Lots of people are making fun of the "Contract With America" that all
those Republican congressional candidates signed in front of the Capitol
earlier this month. The contract says if we elect them they'll reduce the
deficit at the same time they cut taxes and increase spending for the
Gipper's old Star Wars moneypit.
The White House calls it "Voodoo II" and says it's the same game we
played in the Reagan-Bush years when the National Debt quadrupled.
But I don't make jokes about it. I like believing something so
much you don't let facts get in the way.
For example, I'm still convinced I saved money by towing my '79
Rabbit home from Iowa. I scraped my shins and grated my knuckles and
got sweat in my eyes. So I must have saved money. Don't confuse
me with numbers.
I bought the Rabbit in the first place because it was vastly
economical. It was a diesel and it was noisy and uncomfortable and stinky
and hard to start in the cold, but it was the best car I ever owned. If I drove
slow enough I could get more than 50 miles to the gallon.
There was a preternatural bond between me and the Rabbit. My wife
said it reminded her of voodoo. Every year on my birthday, I'd take it out
to see if I could match its miles per gallon with my pulse rate and my age.
And every year I did. At 59, I had to drive 40 mph down Highway 6 with
23 cars and trucks honking behind me, but I got exactly 59 miles per gallon.
And my pulse rate was going pocketa-pocketa at exactly 59 rpms.
My wife is too fact-haunted to understand, but I took it as a sign that
my life and my vehicle were in cosmic harmony.
So I was a little reluctant to lend the Rabbit to My Son the Graduate
Student in Iowa City when his Bug expired. He said I'd get it back before
my 60th birthday last winter. But it quit running when cold weather came
just before Christmas.
"The Rabbit died," my son said on the telephone. "The mechanic said
it lost its compression and it's all shelled out. He said he'd give me $50 to
part it out."
"My son, my son," I said, "what are they teaching in graduate school
nowadays? He's trying to rip you off. He says it's shelled out just so you'll
take $50 for it. Always get a second opinion. Hang on to it until
warm weather and I'll tow the Rabbit home to Lincoln where I know an
honest mechanic. It's the least I can do for the best car I ever had. And
listen, don't feel guilty."
"Golly, it's hard not to," he said. "It's only got 169,000 miles on it."
So when it got hot enough at the end of August, I rented one of those
triangular towing bars ($17.64) and drove my '76 Dodge pickup to Iowa
City. By the time I got back, I'd bought three tanks of gas ($72. 93) and
three pints of transmission fluid ($6.46) for the pickup. Hooking up the
tow bar, I'd scraped my shins and grated my knuckles and got sweat in my
eyes. But the Rabbit was back in Lincoln. I left it with my honest
mechanic, said a few incantations, and waited.
The Truth, Mainly
Two days later he called with the bad news.
"Your Rabbit's dead," he said. "It lost its compression and it's shelled
out. I'll give you $100 to part it out."
I went into voodoo deprivation shock.
"If the Rabbit gets no more miles to the gallon, what's that going to
do to my pulse rate?" I asked my wife. "Will I even have a 61st birthday?"
"Don't be silly," she said. "Take the $100 and let him part it out.
That's more than we'll get when we part you out." Then she laughed.
So we took the title to my mechanic and signed away the best car I
"You said you'd give me $100," I reminded him.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Let's seeyou owe me $60 for the compression
test, and $12 for the fuel filter we had to put on to see if it would start.
That's $72 off the $100, so I owe you $28."
He wrote me a check and that night, I called my son.
"The Rabbit's dead," I said.
"Let me guess," he said. "It lost its compression and it's shelled out."
"Yes," I said. "But my honest mechanic gave me $100 to part it out.
That's twice what you were going to get. Listen to your old dad and you'll
"I wouldn't rush into it," he said. "Only $100 for the best car you ever
owned? He's trying to rip you off. Why stop with a second
opinion? There's that mechanic in Loveland you like. Why don't you tow
it to Colorado?"
He's got a smart mouth. He got it from his mother.
"So let's see," she said, "you paid $73 for gas, $6 for transmission
fluid, $17 for a tow bar. You towed it back to Lincoln where you got $22
less for it than if you'd left it in Iowa. And you scraped your shins and
grated your knuckles and got sweat in your eyes. Why in the name of your
penurious soul did you do all that?"
"To save money," I said. "Dammit, to save money."
So don't expect me to make fun of Republicans who want to cut
taxes, increase defense spending, and thereby get out of debt. Like
Dorothy and Toto and the Gipper, I know if you believe hard enough, what
you want to happen just happens. It just does. And to hell with
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.