Monday, April 21, 2014

It was such a Saab Story


I raise a rather tall glass of Aquavit in toast to my beautiful 1995 Saab 900SE Turbo Convertible. By this time tomorrow it will have crossed over into Valhalla.

Logic says I'm being over dramatic, and that it was nothing more than an inanimate steel box mounted on four wheels. But my heart tells me otherwise.

Turning it over at the Richmond Pick-And-Pull yard was like getting teeth pulled. I knew it has to be done. But, it was extremely traumatic nonetheless.

* * *

I'd been in the hunt for a new car for several months now.

As much as I'd hoped I could resurrect the Saab, to have it role on for years to come (no Easter/Christian pun intended, it just happened! Perhaps it's the Aquavit talking?), it became obvious that wasn't going to happen.

A friend had put a water pump in for me. But it was still leaking like a sieve. He then took the pump out completely and redid it, only to have it start leaking badly after another week.

That coupled with the power steering being completely shot and a broken transmission mount that made a clunk every time I came to a stop, made it painfully clear that I no longer had reliable transportation.

On a whim I called Pick-N-Pull last March to see what the car would be worth to them. Because it was a 1995, the guy told me about the State of California's Vehicle Retirement Program.

Basically, if the vehicle is still in running condition, and meets certain requirements, the State of California will authorize a vehicle dismantler to pay you $1000 after you surrender the car to them (You get an extra $500 if you meet certain low income criteria!!).

As there's no way any sane car dealership would have offered me anything in trade, this made the most sense.

I finally got my approval letter last Wednesday. Being that I had until July 11th to actually surrender the Saab, I figured I would take my time to find a good replacement. But, things moved faster than expected.

This morning I emptied the Saab out before giving it a going away bath. Truth is I hadn't washed it in a long long time and it was filthy.

It felt good doing so, yet as it looked like a car in great condition after finishing the job it made me guilty about simply handing it over to be dismantled.

With that done, I called my insurance company to get things straightened out, and then topped the coolant off before heading out to Pick-N-Pull.

As I passed Home Depot, on I-80, I started hyperventilating and tears were flowing as I thought of the experiences I'd had in that car.

My first Road Trip to the Sierra Nevada Taproom, only to find out on my return home that all four tires were a breath away from blowouts. Driving to my college best friend's wedding reception in Washington State; the top down as I cruised past Shasta on a gorgeous blue sky day. The time my sister and I took Glacier to Kirkwood Ski Area for a day.

I think the dog enjoyed the ride, as she was hunkered down in the back seat with my sister under a blanket; the convertible top down until we got near Luther Pass.

As you can imagine, dealing with paperwork, especially when it involves the State of California, takes a while.

I went in only to find out it would be another 15 minutes before Haley could help me. After that, it was still another 15 minutes. Each time she told me to take a seat. But, I returned to my Saab to sit in it for another one last time.

Finally she was able to help me. As I was missing the Pink Slip, she had to send some info over to her main office to confirm I was the actual owner (quite understandable). This took another 15 minutes (and a return to sitting in the driver's seat).

Finally, after she got approval, she had me sign the final surrender documents and she came out to do an inspection of the vehicle, including watching me drive around the parking lot as proof that it was still in running condition.

Haley told me it would be about 30 minutes for her to get the final approval and cut me a check.

Rather than wait in the office, I, yet again, went out to sit in the Saab for definitely the last time.

I made the mistake of asking Haley how long my car would be in the yard, figuring I would post a message on the Saab Network, in case anyone in the Richmond area was looking for good donor parts. The answer upset me a bit inside.

Apparently my Saab is headed to the crusher sometime tomorrow. The logic being that the State of California is paying me to get it off the road and It wouldn't make sense to allow Pick-N-Pull to sell parts off it to keep other Saabs of that vintage on the road.

I set my alarm to count down the time and Haley came out almost 30 minutes to the second. I have to give her wonderful kudos for being very professional despite it being pretty obvious how much this was tearing me up inside. She presented me with the check as I still sat in the driver's seat. She thanked me and asked me to leave the keys in the ignition when I was leaving.

After another five minutes of watching them move other cars into the back, I told myself it would be way too painful to see my Saab pulled into the wrecking yard so I gave it a kiss good-bye on the steering wheel (actually two kisses), thanking it for being a faithful car and apologizing for not taking better care of it.

At the Pick-N-Pull driveway I took one last look and slunk off to the AC Transit bus stop for a ride home which seemed to took forever.

I stopped by Albany's Bevmo to pick up the previously mentioned Aquavit, some Havarti cheese, some crackers, and a bottle of Hop Rod Rye Beer (as it's Scandinavian tradition to have a beer chaser after your glass of Aquavit).

So now I sit here, on my couch, blogging and personifying my car, imagining it amongst strange cars in the lonely Richmond Pick-N-Pull yard crying, "Daddy, where are you? Why did you leave me here?"

But, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully, when I wake up I will feel better as Benny, the Benz, is sitting in front of my house eager to take me and Jakey on many an adventure.