Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*I had to report to work at 6:30 am Thanksgiving morning. I always leave an hour early to avoid any unforeseen delays.

So when I walked out the front door and got into my car on schedule I was feeling good – until my car wouldn’t start. It was one of the first cold days in Dallas.

Temperatures had dropped below 40 degrees when it usually was above 65 even in November. My battery was dead, and usually that’s not a problem for me, because I drive a stick shift.

Today it was a problem. I was parked in an underground garage with no access to a hill or enough room for me to push the car to get up enough speed for me to jump in the driver’s seat so I could jump-start it. It was something I had done numerous times before. But this morning it wasn’t happening. As much as I pride myself on being self-sufficient, I was running out of time and out of options: I had to ask somebody for help.

I knocked on a few doors in my condo community, but nobody answered. I even tried to flag down passersby on the street, but nobody stopped. It was 5:30am on Thanksgiving morning. I probably wouldn’t have opened my door or stopped my car either, had it been running. As I waved with both arms extended at passing cars two men approached me on foot.

I explained my predicament. They helped me push the car to jump start it and I hurried to work. The next day I bought a new battery. The cost was $80.

Three weeks later I was driving home from work around 10pm and something “popped” under the dashboard. A fuse had blown, but the car kept driving. So I kept going. The next day I changed the blown fuse, drove to a lunch appointment and parked the car. Then my clutch cable broke in the parking lot of La Madeleine Restaurant.

I called my mechanic, the most reliable man in my life since I moved to Texas five years ago. He had my car towed to his shop, he found the part to fix it and eight hours later I was driving away. The tow, the clutch cable and the labor came to $300. That’s $300 I didn’t expect to spend on my car the Saturday before Christmas. Reliability costs.

Since moving to Texas I’ve had to replace the catalytic converter, the clutch (pedal and cable), the dashboard heating coil, and the radiator – three times. I don’t want to do the math to count the amount of money I’ve spent on this car to keep it running. I’ve practically rebuilt my 98 Ford Mustang. The only reason I haven’t gotten rid of it is because I don’t want to pay a new car note and after fifteen years a car is considered to be an antique. I’ve come to realize driving an antique means I don’t’ know if I’m going to make it from point A to B.

So if you’re looking for a quick tax write-off before the end of the year or you know someone who wants to play Santa Clause with no strings attached, all I want for Christmas is a new car that I don’t have to pay for.

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for questions, comments or speaking inquiries.