Old cars and our mortality

Anthropomorphists give inanimate objects names, ascribe personalities to them, and confide in them like friends.

Anthropomorphists give inanimate objects names, ascribe personalities to them, and confide in them like friends.

‘Jim’ was a cozy red vest I wore at every opportunity.

When he disappeared after 20 years – I suspected foul play. There was nothing to wear when I settled in to read a good book.

My wife sheepishly presented me with a new vest. She said she couldn’t tolerate the holes in Jim any longer.

‘Guy’ is the fly rod my father-law-law gave me 40 years ago. I’d cast out another 10 metres with a new one, but Guy (dad’s name) brings back priceless memories of fishing trips we enjoyed together.

I can’t part with my ’91 Buick Park Avenue – dad’s gift when he died – for another reason. ‘Parker’ is a constant reminder of my own mortality.

There’s been more visits to doctors lately, and a nasty battle with C. Difficile – the result of broad spectrum antibiotics. We tend to forget that nothing and nobody lasts forever until disease or a pernicious stomach bug comes along.

I don’t mean we should dwell on that, only that we should thank our doctors and live for the moment.

A year ago, Parker’s mechanical problems reminded me that everything in man and machine breaks down, and that neither repairs or new parts are guaranteed.

Firstly, there was Parker’s broken brake release cable. GM didn’t have one anywhere, nor did any wrecker in Canada. An exhaustive search by Joe, a parts man in Bellingham, finally uncovered one of the last ones in existence. It was in Texas.

When Roy at Minit-tune installed it, Parker was delighted. As he hummed along, I sang, “We’re back on the road again.”

We lived for the moment until Parker had another serious problem. We lost the crescent shaped horn caps on his steering wheel. Texas couldn’t help us this time, but George, at Stave Falls Auto Wreckers, could.

Months went by smoothly until last spring. Parker and I travelled to Pender Island, where I have a piece of raw land. On the way up the hill to the property, we ran over a fallen branch. One end flipped upward and snapped off three staves on Parker’s beautiful grill. He looked like he’d had his teeth knocked out in pub brawl, an event you’d never imagine if you knew how refined and dignified Parker is. He’s a proud, classy car. It must have been hard to go out in public with his face bashed in.

George, who was quickly becoming a friend of the family, found the old boy a new grill and even replaced the broken one. Parker had his smile back.

I’ve learned that an ignition coil on a car is like a human heart. It provides the spark that sets parts in motion. Parker underwent a transplant for one two years ago. I located it at a wrecker in Abbotsford. Roy, Parker’s Doctor of Mechanics, installed it.

This September it failed. It was find another, or finally lay Parker to rest.

There was only one place to look.

George, at Stave Falls found a coil in Oliver and had it bussed to Roy.

I can’t describe my relief when he called to say the procedure had been a success.

“But, Jack,” he warned, “if you’re going to keep Parker, you might want to start looking for a back up ignition coil, and maybe a few other parts.”

I made a call to George to thank him again for going the extra mile for Parker.

“No problem, buddy,” he said.

“Do you do that sort of thing often?” I asked.

“Every single day,” he assured me. “Had to order a front door for a 1963 Lincoln Convertible, from Arizona. Original paint, not a speck of rust. Recycling is very important.”

The Lincoln’s buddy – obviously another anthropomorphist with a sense of his own mortality – was overjoyed.


– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.