It's what's under the hood that truly counts
September 08, 2010 | 07:52 AM
Last week, I stopped off at my mechanic's shop to find out the status of work on my car. I hadn't heard from the manager and it's always scary when they keep your car for a few days.
But, I never expected to see what he was about to show me.
I pulled up and he was standing outside, he waved me into the garage and I followed him to the front of my car. With the hood open, he pointed toward the engine and started talking. I have no idea what he said because all I could think about were the large missing parts from what once was my beautiful car and powerful engine. I did everything possible to be strong during this trying time.
I nodded and smiled at him, but really truly heard little of what he was talking about. I still was staring at what appeared to be left of the engine.
All I know is the problem revolves around the timing chain and the plastic piece that holds it in place. After a few minutes, I gathered myself and realized that cars are pulled apart and put back together every day. But, then I realized this was my car.
My mind wandered to when I first saw the car. It was nearly 11 years ago on a lot in Menomonee Falls. In a way it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then.
It was virtually brand-new, less than 100 miles on it. It was the perfect color, actually everything about it was perfect. I was told it had been in the showroom and it had been on the lot for only a few days. Under the lights, it had an orange look to it, but I was promised it was a bright candy apple red.
Being in my mid-20s and in love with the car, I had to have it even though I couldn't afford it. At that time, I figured that's what leases were for. Anyway, I lived in Lake Geneva and had to keep up with the Joneses. With this car, I would actually impress the Joneses. There were many times the first few years I had the car, people would stare at it and say, "nice car." At that time, those comments made the $400 payment worth it.
Since then, I have realized that impressing people with things is silly. Spending money you don't have on things you don't need is even dumber. When you're young, you talk about how much you pay for something, as if it is a badge of honor. A few months ago, I heard this guy boasting to his friend about how much he spent on some electronic equipment. I couldn't help shake my head and hope he would one day understand the error of his thinking.
When you grow up and become mature, you talk about a deal you got or that you got much more out of something than anyone ever thought possible. You never talk about paying a lot for something that could have been purchased cheaper.
After 100,000 miles and all these years, my car has dents and dings. I have hit things and other people have hit me. A bicycle carrier, golf clubs and other people's car doors have all done their damage. But, all the blemishes have been left alone, after a while accepted and then ignored.
For me, this car represents who I used to be versus who I now am.
When I first bought this car, it covered up a lack of confidence and financial mistakes and irresponsibility. It was just a fancy, expensive facade for someone who was trying to hide from what was really on the inside.
Now, the car no longer receives the compliments it once did. It is aged, experienced and has its share of blemishes. Sometimes it even seems to have a mind of its own. But until now it's been reliable, consistent and strong inside. There's no hiding behind its now old and dated exterior.
Back in the garage, after his explanation, the mechanic walked away to handle another customer. I was starting to feel better and realized it's really not that big of a deal. Everything will be OK. Then, I backed away from my car and turned around only to notice several heavy, parts, including a piece with a chain on it laying on the floor.
What's on the inside is definitely more important than what's on the outside.
Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.