If Elon Musk is going to be launching automobiles into outer space, I have a car I’d like to volunteer for space travel — preferably on a launch right into the sun.
In case you missed it, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket ship into space earlier this week. The payload aboard the rocket ship was SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s very own cherry-red Tesla Roadster sports car. His car is slightly nicer than my car, which is a blue-and-rust colored 2004 sports utility vehicle. I mean, both cars have four wheels and an internal combustion engine, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Musk’s car is on a mission to Mars. My car, seemingly, is on a mission to the mechanic more often than not. His car goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds. My car goes from zero to 60 when I am having a very good day. His car is worth in excess of $100,000. My car is worth whatever amount I happen to have sitting in my change holder after I go through the Taco Bell drive-thru.
I am not begrudging Mr. Musk his fancy car by any stretch of the imagination, of course. He worked hard, took incredible risks and has earned everything he has. I am, however, trying to convey that after 14 years of ownership, my car has seen better days.
A large portion of this, I suppose, is my own fault. I take ownership of that fact. I’m not particularly adept at maintaining my car’s maintenance. I’m average at best at making sure my oil gets changed, I only recently learned that “tire rotation” is a real thing and not something someone made up and I think I’ve washed it twice since I’ve owned it.
Part of the problem is this is the first car I’ve actually owned. When I got out of college and didn’t have a whole lot of money to my name, I leased my first three vehicles. I would basically drive them into the ground for two years, then turn them back into the dealer, figuring it would soon become someone else’s problem.
What I quickly learned after purchasing my first vehicle — the one I still drive to this day — is that it has become my problem. And when something goes wrong, the chances of me fixing it myself are about as good as me fixing the aforementioned Falcon Heavy rocket ship.
Basically, the extent of my automotive expertise is putting air in my tires. After that, I’m pretty much at a total loss. It’s comical when I take my car in to get the oil changed — because that’s far beyond my mechanical capabilities, I assure you — and they ask me what kind of oil I would put in my car. They usually ask something like, “Would you like us to put the 10w30 in your car, sir?”
I usually just nod knowingly and say, “That would be fine.” They could walk up to me and say, “Would you like us to put the Mr. Pibb soft drink in your car, sir?” and I would nod knowingly and give my consent.
As you might imagine, when I have a serious mechanical issue with my vehicle — and I’m averaging one of those about every six months or so — things get even worse. Again, it’s a good thing I have a mechanic I can trust, because whenever I take my car in to get fixed, he always talks about things I don’t understand — I think I currently have a broken “moss-covered, three-handled family gradunza,” but I could be wrong — and then asks me to pay him a few hundred dollars.
I’ve found the quickest and least-expensive fix when my engine light comes on is to put a piece of tape over my engine light so I don’t have to look at it anymore while I’m driving.
Right about now, I’m sure someone is reading this and wondering, “Why doesn’t he just get a new car?” Also, I’m sure I’ll have people calling me up and telling me they can get me a good deal on a new car. Well, to be honest, unless that good deal involves it being “free,” it’s probably out of my price range.
And so I will continue puttering around town in my clunker, hoping Elon Musk’s Tesla will land in my backyard.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong.