Off Beat Characters

The Car: A Love Story

Utah Stories’ Al Sacharov discovers car picking can be a cruel mistress.


Al Sacharov goes looking for love in all the wrong places
Al Sacharov goes looking for love in all the wrong places

Who can predict where we fall in love? Perhaps it is a cafe, or a classroom, or in my case, The Salt Lake Police impound lot.

Located in the west side warehouse district, the impound lot is a fenced, graveled field where vehicles that are cruelly separated from their owners are auctioned. Whether due to an arrest, unpaid tickets or a score of other reasons, these vehicles that once proudly occupied a driveway are now huddled in the mud, awaiting their fate.

It was there that I saw her, a cream-colored Volvo with a perfect complexion and an engine that looked as if it spent a day at the spa. She was a Nordic trophy wife, getting on in years, but I knew that older women treat their men well. It was impossible to think that I could afford her with my humble means.

The crowd thinned after a few beat-up Chryslers and Chevys were sold. Then it was the Volvo’s turn. I felt a flush of confidence. Maybe….just maybe….

“Fifty dollars,” said the auctioneer.

“I’ll give a hundred!”

Another suitor took it up to two hundred. I stared at the man with a look that said she is mine.

“Three hundred,” I shouted.

“Three fifty,” he replied.

“Three sixty,” I answered.

Silence. The auctioneer looked at the two of us and intoned, “Going once, going twice, sold.”

She was mine! As I walked towards her the breeze whipping through the sheaf of parking tickets on the windshield whispered her name – Britta. Oh my darling. I dreamt of us motoring down the highway and other drivers glancing in envy as you held me in your independent suspension. I amorously thought of lathering you with soap and suds and then buffing you dry. I would oil your soft leather interior, my fingers massaging your crevices, getting you to squeak in delight.

But women suffer when neglected, and Britta was not well. She would not start. But I was not worried. She was cold and alone for so long, and simply needed a man to care for her. I had her towed to a mechanic who could nurture her back to health and awake her from her slumber. In his tender care she blinked her eyes and purred like a kitten. A Volvo for $360? Incredible. I was a nerd going on a date with a runway model.

But alas, I soon discovered her external makeup hid internal shortcomings. A new radiator, tires, axle and a pesky check engine light (too many years drinking cheap oil?) were flaws I could not ignore once love’s glow had passed. It would be a relationship where high maintenance would destroy romance.

“Scrap her,” I said.

The rest of my time with Britta involved selling her to a wrecking yard and watching her be hauled away to the junkyard of failed relationships. “Good bye, my love,” I said as I pocketed my check for $485. It is truly better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. It is even better yet to make a few bucks on the deal.

That night, feeling a sense of emptiness, I flipped through cars on the internet. Nothing I felt could replace Britta’s stately grace…until I caught sight of a sassy little Buick.

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