In honor of having my car for almost a year.
In January of 2019, after months of working anything from a babysitter to a cashier, I finally saved up enough money to buy my first car. I scoured the internet all winter break looking for anything that actually had a semi working engine for only $2,500. I came across a quirky maroon 2001 Subaru Outback Legacy Limited AWD Sedan. If that sounds like a longer description than it needs to be I would agree but, I promise you that’s what’s registered under my name in the state of New York. I found what felt like my dream car. She’s an interesting looking car to say the least, but she has all the features. Heated leather seats, power seat, windshield wiper heaters, heated side mirrors, a moon roof and my favorite part, a cassette player. Sure she had 167,000 miles when I bought it, but she was a Subaru in pristine condition with a CarFax report that could make any mechanic cry tears of joy. I bought her for $2,450 cash only, of course, from only a mildly sketchy man I found on a Craigslist like website. And like that, I had my first car. I went on to name her Ruby, a play on both her color and the fact that she was a gem to find. My parents, friends, and neighbors warned me on the concerns of owning such an old car. After all, Ruby and I are only 5 months apart in age. I understood what I was getting myself into, but I convinced myself that it was an investment I was willing to make. Long story short it’s been 10 months of having Ruby, and all I will say is that she has never failed to keep me entertained with mechanical mishaps.
The first was during a weekend trip home in early February. My family and I piled into Ruby for a family-fun expedition to our usual trails in Bear Mountain State Park. I turn on the car to reveal the ever so torturous check engine light. I slowly looked over to my Dad who was sitting in the passenger seat, and gave him my best “you have got to be kidding me face.” I had just bought this car, and suddenly buyers remorse came flooding upon me. I was certain that I had wasted all my money, or that I was fooled, or that I somehow bought a lemon car. My parents proceeded to convince me that check engine lights may not always be as serious as they seem. So, we took the family minivan instead and proceeded along with our adventure. When we got home, my Dad and I went full Sherlock and Watson with research and found that in some cars, but especially older ones, if the gas cap is not tightened enough after pumping gas air can enter into the system and set off the gauge accidentally. I had just pumped gas into Ruby for the first time a day ago, and figured that had to be the issue. So, I tightened the gas cap as much as humanly possible and low and behold the check engine light turned off…or so I thought. Que the next two months of a check engine light strobe party. On and off and on and off again for absolutely no reason. My mechanic at one point said to me, “She’s just an old lady who aches when it’s cold. Wait until the summer and things will clear up.” And he was right. Spring came around and the check engine light didn’t come on for a whole month and then some. My mechanical dystopia had come to an end …or so I thought. Ruby decided that she didn’t like the cold or the heat.
The summer slowly creeps in, as does the overwhelming warmth. Class is out and the open road beckons, as do the forested trails and glistening lakes of mid-state New York. But Ruby has other plans for the summer months. Despite Ruby’s phenomenal gas mileage the time had come again to refill. I waited my turn in a Costco gas line so long you would think the end of the world is nigh and after a steady start and go finally made my turn to gas pump #2. Distracted by the idea of my next stop…a drive up my favorite parkway to an old trail with a good friend, I turned my car off in drive rather than park. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. My gear shift locked, my key became glued inside the ignition, and my car became a two ton boulder holding the line of a packed gas station. After a frustrating fiddle with the shift lock, me and an unsuspecting Costco gas station employee got her into neutral and pushed Ruby out of the line and to the side. We struggled some more, called his mechanic brother, watched a Youtube video, and even snuck a quick Our Father prayer in there before finally being able to remove the key from the ignition. We go to turn the car back on, but as we all know, things in this life never come that easy. Despite our struggle only lasting a total of 15 minutes, it completely drained the battery. Carlos, AKA the Costco Gas Station employee of the year, proceed to jump my car, stop traffic, push my car back into the line so that I can pump enough gas to get home, and then re-jump my car as I couldn’t leave the car on when pumping. I called my friend to let them know I wouldn’t be making it and drove straight home as it was too late for the mechanic at this point. The next morning, I go to turn my car on and pray that the battery will somehow turn on despite last nights