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Making It Ours…No Doubt about it

July 30, 2012

We own a Toyota Camry…a 2001 Toyota Camry.  Tan.  With 180,000 miles on it.  Do you realize how many tan Toyota Camrys are out there?  I don’t know if they’re all the same year as ours, but body styles on Camry’s are very similar, in spite of the year they were ‘born‘.

I used to memorize our license plate to find ours in a parking lot.  It’s really embarrassing when you try to load your groceries into someone else’s tan Camry.  I know.  I’ve done that.  Take it from me…the real owner looks at you very suspiciously.  And she had her cell phone out, ready to call 911, I’m sure.

But then my grandchildren complained that they couldn’t tell which one of many tan Camrys was ours, if any.  Nice to know they’re observant, and are excited when they see our car…and look for us in the store when they see our car outside.  I really think they are excited to see us and not just because we might buy them a treat in the store  or take them to the DQ.  So I put a green & white striped stuffy in the back window…a caterpillar wearing a red & white striped Dr. Seuss hat.  Grandkids were happy.  Even the youngest knew which car was Grandpa & Grandma 4-Wheeler’s.

Our oldest grandson, Brady, gave us that name as soon as he was old enough to talk.  You just never know what’s going to stick in a kid’s head about you.  Of all the possibilities, that one was pretty good.  So on that day we became Grandpa and Grandma 4-Wheeler.

Since then, both the car and us grandparents have aged, and that process has not always been pretty for either party.  Grandparents have both had surgery, acquired more aches and pains, lost some of their hearing, etc.  And the car shows it’s age in other ways.

The first was a little ding in the rear passenger fender.  Hardly noticeable. Until it began to rust.  It was just a little divot about the size of a quarter; but no other tan Camry that I’ve seen has one like it in the exact same spot.  Remember, I’m the one who has tried to load my purchases into another person’s cars.  So I know.  I’ve been very careful about whose car I put my purchases in since then.

Then one day we were taking the pick-up to town.  Probably needed to get something large from Menards.

Now, when we got the truck, Jim put a ball hitch on the front bumper to make it easier to maneuver the boat, or any trailer for that fact (especially for me…I am so not good at getting a trailer to go where I want/need it to go unless it‘s attached to the front of the truck).  Especially if Jim is watching.  And he usually is.  The front hitch makes the job so much easier.

Well, back to my story…the car was parked down by the house, and my back was acting up, so he decided to pull up close to the house so I didn‘t have to walk so far.  He knew I was hurting.  Nice man, huh?  Thoughtful.  I like that in a husband.

Our driveway slopes down to the lawn by the house where the car was parked.  Jimbo  put his foot on the  brake as he started going down that little slope…and the pedal dropped to the floor.  Oh no!  NO BRAKES!  And  he was approaching the car fast (not driving fast, but there wasn’t much ground to cover between the vehicles).  Well, you can guess what happened…CRASH.  The car got ‘customized’ with a hole in the back bumper just the size of the trailer hitch on the front of the truck.  Didn’t see that coming…even in our wildest imagination.

So, we called our insurance company and explained the situation.  They actually had the audacity to laugh!  Actually, I have to admit the story is kind of funny, but still…should they really be laughing at our expense (literally and figuratively).  Turned out it would have to be considered as a collision.  $750 damage.  And with our $120 deductible,  that dropped the insurance benefit down to $630.  Not so much.  And what if, God forbid, we had a major collision in the same year?  Would it be worth it?  After all, the car was a 2001.  Eight years old or so.  Would we regret filing a claim later?

After a lot of thought & discussion, we decided not to have it repaired.  So now, we have another way to tell which tan Camry  is ours.  I won’t be putting my groceries into anyone else’s tan Camry for sure now.

Man, they made those cars to last!  We’ve never had a car more than 3 years, and that’s stretching it.

A few more years went by, and we all showed our age a bit more.  More aches & pains for us and a few more dings on the car.

One evening, we left the church after the council meeting.  I got in on the passenger side and Jim walked around to the drivers’ door of our now 12 year old car.  As he was lifting the handle, it popped right off.  Never heard of that happening before.  But, as our luck goes, it happened to us.  He managed to open the door from the outside, but it took 2 hands & some fine motor skills, coordination and strength to accomplish the task.  There’s got to be a better way.  Meanwhile, I’m in the car wondering what the heck he’s doing.  After all, opening a door isn’t that complicated.  And he’s a jokester.  So, naturally, I thought he was trying to be funny.  I didn’t know why he chose that particular time and place to joke around, but he does that from time to time.

Jim checked out prices on replacement parts and was shocked.  $110 just for the part.  And you know we wouldn’t begin to know how to do the job;  after all, it’s not like changing the oil or even a tire.   So we would have to shell out more than a few bucks for labor too.  That always costs dearly.

Since Jim had recently retired, and we were still adjusting to our new financial circumstances, we decided to try fix it ourselves, sans the $110 part.  And preferably without duct tape.  Didn’t want to be perceived as a redneck.  Can’t have that, right?  It might make us look stingy.  Or weird.

Soooo…Jim took his handy dandy cordless drill and a small bit and bore holes through each side of the metal mechanism that formerly held the factory door handle.  Then, he threaded black zip ties through the holes and fashioned a handle of sorts.  Don’t laugh…it worked!  Black on tan made it stick out like a sore thumb, but it worked and we didn’t have a better idea.  And it matched the tires.  I’m big on color coordination, you know.  So a black zip tie door handle it was.  Very classy.  One of a kind…literally.  It looked a little ‘Red Green‘, even though there was no duct tape involved.  Or maybe ‘redneck’ is a better description.  I prefer ‘unique’, ‘resourceful’, or my personal favorite;  ‘customized’.  Now we had several ways with which to identify our tan Camry.  Anywhere.  By anyone who knows us.  Especially the grandkids.

With time (a week or so) the zip ties broke.  We were prepared for that.  We had an extras in the glove box.  No problem.

But soon, we were running short of zip ties.  It was time for a different solution.  So, Ol’Jimbo put his thinking cap on.  So did I, but his light bulb went off first.  He’s the man, and therefore in charge of the mechanical stuff & repairs.  Except when I come up with a better idea.

But, alas, this time, he was the one who had the bright idea.  He came up with some woven string/twine stuff that isn’t supposed to fray.  And it’s tan!  So, he threaded it through the holes in the handle assembly and tied it together.  Viola!  A new improved door handle.  It’s hardly noticeable.  (Who cares if their door handle matches the tires, anyway).  And it really doesn’t fray.  It’s been on there for several months now & we haven’t needed to replace it once.  We’re prepared for that, though.  (I was a Girl Scout and in 4H, you know).  And we still didn’t need to resort to duct tape.  But, come to think about it, with all the colors of duct tape these days, we could probably come up with a matching color, so that might not have been so bad after all.  I’m sure they’ve got black to match the tires.

Smart man, that Jimbo.


From → Frugality

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