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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Tragedy rocks Brandon’s Blog: Back to Jalopy-ville (2)

With $3,500 to spend on a car and roughly 2.5 hours to do it, Highway 99 in Lynnwood, Washington wasn’t a bad place to be, relatively speaking. There were only two prospects on the strip: A 1997 Volkswagen GTI listed at $3,750 and a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon for $3,350. Whichever seemed like the better buy was going to be paid for in cash with crossed fingers, followed by bowel-churning convulsions of buyer’s remorse. 

First up, on a used car corral fenced in by a six-foot tall chain link fence was the GTI - A white rabbit on steroids. The tires were bald, a fairly standard deal breaker for a car already out of my price range, but if she still had plenty of hop left in her there could still be a deal to swing. 

A salesman that looked like a giant Cabbage Patch doll brought the VW’s keys from a tiny front office adorned with nearly half a dozen vintage pinball machines. In keeping with his doll-like appearance, he was disturbingly pleasant; void of the usual ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ premonitions a used car slinger normally stirs in a prospective buyer’s stomach. 

His right eye twinkled sincerely when he dropped the keys into my hand, making it nearly impossible to decide whether he was harmless as a children’s toy or a Chucky. 

No matter. He didn’t seem to care if I brought the GTI back at all. Once running the engine sounded about right. It purred with the promise of mischievous fun and heightened insurance costs. With only a buck twenty on the odometer a double duo of bald tires wasn’t enough to take the GTI out of contention just yet, so long as the driving experience packed a fun factor worthy of getting into a price haggling session with Stabby McCabbage. 

I drove her hard up and down the strip breaking the slippery tires loose on the wet pavement through third gear in the eighth-mile stretches between stoplights. The fun factor was too much for the strip to contain. 

We dashed suddenly off the main road through winding back neighborhoods, school zones, blind puppy dog crossings. Street signs of every variety were disregarded without hesitation drawing a crowd of judgmental stares from early evening commuters. 

The GTI was obnoxiously fun. I was willing to buy her a new set of tires if I could get the price down around $3,500, but in a strip mall parking lot, she lost me. 

A haggard old man sat in front of a bar smoking cigarettes. He starred blankly as I repeatedly rallied up to 30mph through the empty stalls before savagely stomping the brakes to test their stopping power. 

The pattern created a manic oval track. On the final pass I cranked the steering wheel over to its max on the end turn and felt a ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’ in the front end. We continued around in a tiny circle to the rhythmic beat. Every dull thud sounded like a cashiers register racking up another hundred dollars per hour for labor. Strike two was one too many if the Subaru could do better. 

Evening was fast approaching with heavy traffic soon to follow. Twinkles the Pinball Wizard took the keys to the GTI back at his lot. His last anti-depressant fueled words were used to explain that the dealership where the Subaru was located could be found just behind the next building over. 

“Take a left out of here and straight into the next left, between the Armadillo restaurant and the coffee stand ‘Jitters,’ it’s right down that alley behind the restaurant." 


Stay tuned.

Part 1:


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