ME AND MY CARS – December 2022

By Judy Garrison

It came to me while serenely driving my pretty blue, low-gas-mileage Subaru Crosstrek—a lease of one year so far without letting me down once—that I should allow myself to feel an infusion of gratitude. My recent cars, seemingly good purchases at the time, became fraught with problems, including those anxiety-inducing dashboard warnings that persist despite reassurances from mechanics that they portend nothing. My mind on this scenic section of State 28, as I swirled comfortably around familiar curves, swung back to the automobiles of my adulthood.

In the 70s husband Mila and I were partial to our vintage Cadillac and 1954 Chrysler which I spiffily re-upholstered with a plush dark green fabric bought on Orchard Street. Even the pickup we drove for building supplies was a vintage Chevy. In 1979 I justified a sporty brand-new purchase, an orange and white International Scout 4-wheel drive that matched my new real estate signs and would enable me to show property to customers off road. I could amortize the cost as a business expense.

In the 80s, after a used midnight blue Volvo bit the dust, we gravitated to a Nissan Sentra, and then, as driving my 3 kids and their friends to games and activities became the everyday focus, a Stanza wagon. Harold Leitenberger, owner of Treadwell Carburetor, our go-to mechanic, was dismayed we’d decamped to Japanese vehicles, but obligingly still worked on them. He would patiently wait for our delayed payments as we would wait to move up in line for repairs.

When I left Treadwell and re-located to Andes for an all-adult life, I was thrilled to acquire a sporty red Saab with leather seats. Stick-shift driving on our hilly terrain was fun again. When the clutches began sequentially falling out, however, I was cast adrift in a sea of emotional insecurity. (I finally located a mechanic with the correct wrench, Especially Swedish in Woodstock, though the 3 previous ones had sworn they were experts on foreign cars). Marty Donnelly’s daughter, Ellen, rescued me once, forlorn and thumb out, my undriveable Saab stuck in the culvert on Route 28.

Sporty vehicles no longer a lure, I moved to owning a series of very pedestrian Ford Tauruses. Even a white one, a color I swore I’d never own. But Scott Lewis had, unbidden, driven it to my door and, needing an immediate replacement, I caved. I’d see movies portraying pusillanimous men in seedy suits driving—get the joke everyone?—a Taurus, but I was resolute in my newfound dedication to practical and reliable. Style and status be damned.

But then, needing an immediate replacement car in snowy early Winter (I was told—erroneously, it turned out— by my mechanic that the essential part was no longer being made and I should junk the car), I slid into a shiny dark gray Subaru. Why had it taken me so long to embrace the perfect car for our time and place?  Enamored by the heated seats and the promise of safety with its all-wheel drive—I put down my money on the spot.

Over time I swore by my auto mechanics—their expertise, their helpfulness, in some cases their gift of gab. I’d used Heinz at BMW in Bovina, County Tire in Delhi, Burgin’s in Franklin, Brookside and H& H in Margaretville and, most recently—until being committed through my lease contract to 5-Star Subaru—Mid-County Auto & Glass. There was always a good reason to switch out, but while the romance lasted, my mechanics were my serial saviors in greasy Carhart.

Mid-County Auto & Glass staff—despite the owners’ vocally-expressed politics being light-years apart from my own—were a source of great help and comfort, often fashioning frugal fixes that delighted me. Jim Bracci, an engaging conversationalist during waits, remembered I’d been his real estate agent in the late ‘70s and that I’d ferried around his mother; sister Mary was always a pleasure to chat with; son James, now the chief honcho, had come to the rescue endless times for the 2 cars I was driving, always with thorough and non-patronizing explanations. Once, when a solution eluded everyone, he shared that he’d had trouble sleeping, worrying about my vehicle!! How could you not love this team?

Back to my current dreamboat of a car (even though it lacks a feature: the button that would raise my rear hatch, like my friend Gloria opted for on her Subaru). Thank you, dear Subie, for—so far, at least, knock on wood!—being such an ideal vehicle, looking out for me with lane departure and quick stop warnings, for maneuvering like a champ over slick roads!~