She Was Good While She…

Newsletter 036 – April 14, 2023


I’m currently without a car (sans voiture, sin coche, kuruma nashide, gun chàr). ***

This newsletter is about my now-deceased Toyota Prius, named Sadie (after the Beatles’ song, “Sexy Sadie”). Minay and I have a tendency to name some of our cars. I bought Sadie in February of 2007. We have both been concerned about the environment for decades, and the idea of driving a hybrid had been on my mind for a while. Before Sadie I drove a 2002 blue Saturn coupe, and Minay was driving a 1998 gold Saturn (named Goldie Meir) at the time.

One morning, Minay was driving Goldie through an intersection. Her light was green. A Volkswagen Golf ran a red light at high speed and hit Goldie on the driver’s side. Minay was extremely lucky. The driver of the Golf swerved at the last second, so most of the impact was on Goldie’s rear door and the center pillar, not straight into the driver-side door. The Golf hit Goldie hard enough, though, that she spun completely around one full time, then ran over a curb where she flattened an aluminum pole. Minay survived with some bruises on her face, a split lip, and some bruised and very sore ribs (from the seat belt and the airbag doing their jobs perfectly). She was shaken, but not badly hurt.

While he was treating her at the scene, a paramedic asked her if she was allergic to anything. She was rattled enough that she couldn’t remember the generic name, but said she was allergic to diphenhydramine hydrochloride.

“You mean Benadryl?” he asked.
She said, “Yes, that’s it.”
“The stuff they give you when you’re allergic to something?”

She actually is allergic to Benadryl.

Goldie was totaled. We needed to get another car. In 2007 we were both working outside the home. Minay taught quilting classes at a local quilt shop, and I was working at Rice University, twenty miles away from where we lived then. We both fit well in the L-Series Saturns we were driving, but they weren’t making those by then. I’m a foot taller than Minay, so finding a car we could both drive was never easy. Most cars we looked at were too big for her or too small for me. While we were at a Toyota dealer I saw a Prius on their showroom floor. The idea of having a car that would pollute less and get much better gas mileage appealed to me. It was too big for Minay, though. After some discussion we took one on a test drive and I was hooked. Minay decided that, since I drove a lot more than she did, we should get the Prius for me and she would take over my Saturn. She named it Abigail Blue.

Sadie rarely gave me any trouble, and my gas consumption dropped considerably. She took us across the country on our summer vacations, and I drove her all over Texas (especially to Central Texas once I started investigating my brother’s case). When I retired in 2009, though, I only drove Sadie occasionally. A trip to the store, or to a write-in with some of my writing friends. That sort of thing. She sat in our driveway most of the time. In 2015, Minay’s car, Abigail, reached the end of her life cycle. Toyota, by this time was producing a smaller version of the Prius, called the Prius c. Minay fit in it perfectly. We replaced Abigail Blue with a blue Prius c. Minay named her Tabitha Blue (Tibby for short).

Over the next several years Sadie began experiencing a trickle of problems, a leak in the air conditioning (A/C is essential on the Gulf Coast of Texas), a failed stereo system, a glitch in the touch screen. Repairing — which usually meant replacing — those was costly, but not out of reach. It was clear, though, that a cascade of repairs was on the horizon. Then a major one happened.

Near the end of January 2023, we took a morning drive to Texas Art Supply, located in Houston’s Inner Loop (about 30 miles from our house). Minay needed to pick up some color wheels for a talk she was scheduled to give to a local quilt guild. After the purchase we got back in Sadie and I pushed the power button. A large red triangle (which means “something’s really wrong, take your car to a dealership right away”) appeared on the dashboard. We didn’t get far. Within a block, the dashboard filled with warning lights and Sadie stopped dead. We called AAA and had them tow us to the dealership. The dealership discovered that the hybrid battery system had water in it, and was shorting out. That cost about $150, mostly for labor. We had run through a fairly deep puddle on our way to the art supply store, so we assumed that might have caused it. They kept Sadie overnight to give her a thorough drying out, and the next morning she seemed to run fine.

Over the next couple of weeks I ran some errands, but only drove Sadie a couple of times. Then, one morning I climbed behind the wheel and got the same error message. I called AAA and arranged for another tow to the dealership. This time they spotted some cracks in the channel that the hatchback door nestles in when closed. Those channels are designed to carry water away from the roof and eject it near the rear bumper. Instead, some water was dripping down through the cracks into the battery compartment. They dried the battery out again, and didn’t charge me anything for assessing the problem this time, but said the body shop could repair the channels and stop the leak. They did. For a little over $500. A few weeks later it happened again. This time they said that a short in the hybrid battery assembly (due to corrosion on the hybrid battery connections) was the culprit, and they wanted $4,400 to replace the battery assembly. I couldn’t see paying that amount of money to keep a car sitting in my driveway 98% of the time, so I refused the repair. I tried to see if the dealership’s used car department would buy the car for resale, but they said it would be too expensive and suggested contacting a salvage yard. The dealership let me keep the car on their service lot, and didn’t charge me for that or for the time it took them to assess the problem (very nice of them). A couple of days later a local salvage yard paid me a small sum for the car and came and towed her away. Sadie will now be donating her spare parts to keep other Prius’ running.

I’ve decided to do without a car for the time being. Minay and I both do the vast majority of our work from home, so we’ll share Tabitha. I don’t fit in Tabitha very well, but I’ll manage for the short trips to the grocery store, etc.

Final Note: How does any of this tie in with my writing? It doesn’t directly, but both Goldie and Sadie made appearances in If a Butterfly. In those books, Robert Meyers owns a 2003 Prius, and Dick and Jane Jarvis have a gold-colored Saturn that Dick has named Sexy Sadie. An airbag even works its way into the story. Sometimes writers do write what they know.

The next newsletter will be about an influx of writers who are using artificial intelligence to create their stories (something I won’t be doing).


[“She’s the latest and the greatest of them all,”
Sexy Sadie, Lennon and McCartney, 1968.]

Note: (4-29-2023) We have a winner. When Jagged Man is republished (hopefully later this year) Diana Hardt will get a free autographed copy of it. Congratulations, Diana.

*** The Sexy Sadie Contest is over.

The rules were very simple. The first person to correctly translate the following four non-English phrases (1) sans voiture, (2) sin coche, (3) kuruma nashide, and (4) gun chàr, (they all mean the same thing), and tell me exactly what the four languages are would be the winner, and Diana was.

Translation — “without a car”

The languages were:

(1) French

(2) Spanish

(3) Japanese

(4) Gaelic or Scots Gaelic

Standard Disclaimer: Please post a comment below if you would like to (do NOT enter the contest there, email only). All comments are personally moderated by a grouchy old guy, though, so posts by self-promotional schemers, spammers, and lunatic ranters won’t make it through. Everyone else, whether your thoughts are positive or negative, please feel free to speak your mind. Thanks.

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