series of events. And it does just that. It turns on just fine, as if yesterday was just Ruby having a temper tantrum similar to that of a five year old who couldn’t get their favorite candy at the store. My mechanic agreed, and after a quick battery test and look over he concluded that Ruby was exactly the way she needed to be. He figured it was just a freak accident that resulted from my foolish mistake of turning my car off in the wrong gear. I figured the man knew what he was talking about, and so I went about my way. And everything was great for a really long time. That was until it was early August, with plans to leave the country in a few days only to return hours before school move-in leaving me little to no time to resolve the issue, and to top it off I was running an errand for my internship and was technically on the clock. Picture yourself on a 90 degree August day, stranded in the suburbs of Rockland County, New York, in the parking lot of a ShopRite holding all the Denim Blue Liquid Dye available in-stock in your yellow grocery bag. I know, it sounds like the definition of an absolute rager. As I went to turn off my car, in park this time I will add, I heard a loud thud. I knew right away what had happened. So I tested my theory, and low and behold as I tried to turn my car back on, my gear shift was locked and yes you guessed it, my key would not budge from the ignition. I knew what to do from the last time, and so I hurried through the steps to avoid battery drainage. I got my car back in order so quickly, NASCAR personally recruited me as a pit crew member. But it was all in vain as my battery was still wiped. Naturally, I called my insurance for the convenient road-side service I was paying every month for. I’ll say it once more though, things in this life are never that easy. It turns out, I actually didn’t have road-side assistance and that the ungodly amount of money I paid monthly was the just the minimum requirement needed to remain street legal. I hung up and sat in my easy-bake-oven of a car feeling completely defeated. Until my phone rang with my boss on the other line. After all, I was on a work related trip and at this point had been gone for over two hours. My boss asked if I was alright in which I proceeded to explain my current predicament. Thankfully, my internship this summer was with some of the kindest crew of people you’ll ever meet. My co-worker came, and jump started Ruby for what was now the third time in the last month. I made an appointment with my mechanic for the next day to get this issue resolved once and for all. But as they say kids, be careful what you wish for.
I demanded a full up and down, left and right thorough review of every inch and part of the car. It’s something that I will admit, I should have requested much earlier. Now, I want you to imagine what you think the worst mechanical failure could be. Maybe it’s derived from your own personal experience. Now I want you to imagine a price tag for this mechanical horror story. Did you picture $5,000+ dollars, a torn axle boot, close to gone brake pads, barely there tires, a shot battery, and my favorite part a leaking head gasket? Well congratulations, and step right up to claim your prize of a mechanic’s special 2001 Subaru Outback Legacy Limited AWD Sedan!!! The news shattered my heart into a million and one pieces. Ruby was my pride and joy. She was my first car. Something I saved months for. My first really big investment. My mechanic told me that at the age and price Ruby was, it simply didn’t make sense for me to invest in the mechanical work. You know it’s bad when your mechanic tells you it’s not worth giving him thousands of dollars (as if I even had them in the first place). He insured me though that Ruby was indeed safe to drive and that her demise would be slow and painful, not the Fourth of July on the side of I-287. Well that man’s mother did not raise a liar.
Within a short month and back to school for the Fall semester, my car’s battery proceed to die twice more. I learned how to adapt at this point and bought myself a portable car battery jumper. The first time, me and two old friends, Youtube and the Instructor’s Manual jumped my car for what was the first time for me. The second time around the car battery was so far gone, that the odometer was turned off, the power seat useless, and the lock button pointless. Campus Safety was called and a much larger portable charger was utilized. I got the hint and forked up a painful close to $200 for a new battery. This next part is a much longer story that I will save for the next edition, but I stole my car back from the mechanic and went about my way. That was three weeks ago, and if you’re wondering where Ruby is now, well she’s still running somehow despite the fact that the car battery died once more despite changing it, and every time I go to start my car I feel like I should play lotto. But despite all this chaos I could not be more grateful for Ruby. She has taught me endless lessons, taken me to some beautiful places, and allowed me to make hysterical memories.