The Bane of My Existence

The 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GTS that is sitting in my driveway is not mine. It belongs to The Lovely Christine. Yet it taunts me mercilessly, mocking me for ever having gotten involved with it. It now symbolizes everything that is wrong with my life; everything that has gone terribly, terribly wrong. It is a hateful malevolent presence that corrupts everything it touches. Before last month, it was just a mildly irritating vehicle that Chris thought of as a sports car, and I thought of—when I thought of it at all—as something I’d like her to trade in for something fun. But circumstances forced me to become entangled with it, and it has made everything about my life worse. Well, that’s not quite true…it’s just one of the two things that have done so, recently. There’s a story behind it all, you see.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

Chris bought it used, back in ’05. It had been a lease car, had low mileage, and was in good shape. She wanted a convertible, and the price was right, so she bought it. Sadly, she was never able to drive it much, so it mainly sat in our driveway, and it ended up with only 21,500 miles on it.

Not that it was any fun to drive. Take away the convertible cruising aspect, and the Eclipse of that era is utter crap. The interior is made entirely of cheap plastic olefin. It is one of the few cars that I’ve sat in and thought, “This is worse than the interior of a Chevy.” It weighs two tons and its weedy V-6 only puts out 200 horses. It sounds the business when you put the pedal down, but…isn’t. It also has noticeable scuttle shake, too. The trunk weighs about 100 lbs. and won’t stay up unless you are sure to raise it all the way. Otherwise, it snaps down like a guillotine to amputate any appendage you were unlucky enough to put in its path.

I never liked it. But, it turns out that, thanks to circumstances that befell us, I was—initially—glad Chris had it.

Last month, we learned that in the city in which we live, we can only have two dogs. We learned that by a city code enforcement officer dropping my the house to let us know that, since we have more than two dogs, we had 10 days to get rid of the other two, or start facing fines that would rise to $1,000 per day.

Well, our dogs are our kids, so we obviously didn’t want to get rid of them. Fortunately, our city allows you to have more dogs if you get a permit from the City Planning people. That is a long, protracted process which—we are learning—takes months, but while we are in it, it keeps the city code enforcement agents off our back.

Since the process requires an on-site inspection, as well as numerous photos of the property, we decided it would be a good time to do some extra maintenance on the house. That is always pricey, especially since we decided to landscape and re-paint the house. We needed to do it anyway, so this seemed like a good time, and it would spruce everything up to look good in the permit process. We just had to decide how to pay for it.

I owned a 2006 Ram 2500 king cab, extended-bed, diesel pickup with a tow package and camper shell. Chris owned the Spyder and a Pontiac Vibe. The obvious choice was to sell the truck, since we could get $20,000 out of it, far more than both of her cars combined. I figured that would pay for the house improvements, as well as to fix up the Spyder so that I could drive on days that were too cold and/or wet to ride the Honda VFR1200F motorcycle that is my primary transportation.

That’s where the fun began.

Initially, the repair bill for the Spyder was going to be around $1,600. Expensive, but that also included four brand new Goodyear Eagle tires, so not too bad.  Then, it turned out that all the belts and hoses were rock hard and cracked. Replacing them all—including the timing belt—and doing some other maintenance Chris had deferred, doubled the price to $3,200. I gritted my teeth and said, “OK”, because, after all, if I was going to be driving it, I didn’t want a cracked timing belt to leave me stranded at the side of the road with an engine full of bent valves.

So, after two weeks in the shop, when they were getting ready to put it all back together and have us come get it, the repair shop started the engine for a test run. It was at this point that a metal washer was somehow sucked into the intake manifold, delivered into the number six cylinder, and commenced to trash the cylinder head and piston head. This made me even more unhappy, not only because of the apparent carelessness, but mainly because we were in for some rough weather and the car was stuck in the shop. That means I had to rent a car, so as not to leave Chris stranded at home without transportation. So, let’s add—after several days of rain—another $600 in rental car costs.  Would the repair shop pick up the tab for the rental? No, they would not.

Two weeks ago, after a month-long sojourn in the repair shop, we were able to pick up the Spyder and take it home. Finally, we had our spare car back, and after more than three grand in repairs and maintenance—and with only 21,500 miles on the clock, we figured it would run like a top for years.

We thought that right up until two days ago, when it rained, and I had to drive the Spyder to work. About halfway there, the “Service Engine Soon” light came on. And stayed on. I dropped it off in the shop that evening, once again. And, because it was raining, rented a car to drive to work. Again.

Today, they told us the catalytic converter was shot. And it’s a coffee-can converter that will take another $2,000 to fix. Oh, and by the way, since a check engine light is an automatic fail for California’s smog check, the vehicle cannot be registered when the current registration expires. So, now we have to spend another $2,000 to fix it, or get rid of it, pronto.

Keep in mind that this is a car that has a blue book value of about $6,000. It’s already cost me $3,800 to go through the repair process. Fixing it would come out, total, to what the car is worth. Essentially, I’d be re-buying the car.

So, when I picked it up from the shop, I went straight to CarMax to see what they’d give me for it. They’ll give me—or Chris, rather, since it isn’t mine—$4,500. Maybe I could get a bit more as a trade-in allowance at a traditional dealership, but only if we want to get a brand new car.

I drove it home and parked it in the driveway. It’s sitting out there right now, in front of my freshly painted house, right beside the newly landscaped front yard. Sneering at me.

For some reason, my anus feels awfully sore.

Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.

4 thoughts on “The Bane of My Existence”

  1. That sucks!  Unfortunately, I’m left wondering about an ordinance limiting dogs.  We currently have 5 that we rescued in some form or fashion.  I would not be happy if the city wanted to regulate them.

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