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June 17, 2024

Aging Gracefully

By Bernie Pilarski

Sometimes you've just got to recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Way back in December of 1999, Sand and I acquired a new car. It was a 1999 model Chevrolet Prism. At the time, I worked at the assembly plant where the Prisms were made, and I bought the car through the company's purchase plan, and so I was able to pick up the car at the plant itself. Yes, I got it for a good price. No, I didn't personally work on the car. I worked on the "truck side," the part of the plant that assembled trucks. However, there can be no denying that it was a bit of a thrill to purchase a vehicle at the very plant in which it was made.

The Prism is, for all practical purposes, a Toyota Corolla -- very, very similar on the outside, identical in the guts. Put the two cars side by side, and you might not be able to tell them apart. And since Toyota had a reputation for making some pretty good cars, I was pretty sure that I was getting a good ride.

There is good, however, and then there is pretty darn outstanding. Fifteen years and 300,000 miles later, the car is still on the road. Not only is it still on the road, but it feels great. It's my daughter's car now, but I had it out this morning while she is out of town on business. The car is showing its age -- a lot of the plastic trim is deteriorating, the headliner is delaminating and sagging in spots, the carpet is worn through -- but it feels great mechanically. It starts with no problem, it idles smoothly, it accelerates briskly, it shifts smoothly, and it purrs along at highway speeds.

In the fifteen-plus years it's been in the family, I've kept pretty close tabs on what we've done to it to keep it running, and it's not much. There are the normal wear items: the brakes have been replaced twice, the front struts were replaced once at 120,000 miles, the A/C compressor finally had to be replaced just a couple months ago, the heater blower motor resistor had to be replaced (about $10), and of course there have been a bunch of tires and batteries, but that's not bad for 15 years and 300,000 miles.

When I and all of my fellow workers were booted out the plant some years ago, I signed a document that said in essence that I would not badmouth my former employers, so I will not say anything more about G.( I spit on your grandmothers' graves) M. other than that I will never buy one of their products, but I can't say anything bad about Toyota, who treated me well, even if I can't help feeling a bit slighted that they singled out my plant to be the first and only assembly plant they have ever closed. And while I am not a salesman for Toyota products, in the unlikely event that I live long enough to find myself in the position to purchase another car, I will look long and hard at another Corolla. Then I can put it in my garage, right next to the G.E. refrigerator that we have there for all the extra stuff that doesn't fit into big refrigerator in the kitchen.

That's the G.E. refrigerator that my parents bought back in 1941.

Article © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-01-12
Image(s) © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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