My brother stopped by last week to show me his new Mercedes. It marked a milestone and I was very happy for him.
He’s a guy who’s always made money. That’s because he can sell.
I can’t sell a thing. I once told him my “philosophy” of selling is that if I have something and someone wants it really, really badly, I’d rather give it to him than sell it to him.
“You’re an idiot,” my brother said. “If someone wants it that badly, raise the price.”
The reason I’m happy about the new Mercedes though is that, ability to sell aside, my brother has a big heart. So much so that he hasn’t driven a really nice car in a long, long time. He used to get a new BMW every year or two and that was in addition to a new pickup truck. Then, about 14 years ago, he adopted four little kids from Russia. That was the end of his sweet rides. He still made sure he had a pickup, but it was always from the used car lot.
The Mercedes has landed because the kids are grown up.
But seeing his new car begged a question. What became of Freddie?
Freddie is a Mercury Sable I bought in 2001 and offered to my brother for free about four years ago. Freddie had 140,000 miles on him. My brother humbly accepted.
Last time I saw Freddie he looked in showroom condition. He was pushing 200,000 miles but my brother had just waxed him and said he was running like a top.
Freddie has a new home, I was told. My brother gave him away to a very grateful college kid. That pleases me.
Freddie is the only car I ever named. A lot of people do that but not me. I recently met a guy with a Jeep named Pedro. He said his friends name it because it always smelled like Mexican food inside.
A friend once named his old clunker Lucy. It was short for The Lusitania, the 30,000-ton ship sunk by a German sub during World War I. Like her namesake, Lucy was a big boat. And like her namesake, she met an ignominious end, although it was an electrical fire that got her not a torpedo.
When a few years back I decided to keep driving my Sable until it died rather than shell out the dough for something shiny and new, I figured the only way to give it a modicum of class was to name it. I chose Freddie, as in Freddie Mercury (get it?), the late lead singer of the band Queen.
I loved Freddie Mercury, the singer, and I loved Freddie Mercury, the car, a lot more after I named it.
Freddie came into my life right after the second Lexus I owned was totaled with me in it late one Monday night on Route 81. That I walked away without a scratch would make one think I’d drive nothing but a Lexus for the rest of my life. But at the time I wondered if God had done me a favor by taking this leased $40,000 car off my hands and maybe I should honor that by finding something a lot cheaper and buying it outright.
My new Mercury was not my old Lexus, of course, but once I named him we really bonded. The Lexus was gorgeous to look at, but Freddie had personality.
That’s why my heart nearly broke when he coughed and wheezed and rolled to a complete stop on Route 80 in New Jersey one night at midnight. I feared it was the end of him … and possibly me.
I called 9-1-1 and a state policeman was there in no time. He summoned a tow truck and took off. And there I was, sitting in the pitch dark (Freddie’s lights wouldn’t even work) wondering if the next tractor trailer was going to pulverize the two of us. Freddie shook all over as each truck zoomed by and so did I.
What I know about cars, by the way, you can fit on the head of a pin. My old friend Kevin McDonnell, who may know even less that I do, once told me: “If it doesn’t start, it’s the starter. If it doesn’t go, it’s the goer.”
Kevin was on my mind as I sat there in the dark. It’s definitely Freddie’s goer, I thought.
Actually, it was his fan belt. The guy at the garage said it burned up from friction caused by a “frozen” air conditioner compressor.
He also said, “too bad those days are gone when you could fix it by tying a pair of your wife’s panty hose around it.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
Anyway, Freddie did get fixed and, as mentioned, is still rolling along.
While he was in the garage, I did a lot of walking, which suited me just fine. Ironically, I had just written a column saying if the price of gas had us all walking more often we’d be a happier lot.
And I was happy. “I wouldn’t mind walking to and from work all the time,” I thought, “as I strolled home from the Dispatch one night.”
Then my leg started to hurt. It throbbed like a toothache. Not a shin splint, I hoped.
I hobbled home resigned that Freddie and I were growing old together. And wondering if Mary Kay had a pair of panty hose to tie around my sore appendage.