My Personal Amusement Park

Every day I attend the world’s worst amusement park. Imagine if you’re in line for the Ferris Wheel. You look up and notice one of the cars has a loose lap bar. It breaks free and falls, scattering the patrons below. The guy in the car has slipped out and is now hanging from the disgusting  metal plate which usually serves as a footrest. You see the ride operator, newly released from his third stint in rehab. Instead of slowing the ride down, he speeds it up, all the while laughing maniacally. And you think to yourself*, “Yeah, I’ll jump on that; two for the death trap please”

That…is the 2001 Camry. And I rely on it much as a traveler might rely on a scatter-brained friend to remember to pick him up at the airport. Sooner or later the traveler will be standing around curbside at a deserted airport, cursing loudly, and wondering when you pissed off Karma to deserve this.

The Camry is a mix of known and unknown needed repairs. If you are driving and hear a strange noise, you think (maybe to yourself lol), “I gotta get this into the shop and let Manny take a look”. But for me a sense of panic will set in for I know if the bastard breaks down, for all intents and purposes it is the beginning of the end. I have no money for a tow, much less a repair. Without a car, I cannot rise up the corporate ladder from Food Deliverer to Master Food Deliverer. And if I can’t earn, I immediately enter the category of Unsheltered; which means not being able to retrieve my things from the Meth Inn because the car will sit right where it is, at least until it’s impounded, which is another cost I can’t afford. And of course if the Camry is towed I can’t even sleep in it. The police impound lot isn’t an Airbnb, though I do believe that could be the answer to PD budget shortfalls. “Whatcha need Mac? Something for a couple of nights? For $18 I got a creepy white van just past the green ’87 Lincoln. There should already be a mattress in the back. Not really secure from the outside, but there’s a shitload of locks and chains inside.”

There isn’t a day goes by where I don’t start the Camry and watch various warning lights illuminate the dash. It’s like the world’s worst paying slot machine; lights and more lights, and when it’s over, you’re dead-ass broke. I wish car designers had an all-encompassing light which says, “You’re fucked”.

To my knowledge, in no particular order, here is what’s wrong with the Camry:

  • Wheel bearings are critical. I have been told by more than one mechanic that eventually I will be making a turn and the wheels will just lock up. So I have that to look forward to.
  • The original engine is pushing 180,000 miles. Like a suffering pet, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have to put it down. Fortunately I don’t have any relatives whispering the same thing about me.
  • Shocks (yet another aspect which adds to the amusement ride experience).
  • Driver’s side inner door handle missing. This is minor; a zip tie is doing the trick.
  • Driver’s side window power gone. I hold the button and pull up with the other hand. Rain is not my friend.
  • No spare. A few months ago I used the spare and couldn’t replace it. I learned a painful lesson a week ago when a tire blew out. All I could do was pull to the curb, wait until the next day (happened on a Sunday of course), and then Uber to the tire store and back. The remaining 3 tires are no bargain either, but I can’t see the steel treads (yet).
  • Front end damage. Hood slightly bent up, but I’m pretty sure it won’t fly open at a high rate of speed, not that the car will do much more than 65 mph anyway.
  • Brake replacement on the horizon. I sense a sickening grinding noise in my future.
  • I’ve had pretty good luck with hoses thus far, but I always keep a steady supply of gum nearby. Gum is the homeless guy’s Flex Seal.
The zip tie which is now the door handle.
With strenuous effort, I can get the (now) powerless window narrowed to a 3″ gap. To stay dry in the rain, I throw a small towel over my shoulder like a boxing cornerman.
Can it be driven? Yup. Is it safe? I’ll get back to you on that.

*”Think to yourself”? Who the fuck ELSE would you think to? A thought by definition is non-verbal. If you think TO someone, it becomes a statement. So, let’s just eliminate the “to yourself/to myself” part.

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