Neverending Repentance

A Presbyterian Church sign in Boise recently showed these words:

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.

-Lily Tomlin

An early version of this statement is attributed to William Faulkner. Later, Oprah Winfrey borrowed the idea and created another variant. Just for that, I’m almost ready to forgive her for promoting Barack Obama.

Regardless of who originated the thought, it struck a chord with my soul, as I seem to have tried a lot of re-living the past. One example of this was the second Yugo I purchased.

From a prior blog, you will learn about my first Yugo. That story partially sets the emotional stage for my second Yugo affair. Why would I set myself up for more heartbreak with another Yugo, of all things? You know the saying, better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all…. whatever.

I still remember what happened to each of my cars, in order: Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile Toronado, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fiesta, Yugo GV, Chevrolet S10, and Honda Civic CRX. Every one of those automobile relationships ended badly.

In 2010 I purchased a used Jeep Grand Cherokee. It seems God blessed me with the Jeep, or perhaps he baited me into liquidating my 401K savings to pay for it – in order to drive up a certain mountain road in Emigrant, Montana. While the Jeep was a great ride, it was using too much fuel for my liking on the 45-mile round trip to work every day. I was not interested in getting rid of my Jeep, but I was looking for a cheaper way to commute. No buses or trains were available in that area, so another car was my only plan.

A certain wealthy retiree had a little red Yugo sitting on his property, with windows left open to the rain and snow. He was willed the car from a deceased friend, and obviously didn’t care much about maintaining it. The paint had faded, and there were many mechanical things wrong with it – some that he didn’t tell me. He wanted $1000 for the car. I told him if I could get it to run, I’d pay him the money.

What was I thinking? Nobody in my world wanted a Yugo that was twenty years old, and certainly would not pay that much money for one if it were in mint condition. Sure this car would run, after I rocked it out of the rut it was sitting in, but the windshield washer wouldn’t work, the speedometer/odometer wouldn’t work, the gasoline level sensor was bad, the fuel cap didn’t fit, the fuel spout hose was rotted apart, the muffler was missing, the windshield wipers worked only while a certain button was held down, the tire treads were cracked and peeling, the water pump leaked, the scissor jack was missing. This thing was a lemon among lemons. My plan was to fix most of these problems, and simultaneously work off some of my emotional baggage.

I got some car wax and tried to shine up what was left of the red paint. I cleaned and re-installed the rear bench seat, which had been temporarily missing. I decided I could live without a working fuel gage, if I just carried a small spare gasoline jug.

After purchasing new belts, new ignition parts, new fuel and air filters, a new muffler, new tires, a new water pump, a new odometer cable, a non-expiring Park County registration, a new fuel cap, and an oddball jack from a junkyard, I had spent over $1000 in addition to the original purchase price. And it still wasn’t quite right.

I spent the better part of a Saturday installing the new water pump. This was quite a challenge, because I had no repair manual. In order to get to the bad water pump, I had to remove several other items. And I had to guess where some of the bolts were, because I couldn’t see them.  I thought I had put together a fairly complete set of car repair tools, but I didn’t have a certain short wrench necessary for part of the procedure. Fortunately, my friend Dave Singleton happened to have it.

There was one thing I couldn’t fix on this car, and none of my friends could either.

Yugos, and other small cars from the previous century, were usually equipped with devices called carburetors. A vehicle with a well tuned carburetor is often more fuel efficient than a similar fuel-injected vehicle.  It’s a lot like rocket science, but it’s being replaced by fuel injection systems.

That Yugo carburetor had been abused, to the result that the engine would not idle. It ran fine at 65 mph with my foot on the accelerator, but as soon as I came to a stop, it died. This was not suitable for waiting at intersections, or in stop-and-go traffic.

A mechanic with carburetor expertise could supposedly get it idling perfectly, but those people were hard to find. A person like me would have better luck purchasing an expensive rebuilt, pre-adjusted carburetor, instead of fiddling with one by myself. After all the money I had already spent, and with so little benefit to show from it, I turned the vehicle over to a friend, to try his luck with it.