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Goodbye, Mr. Nissan
January 27, 2014
by William P. Meyers

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Mr. Nissan, my 1986 Nissan pickup truck, is not dying, not yet. But Mr. Nissan is out of my hands, turned over to someone who likes to tinker with old cars. He could be driven, but while regapping the spark plugs and turning up the idle recently helped, he still had trouble today getting up hills. I had essentially stopped driving the truck, not wanting to end up stranded, and already having spent a lot of money these last few years trying to get a few hundred more miles out of the vehicle.

I have mostly fond memories of Mr. Nissan. I occasionally think of writing a memoir from the car's point of view. I bought Mr. Nissan new in December of 1985. I had a job but knew I would be quitting it; I wanted a bank loan before I quit my job, which was sorting through hundreds of thousands of documents related to a nuclear reactor lawsuit. Small trucks that did not meet the safety standards for cars and got around import quotas were the cheapest thing you could buy new back in the mid 1980s.

I bought Mr. Nissan a camper top, but we got into trouble pretty quickly. We slid out on black ice on the Interstate, spun around a bit, along with maybe a dozen other cars. Improbably enough, none of the cars hit each other. Just as I was restarting the motor, a red sports car came roaring down the freeway, hit the ice, maneuvered around about ten cars, and slammed into Mr. Nissan, though by then it was not going all that fast. Fast enough to cost my insurer almost as much as the new car, but not fast enough to total it or hurt me much.

My favorite thing to do with Mr. Nissan was to go to hike and camp in wilderness areas. We also drove to meetings, often with a load of anarchists or environmentalists in the back. When I started publishing books, Mr. Nissan came in handy. Even 1000 books is a heavy load. But usually when I worked (the publishing business lost money, overall) I walked to work or used public transportation. Commuting daily in a vehicle has always struck me as foolish. I'd rather find an apartment near where I work.

Mr. Nissan carried me up from San Diego to Redwood Summer, where I met my wife, Jan. When I moved in with Jan in San Francisco he began to be neglected. Parking him was a hassle. But still he came in handy on occasion, especially for going to out of town meetings.

By the time we moved to Mendocino County he was old, but not too high in miles. He got a lot more use; walking to town was out of the question. He also took me to Green Party and Alliance for Democracy meetings. But his most useful function was taking trash and recycling to the dump. It is way cheaper to go to the dump than to pay for pickup service.

By his 20th birthday Mr. Nissan was beginning to be expensive to keep in good working order. I kept thinking "soon I will have the money to afford a new car," but more important things always came up. I thought I would get rid of the poor chap in the cash-for-clunkers program, but amazingly enough Mr. Nissan did not qualify! He was old enough, but he got too good of mileage.

I stopped taking Mr. Nissan out of town. I stopped worrying when non-essential accessories failed. I finally stopped taking him to the local auto technicians for repairs. The only places I took him were to the dump and to Point Arena, each about 6 miles away. The last time I took him to Gualala, twelve miles from home, he started missing cylinders and having serious trouble going uphill without stalling. He died when idling, until I pushed the idle screw way up past specifications.

Of course, there is always the 2002 Corolla that I think of as Jan's car, but that I use when necessary.

Replacing Mr. Nissan is Mr. Fit. That's a 2013 Honda Fit. A remarkable vehicle in many ways. Great gas mileage, and amazing hauling ability despite its sub-compact status. I'm looking forward to being able to take off for far away places again. Then again, Jan seems to like the Fit too. So I may be driving Ms. Corolla.

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