So there I am, minding my own business, when I get a message telling me that my daughter-in-law's father had wrecked and totaled his car. Since then, I've seen the pictures and have to say that he is one VERY lucky man to have walked away from it. A day or so later I got a call from him asking if I knew anyone that could loan him a car. You see he had been out of work for quite a while, and had only recently got a job, and now was likely to lose it if he couldn't get transportation to and from work. Since I know pretty much no one in the Austin area, I regretfully told him that I didn't think I could be much help to him, and wished him the best of luck. There was an awkward pause in the conversation before he spoke again.
"You know I hesitate to mention this, but what about the mustang?" He asked in a timid voice.
To be honest, my 67 Mustang had never even crossed my mind. It has spent so many years in my garage, with this and that wrong, that I pretty much forget that I have three cars most of the time. Still, my Mustang is far more than just an old car to me; it is a symbol and an investment. It is a symbol of my childhood and of my youth as my father had owned one, and my own first car had been one. My own wife is not willing to drive the car because she knows what it means to me, and so there was very little to no hesitation before I replied.
"Umm, no." I told him, while thinking to myself "Not only no but HELL no!"
Still, after the call, it started me thinking. If I COULD get the Mustang road worthy, maybe we could loan him my wife's car. The problem was that I didn’t have the money to fix the darn thing, which is of course the whole reason the car has sat in my garage for years. It just kept haunting me though, that the man was gonna lose his first job in quite a while for lack of transportation, while I had three cars - I just didn't think that I could handle that. My wife and I talked about it and agreed that it was worth going into debt for, and so using my credit card, we started a concerted effort to return a car to life that had not been consistently on the road since 1974.
A few weeks ago, I had tried taking the car out for a bit, and one of the rear tires exploded, shredding assorted parts of my rear fender with it , so now I had two very bald tires and no spare. First things first, there was no point to putting tires on it if its suspension and alignment were so bad that it ate up the last two front tires in less than two thousand miles, so we were off to replace some of the suspension and get it aligned. After getting the lower control arms replaced, the first place we took it to refused to align it, telling me that it was too old, and its specs were not in their database.
The second place we took it to was a new garage with a young owner in his thirties, and he had a brand new and state of the art alignment rack, and he assured me that he would have no trouble at all getting the job done. He was wrong . . .
The first call we got from him was to tell me that he couldn't move most of the components that needed to be adjusted. These had not been adjusted in thirty to forty years, and their threads were full of the undercoating material the car had been treated with in years past. That cost me an extra hundred or so to have him take it off the rack and free these frozen components.
The next call I got from him was to tell me that though there was no clear sign of it to the human eye, my body must be bent, because he could not get the car aligned. One of the adjustments was all of the way to its extreme and yet needed to go farther. Now over $200 down, he hands the car back to me with the steering far worse than it was when I handed it to him.
Just in case it had anything to do with the very old and bald tires, i decided to go get the new tires before taking the car to a body shop to have the "frame" looked at. This turned out to not be as simple as it sounds either, because not only was I not willing to trust the existing tires even long enough to get me to the tire store, but apparently there are very few tires made these days in the appropriate size for my old car. It seems that this tire size is now relegated mostly to trailers, and no longer for cars. It took a couple of hours searching the Internet, but I did ultimately find some Michelins at a nearby discount tires, and so I jacked the car up, took all of the tires off, and threw them in the back of my truck.
Oh, and the tires that were on it? Yeah, it turns out that they were fifteen years old and at the time were about the cheapest tires that you could put on a car with a cost of about $25 each. Terribly cheap and very old - no wonder the damn thing had blown and ripped up my back quarter panel! They were so old that the tire shop refused to move one of them to the spare rim. At first I thought that this was a ploy to force me to buy a new tire, but they wound up giving me a used tire for free, so clearly they really were worried about the safety aspects of the old tires.
So, I got the new tires home, installed them onto the car, and headed out for the body shop. I'd made it maybe a mile and a half when I got pulled over for my expired inspection sticker.
Did you ever have the feeling that the universe was trying to stick it to you?
I explained to the officer that the car had been up on jacks in my garage for years while I was trying to fix it up, and that I was just getting it back on the road. I pointed out the brand new tires and laughed while I told him that they had only been on the car for a whopping twenty minutes. He looked at me kind of doubtful like, no doubt having heard every story there was at some time or other.
"Look, I have to be honest - I'm not sure what to do. Just sit tight for a minute all right?" He told me, and then returned to his car. About a minute later another cop car pulls up behind me, and a young officer gets out and comes up to my window.
"What year is she?" He asked me through the window. Soon, he and I were walking around the car while he explained that he had three or four antique cars himself. As I popped the hood so that he could see the engine bay and engine that I had restored, you could hear him almost gasp as he sharply inhaled.
"Oh my God, it looks like new!" He exclaimed.
"Well you can see where I've been spending all of my time and effort until now." I laughed.
"Look, it's obvious that you have been working on it, so I'm going to suggest that he only give you a warning. I wouldn't worry about it at all. Oh, and what you should do is register it as an antique. You only have to register it once every five years and you don't have to get it inspected." He suggested.
"Thanks so much! I think I'll do exactly that!" I thanked him. He shook my hand, told me he loved the car, and then as both officers were walking away I heard him tell the other one "holy shit, you could eat off of that engine!"
Hmmm, maybe the universe ain't so bad after all!
Feeling more than a little bit of depression at the thought of my car possibly having a bent body, I took the car to a local body shop that had worked on some of my other cars in the past. That afternoon I got my first good news - it seems that the kid with the new garage and state of the art alignment rack apparently hadn't known what he was doing with them and there was nothing wrong with my cars body. He had just been adjusting one of the components the wrong way!
So, now we have loaned my wife's car to my daughter in laws father and got him out of a world of hurt, and yours truly is finally driving a 67 Mustang with new lower control arms, a perfect alignment, brand new tires, and a maxed out credit card in the drivers seat! Oh, I also got those antique plates the police officer had suggested. You are only supposed to drive the car to shows and maintenance, but considering that I've only driven the car half a dozen times in the half a decade that we have owned it, I think my conscience can handle the little white lie.
When it came time to head for the airport for my next service call, I had a bit of a giggle as I was reminded that trunk space in these old mustangs was a very limited affair. Still, I made it work, shoving my tool box in the trunk, and my huge suitcase into the back seat and off I went!
Thinking that this might be one of the few times that I would be driving this car while pretty, I went out of my way to choose an outfit that I thought was somewhat reminiscent of the 1960's. I had considered a pencil skirt, a black with white polka dots dress that is kind of retro, and a new pink dress that I had bought a few months ago. In the end, I thought that the pink outfit fit the bill the best!
Oh, and those adorable pink shoes that went so perfectly with my dress? Yeah, they just went to the top of my "fine for an evening out, but I ain't EVER gonna wear them for 14 hours again" list. OUCH!!!
On this flight I was seated toward the back of the plane and just behind the bulkhead that held the seats for the flight attendants, and so I wound up chatting with one of them. I'm not sure I understood all of the details, but did you know that flight attendants are not on the clock while they are on the ground loading and unloading passengers?! I'm not sure how that could be right or legal, but that sucks! As we were chatting, I could see her doing the typical female routine of giving my outfit the once over. When she had worked her way from my shoes all of the way up to my eyes and found me looking back, she gave me a grin.
"Your outfit is perfect! Very few people bother to get dressed up for flying these days." She told me.
"Oh hell, that's half the fun of it!" I laughed. "And thank you for the compliment. The shoes are a bit much for walking through an airport, but they were just too perfect for the dress for me to skip them."
"Uh uh, those shoes are PERFECT for that dress!" She reassured me.
