Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A flat tire, an upgrade & a crime October 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:29 AM
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OUR DAUGHTER, the one who lives 5 ½ hours away in eastern Wisconsin, had a flat tire on her car Wednesday morning. Four days after she bought four new tires. What are the odds?

“I can’t believe it,” she texted.

I couldn’t believe it either. But then I remembered the lemon colored Mercury Comet I bought in 1978. It got two flat tires the same day I purchased it. The hue of the vehicle should have clued me in. Later, I would rename it “The Vomit.” An appropriate moniker, I might add.

YESTERDAY WE BOUGHT a new van. New to us. To replace the 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager. We really had no choice. The ‘88 needs tires. At an eye-popping $400 – $500 for four tires, it is not worth the investment in a hail-pocked, paint-peeling, rusting vehicle that has seen better days.

I suggested that perhaps we could sell the wood-grain paneled van as a collector’s vehicle. Then my husband mentioned that the Smithsonian has a Dodge Caravan in its collection. I did not believe him.

But then, as all truth-seeking journalists/wives will do, I googled the Smithsonian and learned that, yes, indeed, he was right. A 1986 Dodge Caravan exists in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as a symbol of suburbia.

Now an affordable 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan, with 95,000 miles and right front fender damage from a deer strike rests in our driveway. It is a symbol of lower middle income Americans who are not all that particular about the age or beauty of a vehicle as long as it runs well and gets you (and college students and 20-somethings moved) from point A to point B.

The husband only wishes the van color was not white. Better than yellow, I say. Better than yellow.

ALL THIS CAR TALK reminds me of a little incident back in 2003. We sold our 1989 Dodge Aires to a young man for cash. A month later, the police came knocking on our door on Memorial Day weekend. We were out of town, so they went to our next-door neighbor’s house at around 10 p.m. asking questions.

Upon our return, our neighbor told us about the inquiry by law enforcement and handed us a business card from a Northfield police investigator. That evening we settled in to watch the 10 p.m. news. The lead story reported on a drive-by gang shooting at a Northfield trailer park.

I wasn’t surprised when the investigator showed up at our doorstep the next morning. Turns out the gun used in the shooting was stashed in the trunk of “our” car. Seems the reputed Minneapolis gang member, now charged with attempted murder, had failed to change the car title still registered in our names.

SO THERE, can you top that final car story?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling