Car Talk, Deathcab Edition

This week’s entry is going to be a little bit different from the previous entries, so please, in advance, forgive the sappy, nostalgic nature of this fluff piece. Because way before I even had any designs to be in the death care field, I had A Mighty Need, and that need was to procure a hearse.

Hearses, flower coaches, ambulances and other utilitarian cars have always stood out as ‘novelty cars’ in spite of the fact that way more drivers in the states are driving pickups and sport vehicles than are actually utilizing them for their intended purpose. And, lest we ever forget, the early/mid 00s will most certainly be memorialized on one of those VH1 nostalgia countdowns as the half-decade where everyone with a median income bracket of $100K/annum put a down payment on a Hummer. (They’ll be playing this commercial when they do.)

That said, I’m not naive to why retired hearses aren’t more common civilian vehicles; even in the hobby, most hearse owners have at least one other vehicle that’s actually their primary vehicle, while their hearse is their ‘fun car’ or their ‘project car’ (particularly in the case of older model vehicles)–and there’s no disrespect to them! Because even if we put aside folks’ reticence to ‘normalize’ or ‘publicize’ death and unwillingness to be ‘woke’ to death, hearses, pros and cons, are essentially glorified station wagons. Without severe modification, they’re not particularly eco-friendly, and with regards to modification, even base parts may be specialty or custom products. While you may be able to plug-and-play from other years and models or with ‘universal’ parts, you’ll likely have to invest time and petty csh into converters, supplemental parts, frames, or, otherwise, just live with parts that aren’t consistent with the OG.

I bought my car through the tried and true method of legitimate cross-continental capitalism: ebay. While there are specialty services that deal in used and new funeral vehicles, the auction style of ebay presents a unique opportunity to get a high quality vehicle for less than blue book value. I bought my Brougham coach from a seller in Canton, GA who had all manner of specialty vehicles in his garage bay, paid cash, and drove home with the title in hand to register the car in FL.

That was my first interstate drive! And my first drive that was longer than a handful of minutes! I’ve all manner of firsts with that car, including my first accident.

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I was slammed on the driver’s side on a blind turn. The impact of the other car ripped the entire front grill and lights off of mine (my only distinct memory of the crash is my left headlight skittering across the street) and punctured the hood of the fan. The frame of the car itself didn’t crush. The cab of the car was perfectly in tact. The Brougham has no airbags, so nothing deployed. The only remaining evidence that the accident even happened is a bleach spot; I was holding gelato, which splattered all over my driver’s side window and melted into the velvet on the door.

I don’t know how much of that impact is the predecessor to any of the spine and mobility issues that I have in the present day, but a the time, and even now still, I firmly felt that had I been in any other vehicle, the impact of the other vehicle would have severely injured me, if not killed me. I’ve felt a special debt to this car for saving my life. Little by little over the years, I’ve put in more than double that I initially paid for the car to repair and restore what happened because of the accident and for my end game vision for this car.

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Even besides that life-changing moment, this car has done good by me and for my livelihood. It fits all of my mobility aids. It’s a safe and accommodating space to rest in when I’m out of the house. It allows me to be closer to self-sufficient when running errands, since over the years, I’ve developed neurological disease and physical disability.

Both of the above have impaired my driving conduct, and I’ve turned in my license. Even still, this is still my car, my only car, and my primary means of transit. I’ve had plenty of coercive “opportunities” to part with this car over the years… but I can’t, or at least I won’t. If the day comes where we have to have a second vehicle in our household, then so be it, but it will never be at the expense of sacrificing this car. This car, contrary to what it is–or maybe because of what it is–is too interwoven in my life to be unceremoniously scrapped or parked on cinder blocks.

 

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