Written by Kerry Elizabeth Blickenderfer-Black on 8 November, 2013

Lori scrimped and saved, eating only packaged noodles and doing without luxuries or outings.  Money was always tight in her life as a college student, but she had a goal.  Relying on friends for rides was often dangerously dodgy, and the public transportation was not readily available at their campus.  So Lori was going to buy a car of her own. 

She scoured the internet for good automotive bargains.  Her excitement when she found one at a small used car dealership across the state border in Ohio was uncontainable.  She reviewed the ‘Consumer Reports’ on the ten year old Dodge Neon, and it was largely favorable.  The one that she purchased was a bright blue, like her boyfriend, David’s eyes, and low in mileage.   

However, the car should have been a yellow like the lemon it was. 

After making the purchase, the excited teen drove the newly-purchased car by her parents’ house, hoping to prove how much she’d grown in independence and competence.  Her mom and dad told her that it was a nice car and that they hoped it would work well for her.  After being parked in her parents’ driveway for the duration of a luncheon, the battery went dead and required a jump from her Dad’s car.  She then drove the 65 miles to her campus.  Once at this destination, from her new-to-her car’s underbelly, transmission fluid hemorrhaged.   

Dad loaned the money for the repairs.  She did not want to accept the money as a gift, as offered, and insisted that she repay.  The repair put the car out of commission for three days while the mechanics at the Radiator King completed the work.

David was not enthusiastic about Lori’s purchase.  He seemed to resent the freedom that having her own conveyance offered.  He also did not like that she was able to attend all of the parties to which he was invited if she so desired.  The couple broke up when Lori realized how stifling the relationship, and David realized that he would not be able to bridle Lori any longer.

Two weeks later, Lori took the car to a local automotive repair place for an oil change and to check on a rattle that she thought was at the back part of her vehicle.

The manager who met her was shorter, with freckles, a mustache, close cut beard, and short, auburn hair.  He looked tired as he took her information and set his mechanic to work.  The mechanic put her car up on the rack to start the oil change and check as instructed.  He called the manager to him, which caught Lori’s attention.  The pair poked and prodded the underbelly, clearing displeased with the inspection.

Sway bar links and tie rod ends were broken, the undercarriage rusted.  It was, she was told, unsafe to drive her vehicle.  When asked what she should do, the mechanics suggested that Lori take the car to a dealership as a trade-in.  She would not recoup the invested money, but trading in the car would at least provide a down payment for a safe mode of transportation.  Or, they joked when they saw her stricken expression, she could list it on line and sell it to some other unsuspecting chap. 

Of course, she would not do such a terrible thing.  Instead, she learned that in life, even the nicest, best researched appearance means nothing at all if the undercarriage is in disrepair.