioning vents, and they dove out of the car just in time.
The Canadian insurance adjuster said the sudden blaze was odd, but not that odd. It seems that when vehicles are parked in rural areas for extended periods of time, critters build nests and raise babies in their cozy, sheltered engines. The problem is that when that vehicle is started and heats up, the nest of sticks and whatever else catches fire.
Who knew?Cell phone pictures zapped from the North Woods revealed a burned out carcass of a station wagon, tires and windows blown out but with a Dickson political sticker still on the back window.
It was a sad ending for a faithful friend who had endured more than her share of tribulation.
Rest in peace, Bad Carma.