The Story Of The Civic Wagon

"Todd," I said calmly, but with what I perceived to be an appropriate degree of seriousness. "Todd, uh...could you come here, please?"

I have always tried to keep cool in crisis situations, and consequently, it took what seemed like an hour's worth of these requests to produce my older brother from the garage. I remained crouched in front of the little blue car, my hands firmly gripping the bumper.

"What are you doing!?" my elder brother alarmingly replied as he strolled out onto the car lot.

"Well," I huffed, "I'm trying to keep this car from rolling into the creek."

The job of detailing cars at American Auto Mart in Tecumseh was usually fairly boring. I had followed Todd to the job, and although we enjoyed working together, it was not terribly exciting. Like any used car lot, I suppose, you spend the day cleaning up cars. Most of them are relatively new to the lot, but a few are persistent, repeat offenders. The blue Honda Civic wagon was one of these.

Although very sharp on the outside and nice to look at on the inside, the car had two fatal strikes against it. The first was a stubborn refusal to run according to the standards set by the blue Honda Civic Wagon Board Of Standards. It simply didn't like work. It preferred sitting peacefully in the shade of the large pecan trees which grew lushly alongside the creek at the east edge of the lot. I recall driving it to the store one day and attaining a top speed of thirty-five going down the long hill to the north side of town. The engine sounded like it was firing on one cylinder, and that one with a used spark plug from a Massey Ferguson tractor.

The second bit of trouble with the little beast was the overwhelming odor of an entire kennel of dogs mixed with the disgusting aroma of car lot carpet perfume. This stuff was a deadly substance used liberally by car salesmen in an attempt to overcome any unpleasant scent that a car might contain. The problem with it was that it was far worse than any other smell that might be in the car as a result of some natural occurrence. Furthermore, it had no power to disarm an existing odor, the way some bathroom spray deodorizers claim to, but simply added its own thick, syrupy pungency to the one already on hand. The poor Civic wagon had undergone numerous treatment sessions by oxygen mask-wearing salesmen, which undoubtedly contributed even more to the olfactory disgrace with each attempt.

Due to this second problem, the car was hopeless. Now don't get me wrong. I drove a Honda Civic for years, a blue one in fact. They are fine cars, and this one could have been given a new engine, but the smell of toxic waste was there to stay. As such, it became the official "drive to the store" car. This is the way that used car salesmen operate. My brother obviously learned the concept during this stage of his life, because he would later become a salesman himself, and I would experience many other "drive to the store" cars, hand-picked by him. Salesmen, you see, always drive late-model Corvettes and Lincolns to the store, but require detailers to drive the riffraff. (Salesmen are also the only ones who buy into this car lot carpet perfume idea.)

As fate would have it on this particular day, I ventured out onto the lot, for what reason I know not. But my purpose soon became clear when, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw something moving in the shadows. Upon turning to look, I saw, to my horror, that the blue Honda Civic wagon was being sucked into the creek by some unknown evil force. My Cub Scout training instinctively took over my body, and I leaped to its rescue. Assuming proper water skiing position, I grasped the front bumper of the wretched vehicle and leaned back with my full weight, just keeping the little beggar from rolling farther back.

The creek was a pretty dry thing, about ten feet deep and full of briars and such. The pavement of the lot sloped down hill a bit to the point where the land began to roll away at about forty-five degrees. Both rear wheels had made their way off of the tarmac, and one was already starting down the incline by the time I arrived on the scene.

I don't recall all the details, but it ended up with James Weager's 200 plus pounds of football playing mass sitting on the front fender, Todd driving, and me still pulling. It just shows the salesman-like conduct my brother was already beginning to exhibit.

Of course, within seconds of getting the car back to earth, I realized the full consequences of my actions. I had spared this...piece of junk from the death it so desperately deserved. The thing was worth at least ten times in insurance what it would ever have sold for. In fact, I'm sure that it is still on that lot today, eighteen years later, looking very pretty and smelling like a...well, maybe you should just go take it for a test drive.

2/7/99
© 2015 Dane Tate