Monday, February 8, 2010

Total Recall

Boy this Toyota recall thing is getting a lot of press. I haven’t figured out why. Maybe because the recall is so widespread, or maybe because it is such a surprise that something could be manufactured in this day and age that doesn’t work the way it should, and can actually kill people. Thank goodness this is an isolated incident . . . that has never happened in the car world before . . . because this is nothing like the Pinto gas bomb or the recent GM recall of 1.5 million cars for possible engine fires . . .

When I was kid, every car that my family owned had at least one serious thing wrong with it. I still have nightmares thinking of all the warnings I received as a child about each and every one of our vehicles. “Don’t roll the window down or we won’t be able to roll it up. Don’t forget to keep a coat hanger under the seat in case the lock gets stuck or you will have to climb out the window. And no matter what--never, ever lean against the handle in the back seat, or it might come open.”

Of course, I never took these warnings seriously, I was a kid I wasn’t in charge of safety standards. Then, one day, my sister leaned against the door handle of our Chevy Impala and fell out while we were driving across a busy intersection. Luckily, I know how to remain calm under pressure, so without a second to spare I coolly alerted the driver as I watched my sister roll helplessly into on-coming Traffic. It went something like this “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! TERESA!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Of course I did pause momentarily thinking this might not be totally bad, I could finagle my own room out of it, but I took the high road, I had to do the right thing. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! TUCK AND ROLL TERESA! TUCK AND ROLL! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Let me tell you, a poignant moment like that sticks with a person, and I have never leaned on a car door since.

But really, what is all the recall ruckus about; it isn’t like this is the first in the history of automobiles? Over the years I have owned at least 10 cars that tried to kill me and most of them have, or should have, been on a recall list. I have a personal vendetta against the dodge K car—it doesn’t run right—K? What about Fiat, and any Datsun ever made, or the Delorean—otherwise known as the tin can with wings? What’s that? Not enough evidence you say? Well how about the Fiesta, the Festiva, the Rabbit, the Escort, the Jetta. Puhleez, I can think of 50 cars that had worse problems then this hybrid debacle and I have survived every one of them—I have the scars to prove it!

Cars today have so many features, it is no wonder the important parts don’t work. They have DVD players, satellite radio, air-conditioning, heated seats, air bags and windshield wipers for crying out loud. I never even had anything but AM radio in a car until 1999. This is particularly traumatizing since I was a social pariah for nothing more than knowing all the words to show tunes and being the only 10 year-old in my neighborhood who thought “The Shadow” was quality programming, but I digress. A few more cars from my past –the Vega, the Pinto, the El Camino, need I say more? Ok one more, the Brat. Hello?! How come no one complained about that car? Otherwise known as the mullet of the car world; business in the front, party in the back, all garbage.

I also happened to be an unsuspecting victim of the Yugo. Now there is a car that should have been recalled. I am almost positive that somewhere in the owner’s manual of that car it said the following “going over a speed bump will crack the engine block” and “reaching speeds of more than 10 miles an hour will cause this car to spontaneously burst into flames” and “good luck explaining this car to a date.”

Now there is some guy who is making the Yugo for the new millennium. It is called the Tata Nano and it costs less than the Yugo did 30 years ago. That means, adjusted for inflation, the Tata Nano is worth about twenty five cents or .0000000001 Euros (ten cents Canadian.) The premise of this Tata Nano is that it is inexpensive and everyone will be able to own one—kind of like Happy Meal toys—we all get one whether we have room in the landfill or not. But don’t worry; if you are a lover of the original Yugo it is still available in gumball machines in the greater Los Angeles area, if I am not mistaken.

The part that I find hardest to believe is that no one saw this recall trouble coming from a hybrid? Doesn’t hybrid mean--part car, part rickshaw? I can imagine the conversation when purchasing a vehicle like that—“Do the bicycle tires come standard and what about the hand pump? So the windshield is 100% poly coated Plexiglas? Awesome! The engine is made from recycled green bean cans and a motor from a Conair hair dryer? Sweet! So are the training wheels included in the floor model? Oh, only on the deluxe models—bummer.”

Seriously, the hybrid gets 8000 miles to the gallon and is constructed mostly out of biodegradable plastic bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue and no one suspected it might have mechanical problems? I have seen this type of mystification before. In the 80’s it seemed like auto makers had some sort of axe to grind with the public, but it was actually just the Aqua Net and White Rain fumes making everyone light headed and those 4 inch shoulder pads gave folks inflated self-confidence. It became the decade of bad decisions. Today I think we can blame the same types of purchasing/manufacturing problems on global warming and those skinny jeans cutting off oxygen to the brain.

People are just wimpy these days, they recall everything. Strollers that fold up spontaneously with the child still in it, parts that come off of toys and become a choking hazard, lead paint causing brain damage, appliances that try and take over cities, etc. These were not considered problems in 1985 it was called ‘thinning the herd.’ Now we are all so used to surviving until middle age that we have become soft. We all just need to toughen up and get with the program. I mean, I don’t think I am the only one who rolled around unfettered in the back seat of a Caprice Classic because the seatbelts were scrunched up somewhere in the joint of the seat. And, even if we could find them, the only thing we ever used them for was to secure a TV we were hauling. That was life. We went to the emergency room, we got our CAT scan and our plaster casts and we moved on. We got back in our 4-horse death machine and we let it ride. Cuz if you are going to go out in a blaze of glory, you might as well do it in style, behind the wheel of a 2 cylinder, 2 door hatchback, with oxidized paint, miss-matched interior, a glove box that doesn’t open or close and a gear-shift that won’t go into reverse . . . thank you car maker’s for bringing back the good ol’ days.


  1. Love it! In order to put gas into my first car, I had to pop the trunk and pull a string. My family carried on a long and sordid love affair with an El Camino that only recently found its end in the Cash for Clunkers deal. As a neighbor put it about that car, "It looks good from far away."

  2. I chose a good day to read your blog... you are SO right. I'm more worried about drivers than cars of any kind...

  3. Good to get another dose of that special dry wit of yours. LOL... I don't even know how to use the complicated radio/CD player that came with the 4 Runner Laura gave us. If Josh leaves it on and I like what's on, I listen to it, if not, I turn it all the way down so I can't hear it... the volume knob is the only control I can recognize and find on it... the rest looks like something from an alien craft.;) I'm glad to see you writing more.

  4. Oh, Sonia! What are you doing to me? You're making my cheeks ache from laughing. I'm making Aaron read this one. He's tired of hearing me cackle to myself.