Keep calm and drive on

photo(9)For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

 ~ Romans 1: 21

The weather this summer has been wonderful and I thanked God for it as I pulled up into my driveway a few weeks back.

I had driven home from work during the unusual cool of the evening, my windows open not because I wanted to simply feel the wind on my face but for a more practical reason – I have no air conditioning.

I had the AC taken out at the end of summer two years back. At the time, it seemed foolish to spend $800 dollars plus to fix a 1999 Ford Taurus that boasted about 180,000 miles on it. I could suck it up, drive with the windows down and make it all work for as long as possible. Hopefully until my wife’s car was paid off.

I was used to that sort of thing.

The heat hadn’t worked much either in the Taurus for many years. It had just enough juice to keep the windshield defrosted if you scraped it yourself.

I didn’t have it repaired for the same reason – it was going to cost a lot to have the dash pulled out and for somebody to try to figure out what was wrong. It seemed foolish to spend money fixing a car so old and battered. This year’s cold and snowy winter saw me donning insulated hunting coveralls, gloves and a hat when I’d leave work for the chilly drive home. It cracked my co-workers up to no end.

It was a pain but it worked. Every day, the old girl started and got me where I needed to go. It never stranded me or caused me a bit of trouble. When it was cold, I’d bundle up, when it was hot, I’d roll the windows down.

All the while I did my best to be thankful and grateful. Not having an extra car payment over the last few years has been a blessing. We bought my wife’s car new, so she had a solid car that kept her and my daughter safe. We used it for any long trips or simply to run around town.

The Taurus had one job, get me back and forth to work and do it without costing us much, and it did its job admirably.

When I pulled her into my driveway I looked at my gauges and saw all was well. I’ve developed the habit of watching my temperature and oil gauges like a hawk, a reflex developed over years and years of driving beater cars. Feeling happy, I went inside.

I had the house to myself, the girls were down visiting Shan’s folks in central Arkansas, so I checked on the pets, wandered the backyard and spoke to the chickens. Eventually I took the trash out.

And there it was. The big puddle of coolant under my trusty Taurus. I hoped it was simply a matter of adding more but no, she had a leak, a substantial one.

In the morning I filled her with water and limped the Taurus to our mechanic. A guy who has been part of the reason she’s lasted this long. He said he’d look the Taurus over and let me know. I called my boss, let her know I’d be late and one of my coworkers ran over and picked me up.

So, here I was, pretty much afoot. Then I got the news that the radiator was cracked. To replace it would cost me  about $500 in parts and labor.


The car has a salvage title. It was beaten up in a hail storm right after we purchased my wife’s new car, which was safely in the garage when the storm came up. I was not so lucky and got caught on the way  home.  At the time the insurance payout on the Taurus let us pay an unexpected bill. And I just kept driving.

It likely wasn’t worth the money to repair the Taurus, probably the best thing to do was to have her hauled away as scrap.

But I was stuck.

My wife wouldn’t be home for days. I didn’t want to be a bother to my coworkers hauling me around. We were planning on getting a new car anyway with our other vehicle paid off just a few months ago. Sure, I could rent a car but that would put pressure on us to buy something fast, which is never a good idea.

Why now, I thought. After all this time why quit now?

My wife was calm when I talked to her. We had the money for the repairs, she reasoned. We both didn’t want to rush into a new car purchase. She would be  home in a few days. Just fix the car.

So we did.

Still it stuck in my craw some and I was feeling far from grateful or thankful. I hate being dependent on anyone, having to ask for help. Here I was having to bum rides off one of my coworkers, a young guy who was new to our reporting team.

I was without my car for about three days. My wife returned and I was grateful to tell my co-worker he didn’t have to stop by to pick me up. We went to our mechanic, paid our bill and I crawled behind the wheel of my car and headed to work.

The windows were down, of course, and it felt good to be self-reliant again. As I moved I realized I was being foolish. Sure my car cost me a little cash, but really only a little cash compared to its long years of service. My boss had been understanding. My co-worker was there and cheerfully helped me when I was in a jam. My wife had been smart and helpful.

And my car was still rolling, just like it had rolled and rolled and rolled for me and my family. We bought the Taurus from my wife’s brother, a car dealer, when it was nearly new. We drove my daughter home in it from the hospital over 12 years ago. It took us back and forth to Shan’s parents’ home many a Christmas, or Thanksgiving or Fourth of July.

When it became my work car over five years ago it served me well. Often, very often, I’d say a small prayer of thanks for it as I steered it to work or on my way back home.

I just walked to our front door and stared at her parked in the usual spot. She’s white, with chipped paint and worn tires and over 200,000 on the odometer. Sure you have to roll down the windows when it’s warm or bundle up when its cold but she always starts and hasn’t asked much in return.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.

There she sat in the driveway. A gift from God. What’s the Blue Book value of that?


  1. Dear John,

    You know we have three cars over here. The old jeep just sits in the back yard until hunting season arrives. (And it has A/C!) All you have to do is ask.