Wayne’s Car Story

Sometimes things from your past can come back to haunt you. A story from my brother-in-law Wayne:

Remember our old car, the Oldsmobile that mom used to drive? I inherited it when mom was no longer driving it. When we bought our Camry, we looked for someone to give it to—since it was a gift to me, we passed it on.

Heather, a girl across the hallway in our apartment in Calgary, needed a car. She had mental illness problems, was on low income, and certainly couldn’t afford to buy a car. Originally she asked if she could buy it, and was impressed when we were willing to give it to her. Great solution!

We moved back to Edmonton 6 months later. At that point she hadn’t registered it yet, so we double-checked to see if she still wanted it, and if she needed help getting it registered, etc. She still wanted it, and she didn’t want help getting things arranged. She was capable.

So we moved, and forgot all about the car. We were clean of it.

Until . . .

A week ago Sunday (July 25) we received a phone call from the city impound lot in Calgary. They had a burgundy Oldsmobile of which we were the last registered owners. Great! Our car was returning from the dead! It had never been registered in three years. So we debated what to do: Claim it wasn’t ours and forget about it? Or go back, pay the impound fee and claim the car? We called Heather and asked her about it. Initially she said she didn’t want it, but wanted to think about it for day. The next day she claimed she sold it to a friend last November. Right. Obviously she was in over her head. So we decided to reclaim the car, sell it, and try to make about $1000. Instead of mucking with ownership questions, we didn’t tell Heather, in case she (or her idiot boyfriend) wanted to make things ugly.

I made a bunch of phone calls to figure things out, but that was Tuesday, when we were supposed to be leaving on holidays. We left it in the impound lot in the mean time ($10/day storage fee). On Tuesday (yesterday) I would go to Calgary, buy insurance and registration and pay to get the car out of the impound lot. Then drive it to Edmonton and put it in the Auto Trader. It seemed a simple solution, and we couldn’t think of any hiccups along the way, short of tires being flat or needing a boost to get going (I took tools just in case). I even pre-arranged to have a locksmith cut a new key, since Heather had the only ignition key.

I caught a ride to Calgary Tuesday, and by 9:30 had picked up my insurance. Picked up a new license plate and registered the car by 10:30. Off to the impound lot! I paid the $240 to get it out of the lot. The locksmith was just finishing my new key when the security guard escorted me to my new car.

That’s when the wheels fell off my fool-proof plan. Actually, that’s when I noticed that there were no wheels. As we drove up, the car was sitting on the ground with no wheels. From the back I could see that the windshield was smashed. The trunk was open a little bit.

The orange stickers on each window read “Biohazard.” The car was full of junk. A few old clothes, garbage, and mess. The seats were askew. The steering wheel had been removed and was on the floor. And needles. Needles everywhere, There were probably 20 or 30 needles inside. Congratulations! My new car! It had become a tireless, garbage-filled, biohazard nightmare. Lucky me. And a new set of keys to boot.

I’ve never been so shocked in my life. Never in a thousand years would we have guessed the car was stripped and full of drug paraphernalia. I poked around, tried not to touch too much for fear of being poked with needles, and stared in astonishment.

The car didn’t start (I got a $15 discount on the new key, considering it all). We popped the hood (my new locksmith friend and I), and the motor seemed in tack, though the battery cable was disconnected. At that point, who cared? We tried to get into the trunk, but couldn’t pry it open. So what.

So what do you do with a wheel-less, syringe-filled car? Auto recyclers wouldn’t take it, since it was too old. After a few phone calls and a couple of hours of disbelief/debriefing to get over the shock, I decided to make a generous donation to the Children’s Foundation, who will give you a $50 tax receipt and take care of towing. It seemed appropriate; maybe they could find a use for the needles.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to find a camera and take pictures of it all. It was quite a sight, and now I wish I could have shared it with a few close friends. It was amazing.

The total cost of it all: Insurance (hopefully free with same-day cancellation); Registration ($28); Impound Fee ($240); New Key! ($60); Bus Tickets around Calgary ($8—and lots of frustration getting loonies from a bank machine). My ride to Calgary was free, but he didn’t go back to Edmonton until Wednesday morning (today). I got to stay with friends in Calgary, and they took pity and BBQd steak. Total cost of my priceless experience is about $350.

So my car is once again gone. And my lesson? I would do it all again. Except next time the impound lot calls, ask them if my car comes complete with Biohazard stickers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *