Thursday, May 9, 2013


Every day for the past four months, I’ve glared at my husband’s van collecting dust out in the garage. The only thing that’s prevented me from selling it is I’m too lazy to clean it out or wash it. 

So a couple weeks ago, when I no longer could tell what color the van was, I decided it was time to sell it. For one thing, I refuse to drive it. It’s big and long and so wide, it clears the garage doorway by only about a half-inch on each side. Past history has taught me that I need at least two feet on each side if I want to be certain I won’t leave the side mirrors dangling from the door frame.

So, armed with a trash bag and gloves, I set to work cleaning out the van. All I can say is there were so many fast-food burger bags stuffed under the seats, I began to suspect that my husband secretly had bought his own franchise. 

With each bag I discovered, I thought of how many nutritious meals I’d cooked for him, trying to stick to the diabetes guidelines his doctor had given me. Apparently, I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I’d have just invested in side of beef and a meat grinder.

After all of the junk was cleaned out, there still was the problem of the van looking like a giant ball of dust. How, I wondered, could I wash it if I couldn’t even back it out of the garage? 

That’s when I remembered that my brother-in-law used to do auto detailing as a sideline (auto detailing means turning an old vehicle into something that looks factory new, or close to it). So I called him and asked if he might be able to do something with the van.

He came over and picked it up and, to my surprise, brought it back the next day looking even better than when it was new. I could see my face in it. And the inside was so clean, no one ever would have guessed it recently had been a fast-food disposal unit on wheels.

I was smiling from ear to ear and thinking it would be a snap to sell the van, when my brother-in-law abruptly wiped the smile from my face.

“It’s running really rough,” he said.

I didn’t want it to run rough. I wanted anyone who drove it to have a nice smooth ride.  Smooth meant I could make money. Rough meant I’d have to spend it.

“It’s probably just because it’s been sitting around for so long,” he added.

“Probably,” I said. But the trouble was, I knew that assorted parts could have dried up, corroded or become mummified during the past few months, which still would cost me money.

That night, I contemplated what to do with the van. Did I really want to advertise it for sale and have a bunch of strangers come to my house to check it out?  And did I want to sit next to those strangers in the van while they test-drove it?  The more I thought about it, the more I allowed my imagination to run wild, and the less I liked the idea.

So I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I called the dealer where my husband originally bought the van and asked the manager if he might want to buy it back.

“Sure, I’ll take a look at it,” he said. “Bring it in.”

“Um, I don’t know how to drive it,” I said.

“OK then, I’ll be over tomorrow to check it out,” he said.

Actually, I had driven my husband’s van only once, back when he first bought it in 2002. We had taken my mom out to eat and on the way home, my husband stopped at his office to pick up some paperwork. While he was in the building, I decided that the empty parking lot might be a good place to try out his van.

Before I knew it, I was in the driver’s seat with my foot on the gas. I zoomed off so fast, when I looked in the rearview mirror, all I saw were my mother’s feet up in the air. I also heard a stream of frantic prayers coming from what sounded like somewhere on the floor.  By the time my husband came back out, we were innocently parked right back where he’d left us. He never knew I’d driven the van. And I never drove it again.

Anyway, the guy from the dealership, Paul, came over the next day, as promised, and was very impressed with the look of the van. I made a mental note to give my brother-in-law a tip.

Paul took the van for a test drive and returned about five minutes later. “The engine light popped on,” he said, frowning.

My heart sank. Why, I wondered, did the dumb light pick that precise moment to pop on? Couldn’t it have waited another day or two, after I already had a check in my hot little hands?

“Tell you what,” Paul said. “I’ll take it back to our mechanic and have him check it out. If it’s something simple, I’ll buy the van. If it’s something big, I won’t. So tomorrow, I’ll either be back here with a check – or the van.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. What would I do, I wondered, with the van back if it was in bad shape?  Pay to have it fixed and then still try to sell it?  Have it towed to a junkyard? Sell it for parts?

Paul called the next morning and told me everything that was wrong with the van. It sounded like the inventory list from Auto Parts R Us.  I recall him saying things about spark plugs and a leaky transmission and needing some kind of belt and maybe a pacemaker or a respirator.  And every other word was, “because it’s old.”  I could empathize with that old van, mainly because as I age, I’m getting rustier and creakier (but fortunately, not yet leakier), too.

“So, I guess you’ll be bringing it back, huh?” I muttered.

“No, I still want to buy it,” he said. “But my offer probably will insult you.”

At that point, he could have offered me $10 and a box of chocolates and I probably would have taken it (I hope he’s not reading this).

His offer actually was closer to $2,000.  Luckily, he couldn’t see me dancing a jig over the phone.

So now I have a nice spacious garage.  I think I might even use the van money to buy myself a riding lawnmower, now that I have a place to put it.

I just hope I can back it out of the garage.

No comments:

Post a Comment