I decided to drive to work this morning so I could pick up cat supplies on the way home. At the corner of Erb and Caroline, however, Beckzy stalled...and just wouldn't start again.
That intersection is a bit of a zoo during rush-hour and people were honking and waving at me, so I put on the hazard lights, got out of the car, and locked the door. For the first time I was acutely aware of not having a cel phone. I was alarmed to see tiny wisps of smoke coming out from under Beckzy's hood.
Just as I'd decided to walk to the nearby police station, a sweet guy named Ian pulled over and offered to call a tow truck for me. While we were debating who to call, Beckzy made up our minds by releasing an enormous plume of smoke, so Ian called 911 and asked for a fire truck; we stood and watched as Beckzy became obscured by a black, evil-smelling cloud, and then we backed up another twenty feet when the undercarriage began to burn.
So there I was, at nine in the morning, watching my beloved car catch fire with a sweet stranger who was kind enough to stick around. Policemen arrived and they blocked off the road. Firemen came with gas masks and smashed the hood open, spraying water everywhere. It was the most surreal moment of my life.
Once the fire was out I asked the fireman why it happened. "It just happened," he said, and gestured at the melted mess that was once the front of my car. Then he laughed. "You'll never know now!" The policemen were delighted because they'd never seen a burning car before. Ian remarked quietly that the policewomen were very pretty.
I felt a strange giddiness. While waiting for the tow truck we stood around and talked about mundane things, one of the policewomen occasionally running off to chase people who were trying to run the barricade. I learned that Wednesdays are quiet days for crime until 10am, when house thieves traditionally break into homes vacated by the 9-5 crowd. I learned that the police station is too small and that they send their criminals to the holding tanks in Kitchener. I became intimately familiar with the smell of burning toxic chemicals.
Then the old people started to arrive. Nothing makes an old man happier than a melted car. "It just burned up!" they'd say, peering through the windows and poking around underneath. "You won't be driving this one again!" Women brought their children to look. "What a car!" they'd say, and the children would stare, terrified.
The Practical Side of Things
A company came and towed my car to the pound for $269. Since they'd charge an extra $25 for each day the bill was unpaid, my boss was sweet enough to drive me to Breslau and settle the account. They told me to go to a scrap dealer and sign the car over to them, and my boss drove me there too. It was an amazingly cramped and greasy building full of "Beware of Dog" signs, where you have to sign in and wear workboots if you want to go past the counter. Lots of stubble in that place. They had their names embroidered on their overalls. They gave me $150.
I had declined the non-liability portions of my car insurance so I was unable to get any other money for Beckzy's burned-out carcass.
What I Think About the Situation
Thank goodness this didn't happen on a highway during a snowstorm with me in drag. And thank goodness for the kindness of strangers, the cheerful professionalism of the police and firemen, and the guy who ran over with a tiny extinguisher and volunteered to fight the fire singlehandedly. Thank goodness for the instinct that makes humans huddle up when something freaky happens. Thanks most of all to Ian, who calmly directed the situation until the police showed up, and then stood around to shoot the shit, and THEN called my work to tell them I'd be late.
I'm sad because I bought the car and then barely drove it...but the point IS that I didn't drive it very much. I bought it to take me to family functions and drag shows -- which rarely happen -- and to take me to bars, which I decided never to do. I also wanted to drive to remote places and perhaps go camping, but I was never totally confident that Beckzy could take me that far (with reason, it turns out).
I liked knowing that Beckzy was there in case of an emergency, and it was also nice to know that she could take me to places I otherwise couldn't go.
One group of people are now telling me to lease or buy a new-ish car...then I could feel confident driving it, and it would be more comfortable, and I wouldn't worry about people making fun of it or denigrating it. Another group are encouraging me to check out a car share instead...that way I could still get to out-of-town events when necessary...in an emergency I could always take a cab.
In a way, Beckzy's sudden end is a relief because I no longer have to worry about her; I lost enough money to make me sad, but I am no longer faced with thoughts of euthanasia; she can't be repaired, she's already scrap, she's gone. I will no longer sit here on weekends thinking "I should go out and USE the car but I just don't FEEL like it."
I like to think that Beckzy decided to go out with a bang. Instead of whimpering and stalling and dragging along, she burst into flame and created a fiery spectacle. It's how she wanted to die.