Remember when you were a kid and people had those crazy VW vans in orange or green? And everyone wanted to ride in one, so the friend whose parents had one became the cool friend? And then, years later, when you were in high school or college and you'd still see them occasionally, and you'd kind of thing, "God, that thing is really OLD and out of style," but you'd also remember how cool it used to be?
We have a 1988 Toyota Corolla. When we got it, it was the coolest thing going. First of all, Toyatas are awesome. Toyotas will go for 200,000 miles, and then they'll go a little more to make sure you get home, and I'm not entirely sure but I think they will then fold up into a handy little carryall with a special pocket for an MP3 player.
The Toyota I'd had before my then-boyfriend got this one was a cute little blue wagon, into which we had once piled 13 people (picture a clown car without the makeup). And it was almost twenty years old when I had it, so when boyfriend got the three-year-old one, we were like, "Whoa...a NEW CAR." It was clean, shiny, absent of rust, and it smelled good.
So it was pretty nifty, even if living where we were living meant that it kept getting dinged in the parking lot and broken into on the street in front of our house.
But, shiny newness aside, it's always had issues. Right from the start it had some sort of leak above the windshield that we've never been able to completely fix, though it's never gotten as bad as it was in '98, when the passenger seat was unsittable due to all the water that was collecting there. There's also a big rust hole on the front passenger door - SD cars don't really rust, so it makes the car look, not only old, but super classy.
But the worst problem with this car is the radio.
If you look hard, you can probably tell that the on/off button is not original to the car. It's something our former neighbor, Doug (who, if he is reading this, should call me - I miss you), had sitting around when the other one fell off.
What you can't tell, though, is that the radio is all but broken. I say "all but" because it occasionally turns on. Lately, though, if you've passed me in traffic, you've seen me pounding with one hand on the dashboard, which sometimes helps. I suspect that there is a loose connection somewhere - one that would be very expensive to repair - and that all of my pounding sometimes jiggles things back into place. It probably also does more serious damage, like weakening the dashboard's connective tissue so that, one of these days, the steering column will fall off into my lap.
So I've developed a little radio fix-it dance. It involves alernating between banging on the dashboard, as I've said, and cranking up the music. The force of this last sometimes helps the speakers to come to uncomfortably loud life, and for a while, there is sound. If I happen to turn down the volume, however, or to go over a bump, the sound disappears again.
I haven't heard both speakers operating at full capacity since about 1999, before we drove the car 1,000 miles to move here. At that point, the radio was operating pretty much like it is now - very rarely. However, it must have liked the South Dakota climate because once we got here, at least one speaker has always worked at least a little, allowing me to listen to the radio in the car (though I've long since become immune to static and problems with the delicate bass-treble balance).
Given that the radio and speakers have continued to work, somewhat, almost eight years after threatening to conk out completely, I'm not too worried. Eventually, I think, they'll start working again.
Because this is a Toyota. And they keep going until they rust out from under you.
(Hey, no joke. I looked up the value of my car on Blue Book - $200.)