We drive a fairly new car -- about three years old or so. It is my husband's dream car of the moment (no it's not a red convertible). We decided we were no longer part of the yuppie crowd that needed to carry all our friends, a big load of groceries, or even more than two grandkids at a time so we traded in a 10-year-old van for it. A couple of times we've remembered the van with longing: It was a faithful friend that took us to Deadhorse, to McCarthy, over the Top of the World highway to Dawson and to Healy and Fairbanks many, many times. We slept in it, had more than a couple of tailgate picnics in it, even used it to pull the boat, but for the most part, it was a good trade. It was time to take our place among the sedate crowd: heated seats, electric windows, no remote start (but I'm lobbying for that) and a nice neutral color ... gray.
We were on the way to Anchor Point one Saturday a month or so ago when between Ninilchik and Happy Valley we met a big yellow dump truck full of split fire wood going like a bat out of hell. Chunks of wood were flying over the side and we both yelled "duck!" as one came straight for us. Hubby applied the brakes and fortunately (perspective is all) we slowed enough that it didn't hit our windshield, but bounced on the highway and struck the front of the car near the running lights (we used to call them fog lights) on the driver's side, then careened under the car and out the back where the SUV following us ran over it, too.
There was a time when such an occurrence would have elicited only a few swear words directed at the other driver (not to say that didn't happen). The hitee would have climbed out to view the damage and decide that with some time and a few taps of a mallet over a piece of 2-by-4 he could fix the dent,, then replace the light bulb and all would be good to go. That was before plastic cars.
Back in the day, our town's Richie Rich (didn't every small town have one?) got a new car when he got his driver's license. Everyone was envious because most first cars were '42 Chevys or maybe a '49 Ford if the driver had had a really good summer job and Dad would help a little. This kid got a new car just for being 16, and on top of that it was a Corvette -- the first mass-produced car made of fiberglass. One summer evening, about a month later, he side swiped a guard rail and hit a telephone pole. He didn't get hurt much, but an accident that would have simply scraped and dented any old '42 Chevy totaled the Corvette. It "smashed like an egg" as we so gleefully reported. I can't remember what he drove after that, but not a Corvette, and his accident quelled most of the teenaged angst going around about not having a sexy fiberglass sports car (at least until the males involved were into mid-life).
Of course, that Saturday last month was one of those below zero days so the area where the chunk of wood hit was as brittle as a piece of glass, maybe more so because glass these days is made to NOT shatter on impact with a solid object. At any rate, the lower front piece was broken and the light and cover taken out. Thankfully, it didn't make it impossible to drive like a broken windshield would have. We took pictures from all angles and waited for Monday to report to our insurance which was not as much of a hassle as I expected, never having had to do it before. The agent took our statement, gave us a number to call for the main claims office, and told us where to take it locally for an estimate of damages.
And that was an eye-opener! The estimate to "fix" that small piece was more than we spent on many of the cars we've owned in the past. Our deductible alone would have purchased a perfectly good set of wheels in the old days. Of course no one fixes anything anymore; repair equals replace for most body work done these days. Gone is the time when a little body putty, some sandpaper and a can of spray paint would make it as good as new. The part had to be ordered and the auto body shop has work backed up so it is apt to be spring before we can get it fixed, which is OK because at least it might warm up some and the car become less breakable.
In the meantime, we're driving around with the front lower grill area duct-taped together. Sorta reminds me of old times.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.