I'd have to admit that they are cute as hell, but SHE wasn't gonna spend 14 hours walking in them!
Once I'd landed at the Cincinnati airport, I grabbed the Avis shuttle bus, and was sitting back for the ride when I heard a familiar accent from a very pretty woman up front - an Australian! I almost choked when the driver asked her where she was from, because I recalled the last time I had asked a similar question and apparently deeply offended a British man by asking if he was Australian.
The woman confirmed my suspicion by admitting to the driver that she was indeed Australian, and so I pretty much HAD to strike up a conversation with her.
"I would LOVE to go to Australia sometime. One of my very best friends is from Perth and it looks SO pretty there." I shared with her.
"Really? So you've never been then?"
"No, but I have yet to meet an Australian that I didn't like, so I'm gonna have to go sooner or later!"
She laughed, no doubt thinking that Australia probably has its fair share of unlikable people just like any other place in the world. There were a few more minutes of quiet before I decided to yank her chain a little by telling her the story of the offended Brit.
"So what is it with the British and the Australians anyway? A couple of weeks ago I asked a man if he was Australian and he was DEEPLY offended. 'No, I’m from England!' he told me in a huff. You would think that I had asked him if he was Jack the Ripper or something!"
It took her a moment to stop laughing so that she could reply.
"Well, the British can be a bit . . ." She hesitated before completing the thought ". . . Stuffy"
So for the record, I STILL haven't met an Australian that I didn't like. An irreverent bunch that one . . .
As for the job I was there for, that turned out to be kind of a giggle too. A year or so ago, I had repaired an instrument in Louisiana under warranty because a critical part had apparently been shipped without a tiny screw that was needed to hold it in place. At the time, both the customer and I had searched like hell for the missing screw just to be sure that we were not leaving it floating around in the machine, but we never could find it.
Well, I found it this week.
It turns out that this was the same company, and they had just shipped the instrument from Louisiana to Cincinnati when it stopped working. Our itty bitty missing screw had decided to go walk-about and become a nuisance by getting lodged into a moving part and jamming it
For the flight home, I was gonna wear tights since it was less than 30F outside, but even sitting in my cool hotel room, I was suffering from being too warm. At the last minute I decided that the tights had to go, or I was gonna die of heat stroke in the airports. I was so hot that I decided to store my coat away in my bag, and this caused people no end of amusement and concern. Making my way to and from the Avis bus, I had at least four people tell me that I must be freezing, but under the wig, makeup, and nylons, I was doing just fine!
Checking in at the Delta counter, I was reminded of why I like Delta so much better than the other airlines - they are SO much friendlier!
"Hello miss, how are you today?!" Asked a male customer service representative, sounding for all of the world as if we were the very best of friends. This is what I like about Delta airlines - they are honestly friendly. Some of the other airlines are professional, don't get me wrong, but none of the others have struck me as being so genuinely nice. I just don't know how to describe it better with words, but this Delta rep was just very kind, friendly, and professional, and he impressed the hell outta me.
Not being terribly familiar with this airport, I didn't know how long it would take me to get through security, and so I had made it a point to get there two hours before my flight. Needless to say, I had some time to kill in the Delta sky club.
"What can I get you young lady?" Asked the male bartender who appeared to me to be in his fifties or so.
"How about a screw driver please?" I asked.
"Are you 21?" He asked with a straight face.
"No, not for some time now! Thanks for asking though - that's the best giggle I've had all week."
"All right, I'll take your word for it then. So do you want a little smile or a big one?" He asked, moving his finger from low on the glass to much higher on the glass, apparently showing me where he planned to stop with the vodka.
"What the heck, let's go for a big smile!" I laughed.
"Boy am I gonna be in trouble if you aren't 21 . . . " he mumbled as he filled the glass much too full of vodka.
You know, a really good bartender is so hard to come by these days! ;-)
You know, a really good bartender is so hard to come by these days! ;-)