Today is Memorial Day, creating one of a number of a three-day weekend holidays in the U.S. Although the main purpose of the day is to remember and honor our war dead, the weekend also serves as the unofficial start of summer. Appropriately, yesterday was the first really hot day of the year here, with the mercury reaching into the 90s (we use Fahrenheit here).
In the morning, my computer mouse died. It had been acting wonky for a couple of weeks. So I had to drive to "the far-away mall," to the Apple Store, to get a new one. (Actually, two, so I have a spare.)
On the way back, I did something I almost never do, and left the top up on my aging little Miata and turned on the air conditioning. I made it about halfway home when, to my alarm, the car lurched several times and conked out, at a stop sign in a neighborhood called Elm Grove. I then noticed for the first time that the temp gauge was all the way over to "hot." So I pushed the car to the side of the road and opened the hood. Despite the hot day, I could feel the heat radiating from the engine bay. The homeowner from across the street happened to be out getting his mail, and he ambled over and inquired as to what was wrong.
So I informed him amiably that I had just discovered that my car's air conditioning presumably only works when it's cool out. Not when it's hot.
Do you happen to remember a post I wrote last December about a white Rolls-Royce I stumbled across by the side of the street with a "For Sale" sign on it? The relevant picture is at the bottom of that post. By coincidence, the intersection where my car died was that very same spot. And after some conversation, it transpired that my friendly interlocutor had been the owner and seller of that Rolls. His name was Scott.
Scott said he was very relieved to have gotten rid of the old car. The maintenance costs had been ferocious. A small bottle of lead additive had to be put into every tank of gas, and the car only averaged six to seven miles per gallon.
He sold it on Craigslist to a guy from Janesville, who arrived with $12,500 in hundred-dollar bills and a trailer. Scott said that when he eyed the car and the trailer, he didn't think it was going to fit. He was wrong—it did fit, it turned out, but just barely—but when the purchaser had driven it up on to the trailer, he couldn't open the doors, which were blocked by the trailer's wheels, so he couldn't get back out of the car.
Scott pointed out that if the guy turned the car around, and backed it on to the trailer, he'd be able to open the back doors and get out of the car that way.
But the car buyer said no, no, it's all right, I'll just climb out the window.
At which point it started to rain.
Scott gently asked the guy how, once he climbed out the window, he planned to get the window back up. Once again, his concern was waved off. "It'll be all right," said the guy. "I'll just reach in and get the window most of the way up." Scott pointed out that most of the way up wasn't going to quite do the trick, given that it was raining. The buyer snapped, "It'll be all right." Scott said he thought to himself, We've done the deal. I've got the cash. It's his car now.
The car buyer was very tall, and the only way he could climb out the window was to stick his butt out first and let the rest of his body follow.
The problem then was that the front window of the Rolls didn't retract all the way into the door. When it was all the way down, it still stuck up above the sill about three quarters of an inch. Scott pointed out this problem to the fellow, and reflexively went to help him so that he wouldn't sit down on the protruding window—at which point, from inside the car, the guy screamed, "DON'T TOUCH MY BUTT!"
So Scott of course backed off. At which point the buyer sat down on the door sill. Scott said he heard a crunching sound and some grinding, and the window disappeared into the door with a big thunk. Mentally, Scott began to calculate just how astronomical the price of that repair was going to be.
By this time it was raining hard. Aside from getting the idea that his help wasn't being appreciated, Scott was quickly getting wet, so he said goodbye to the guy and went inside.
He said he watched from the window as the guy more or less fell out of the car, and then struggled for a while to reach the electric window control, apparently not realizing that the window was now broken. After a while he got a plastic garbage bag and taped it over the window opening with duct tape, which didn't work very well because the plastic, the tape, and the car were all soaking wet. After a quarter of an hour or so, the guy drove off, and Scott saw the last of his beautiful old Rolls. He said he's never been so happy to get rid of a car.
He now drives an ordinary SUV, purchased new.
And after cooling down for twenty minutes or so, my car started right up and got me back home without incident—with the top down and the air conditioning off. I'll try to remember in the future never to use the air conditioning when it's hot outside.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Bill Mitchell: "I had one of those 1969 Rolls-Royces, and it was the biggest money-pit I've ever seen (on the rare occasions when it was running, that is).
"I didn't buy the thing out of pretension, but because my father, who was a self-taught mechanic, told me the story of a Rolls which broke down in our little Tennessee town sometime in the 1920s. He was able to fix it for the 'rich tourists,' who paid him with a $100 bill and a quart of bonded bourbon (this was during prohibition, mind you). In retrospect he decided that they were probably Chicago gangsters carrying a load to Miami. He always told me that it was the finest piece of mechanical equipment that he could imagine, so to own a Rolls became a real goal in my life.
"BIG mistake! I know just how your guy felt.
"P.S., it sounds like your Miata has a bad thermostat."
Featured Comment by Tom Burke: "Here in the U.K. the only reason that anyone would have an old Silver Shadow like that would be to use in a wedding car business. In which case, a white Silver Shadow would be perfect, of course."
Featured Comment by David: "All I can think of is John Cleese playing the buyer of the Rolls."
Featured Comment by Debbie Poulin: "I don't know what I love more about this, the fact that you landed in the exact spot where that Rolls was, that you met they guy who sold it, or that you got this hilarious story out of him. So often we take photos without either having the chance or the nerve to speak to the subjects; this was some kind of karma."