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James R. Stout

The Bee's Knees

            In 1972 it was the bee’s knees. Every family wanted to own one like it. It was a Plymouth Satellite Station Wagon. By 1982 the bee’s knees were getting old and were wearing out. We had been a two-car couple, but our old vehicle had died a horrible death out on Slow Ham Road. Naw, just kidding. It just gave up the ghost. So, we needed another vehicle. We didn’t want two car payments and it was decided that I should find a good used car that we could pay cash for. I had just gotten a decent bonus at work and it was doable. I searched and inspected several cars over the next two weeks. There was the 1967 Riviera that had sat under a tree for a year with its windows down. It was inhabited by roughly half the mosquitos along the Gulf Coast. I drove an Oldsmobile Tornado that blew a cloud of blue smoke that would likely have garnered a ticket or two. There was a 1970 Plymouth Duster that should have been renamed the Plymouth Ruster. Finally, I found a vehicle that I thought would do the job. It was a one-owner 1972 Plymouth Satellite Station Wagon. The Brady Bunch would have loved it. It had been garage kept and it appeared to be in good running order. It only had 42,000 miles on it. How could I go wrong? Let me count the ways. It was a nice pleasant pale yellow with black interior. There was plenty of room in that thing. If you folded down the back seat you could have put a mattress in the thing and gone camping. It had an AM and FM radio. Yee-haw! The A/C worked on it and it had a big bench seat in the front. Just right for snuggling with my baby while driving. I bought it the last week of May and I was ecstatic to have two vehicles again.

            Things started out pretty good. We drove the vehicle into town (a 26-mile drive) and watched a couple of movies at the drive-in theater. There was lots of cuddling and giggles that night. The first two months that I owned that car things were just fine. We were planning to go stay at the farm for a week’s vacation in the beginning of August. The day before we were to go, I noticed the temperature gauge was getting hot. Then steam started to come out from under the hood. First chink in the armor. I hoped it was just a hose, but no such luck. I went to a radiator shop and they said it was full of rust and I needed a new one. So, I had them do the job. We went on our little getaway and about a week later there was more steam coming from under the hood. No, it wasn’t a faulty radiator. It was the water pump. During the month of September, I replaced the master brake cylinder, two tires, both taillights, a headlight, bought a new compressor because the old one gave out, and essentially, I spent a fortune on repairs. The Bee’s Knees got replacement knees, but it still couldn’t get around too well.

            October rolled around and the front shocks, ball joints, and tie-rod ends had to be replaced. The straw that broke the bee’s back was when the alternator died with a sickening screech on my way home from work. I replaced it and then I told my wife that the old Plymouth was costing us an arm and a leg, and we would be better off to just buy an inexpensive new vehicle. She agreed. So, I bought a new 1982 Toyota Pick-Up truck. It was bare bones. No radio, standard transmission, steel wheels, and the only thing extra was the A/C. The payment was going to be $174 a month. Doable. At least it was under warranty and the parts were all new.

            I sold The Bee’s Knees for exactly the amount that I had paid for it in May. Except the guy who bought it from me got it with a bunch of new parts. I probably spent as much in repairs as I had for the car to begin with. No, now that I think about it, it was likely twice as much. I learned a lesson from that experience. Sometimes the smart move can bee the move that you resist taking. Sometimes the smart move just seems to buzz around inside your head, and you decide to ignore it. I knew back in May that I could afford the payment on a new vehicle, but I wanted to avoid that if possible. If I had just gone ahead and bought the new vehicle to begin with, then I would have saved enough money to make 18 months’ worth of payments on it. I would have also saved myself a lot of grief. All of that said, the Bee’s Knees was once a very nice car. Back in 1972 it was new. It was shiny, everything worked great on it, and it would carry a lot of kids or whatever you wanted to carry in it. Which reminds me that in 1972 I was shiny and fairly new (17 generally looks good on everybody). Everything worked including my knees.

            A few days ago, I got on my treadmill to get some exercise. I hit the start button and decided I could walk a little faster. Then I did a dumb thing. I hit the wrong button and the treadmill immediately sped-up to roughly the speed of light. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! What happened was I tried to hit the button to slow it back down, but my old knees and my 64-year-old body wasn’t up to the speed I needed to stay upright while I tried to hit that button. The next thing I knew I was on my back with my legs twisted under me and the treadmill was removing a healthy portion of the skin on my back due to my shirt had pulled up. I reached up and yanked on that thing that I should have clipped to my shirt to begin with and the treadmill stopped. I was in pain and it twisted like a pretzel. Well, I untwisted myself and managed to get back up on my feet. But my back was stinging badly as well as a skinned-up knee. The good news is I didn’t break anything. The bad news is I haven’t slept well since Sunday because my back hurts from what is essentially road rash. I am very thankful that I didn’t break something. Frankly, I was lucky. I had planned on going up to visit a friend in the Dallas area this week, but I had to let him know that I wasn’t going to be able to make it given my back hurts so much. He sent me an email saying he understood and then he said, “Man, isn’t it something how we’re getting old? It seems like yesterday that we were two 17-year-old kids running around doing anything we felt like doing (physically speaking). Now we’re a couple of old men taking falls and worrying about breaking something.” I had to laugh, but what he said was quite true. Everything, especially we humans, wears out over time. The Bee’s Knees wore out in 10 years. At least it took me several decades to wear out! To all you other old-timers, eat right, try to get some exercise, but for goodness sake whatever you do stay off those treadmills. I must have looked like a geriatric hamster flip-flopping in its cage after trying to use its treadmill.

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