Killed My Car
When I was a freshman in
college, my first car was a 1973 Dodge Swinger. Stop laughing! When I first
bought the car it was quite sad looking. But hey, it was all I could afford for
$700. I decided to save up enough money from my summer job and give my
‘swinger’ a swinging look. So I saved, and saved every nickel and dime for
When I had enough money I
first had the body of the car stripped, putty applied to fill in the rust holes
and then finally sanded down before it would get a new paint job.
I didn’t have enough money
for the paint job so I saved for another 3 months. I remember the day I took my
car to Earl Scheib. If you’re from Chicago you’ve seen Earl the
Salesman on TV telling you
how, “I can paint any car, any car, for $99.95*.” (spoken with a southern
accent) When I took my car in to paint, it turned out to be quite a bit more
than Earl and stated in his commercial; but that’s a whole other story.
(Note to reader: The most
dangerous symbol when buying is the dreaded “*”. Read the fine print. The
Devil is always in the details.)
Anyhow, the fateful day
arrived when I went to pick up my car. Man, I was one happy guy. When I saw
the guy pull up with my car, I couldn’t believe how good it looked. For the
first time I actually wanted people to see me driving it. I chose a gold,
metallic paint that made the car sparkle when the sun hit it. What made this
moment even more exciting was the fact that my girlfriend was arriving from New
York the next day. I couldn’t wait to pick her up in my brand, new ride.
That following day I
picked her up from the airport and she was, from what I could tell, mildly
impressed, “Nice paint job. Looks nice.” she commented. We got in and started
driving back to Chicago…so I thought. I was so caught up in our conversation
that instead of driving towards Chicago I was actually going the other way, away
from the city. I wouldn’t find this out til later.
As we were driving and
talking, I began to hear a slight sound that resembled a light knock. I thought
for sure it was probably highway road noise. So, I ignored it and we kept
About 15 to 20 minutes
later the knocking seemed to pick up a little speed and became a little
louder. Nonetheless, I ignored it and we kept talking.
Another 10 or so minutes
past and the sound began to crescendo into a jack-hammering noise that could no
longer be ignored. It grew louder, louder, louder with every second until
suddenly a thunderous ‘BOOM!’ came from the engine. The sound was by followed
by thick, black smoke billowing (think oil well burning to get a visual) from
the under the hood which began to obscure my vision. I quickly pulled over, got
out and popped the hood. As I raised the hood, a blast of black smoke smacked
me in the face (I think we would all agree that black smoke is not a good sign
in any situation).
I could tell I was in deep
doo-doo. But for some reason I was so angry that the gravity of my situation
still didn’t sink in. I remember climbing half way up the highway hill, sitting
down and staring down at my car as it poured smoke into the air. My girlfriend
tried to comfort me, but you know how we men are, it’s moments like these that
“It’ll be OK” statements just fuel a man’s anger. I wanted to run down, open
the car trunk, take out the crowbar and finish off my own car; a mercy killing
if you will. My girlfriend quickly talked me out of that notion.
We walked to the nearest
gas station where I was able to call my friend Juan to come pick us up. Juan
was a pal who lived upstairs from me. Even though he had an exam the next day
(we went to the same college), he agreed to come get us right away. I told him
we were somewhere between the airport and the city.
More than two hours past
before Juan showed up. As he got out of the car, somewhat annoyed, he asked,
“Do you know where you’re at?” I replied by telling him that we were probably
halfway to Chicago. He said, “No, you’re halfway to Wisconsin. You’re no where
near Chicago.” At that moment I realized I had been driving the wrong way.
But wait, it gets better…I mean worse.
We had the gas station
attendant tow the car to station and hold it for me to pick up the next day. I
agreed to drive the car so Juan could study in the back seat. We dropped off my
girlfriend and began the drive to my house. As I was driving, after 15 minutes
or so, the car wouldn’t accelerate. It was slowing down. I kept pressing the
gas pedal with no luck. I looked at the gas gauge and it was registering
almost a quarter of a tank. I again pulled over to the side of the highway.
This time it was Juan and I staring at the car trying to figure out what was
We made our way to the
nearest gas station, and with no one to call, we decided to have it towed home.
The tow truck arrived and hoisted the car up and we jumped in. After several
minutes on the highway, I heard an abrupt letting of air, “Pfisssssss”. It
sounded like the air-break noise trucks often make when stopping. I assumed it
was one of the other trucks on the road so I ignored it. Juan dismissed it also
and returned to his studying.
As we got off the highway
ramp near home, I again heard a loud “Pfisssss”, but this time there were no
trucks nearby. After turning onto our street, the tow truck driver maneuvered
Juan’s car into a safe parking spot and then began to lower the front end of the
car. As he was doing this, I noticed that, not one, but both of his right-rear
tires were completely flat. This explains the sound I heard, twice!
I couldn’t believe my run
of bad luck this day. First my car dies a roadside death. Next, Juan’s car
dies on the side of the road. And now, the tow driver has two flats on one
side. And to make things worse for the tow-truck driver was the fact that he
didn’t have a spare. Now he had to call in “his friend” to come bail him
friend. I was ready to crawl into bed and end this day.
The next day my brother
drove out to pick up the Swinger. After all the money I invested, I wanted
nothing to do with the car. When my brother returned he told me what the
problem was and what happened.
I had forgotten to put oil
in the car. Yes, oil! The liquid equivalent of human blood for a car. With
no oil, the car blew a rod and completely damaged the engine. My Swinger was
My brother stared at me
and kept asking this question, “How could you forget to put oil in the car?”
“I don’t know!” I replied
over and over again.
(Mental Intermission: At
this point you must be thinking, “Wow, that was dumb.” Now you know that you’re
not alone when it comes to making ‘dumb’ mistake. So stop beating yourself up
for past mistakes…stuff happens! Move onto your
But deep down inside I
knew why I forgot. I was so caught up in trying to make my car look good, that
over the months I had completely ignored taking care of the engine. I was so
focused on making it look good that I didn’t give thought to how it was
‘running’. My vanity killed my car.
In life I wonder if we
don’t do the same the same thing. We try so hard to impress others that we
forget to take care of the basics. Too often we work the body but ignore the
internal engine we have, our brain.
I spent hundreds of
dollars on getting my car painted, but I didn’t take the time to spend $2 on a
quart of oil that would’ve kept my car running.
We spend thousands of
dollars on cars, clothes and other material objects, but we won’t spend $15 to
buy a book on how to improve our life.
We’ll spend countless
hours at the gym trying to achieve the ideal weight or shape, but won’t take 20
minutes a day, or even a month to learn something new.
When I think back and
visualize my beautiful gold, metallic Dodge Swinger stranded with black smoke
pouring out of the engine block, I’m reminded that with cars and life, “All that
glitters is not gold”.
Remember, work the body,
but most importantly, work the mind, your internal engine of success and
prosperity. Don’t let vanity kill your dream.
Please forward this article;
share it with a friend who may need a word of inspiration.
Victor Antonio G., top sales motivational speaker and author of “The LOGIC of Success”.
Copyright © 2004 by Victor
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