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The Mighty Festiva

by Stephen Lautens


June 21, 2002

This is the story of a car that won't die.

When we were married twelve years ago my wife and I got a car. In fact it was a wedding present from my mother in law. The idea was that marital bliss had a far better chance with something in the driveway to get you from A to B. I suppose it also could have served as a getaway car for my wife if things didn't work out.

Lucky for me, it turned out she didn't need it.

It's what you'd call a cute car if you were being generous. In fact, it's a 1989 Ford Festiva and would fit neatly in the trunk of most of today's SUVs, with room to spare for the spare. It's the kind of car you'd expect a dozen clowns to step out of at any moment.

For years we charged around town in it, parking in impossible places and hauling everything in the hatch from Christmas trees to the front room sofa. It seems like you only have to fill it up once a season, and it goes like stink on the highway. I've never had a speeding ticket in it, mostly I think because no cop can believe anything so tiny could go so fast. It's like driving a go-cart.

Aside from the muffler, which falls off every few years like clockwork, the rest of the car was built incredibly well. Too well, it seems. Ford stopped making them because I think they realized they could only ever sell you one. They would much rather sell you something big and pricey that constantly requires the replacing of many obscure but expensive parts. They spend years developing ways to make sure that only those things that are not under warranty rust, fall off or break. That way you'll end up in their showroom every couple of years to buy a replacement.

But the Festiva just refuses to die. We've never owned a garage, so it's been exposed to the elements these past twelve years. It's been home to cats, squirrels, spiders and at least one bird's nest. It even has a little patch of mold on it. Even so, all you have to do is turn the key and off you go.

A few years back we got a second bigger car to make the daily commute to work. Going out to get groceries in the Festiva was one thing, but playing tag on the highway every day with bigger cars was another. I decided I needed a lot more metal around me so I didn't end up at the side of the road some day like a squashed TV dinner tray.

I was feeling sorry for the Festiva the other day and looked up its records. It had been more than two years since its last tune up. As good a car as it is, it was starting to sound like a washing machine full of nickels if you drove it at anything under 100 kilometers an hour.

So it got fixed up at the local garage. I told them to give it the works, knowing full well it meant they would be giving me the works when it came time for the bill. It now sounds like it could go another twelve years.

The nice thing is, I can double its value anytime I want. 

All I have to do is fill the tank with gas.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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