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First Automobile, part three

2015-04-23

When I started the residency program at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, I didn’t have a car, just a bicycle.  I saved my salary for four months to raise a down payment on a car– $1500.  A friend from the hospital, a girl who was an ultrasound technician, took me to a Subaru dealer in Pasadena; she had a car from them, and they had treated her well.

However, the first thing I noticed at the Subaru dealership was a used Alfa Romeo Spyder, with a new convertible top.  It was cream-colored and understated.  The dealer allowed us to drive it around the block but said not to take it on the freeway.  It had 48,000 miles on it.

On the way home (on the freeway) my friend noticed that my new Alfa was smoking a little, every time I accelerated.  That was on Saturday.  By Monday, the car would barely run at all.  I took it back to the dealer, and they gave me a “loaner.”  The next I heard from them was three weeks later, and they said it was fixed, to come pick it up.

In the meantime, someone had rear-ended me in the loaner, leaving the car a foot shorter but still driveable after I unbent the exhaust time.  That was only a few days before they called me back.  I took the car in and gave them a copy of the accident report: I had been rear-ended at a stop light by someone who claimed not to have seen me.

When I got the Alfa back, it was literally gushing oil, using a quart every thirty miles and spraying all over the engine compartment.  Again, I had to wait over the weekend to take it back to the dealer.  When I did take it back, they apologized and said they had left a bolt off the engine when they put it back together.   They replaced the bolt and cleaned out the engine compartment.

After that, it ran fine, and I managed to put six thousand miles on it, mostly with the top down, from December to June.  I would get an afternoon off and spend it driving around the curvy little roads in the hills behind Glendale.  One of the nurses remarked that I had a nice suntan for February; I told her it was because I drove around with the top down on my car all the time.

Once they got it running, the only problem I had with it was that the top leaked when it rained.  Once, after a night of being on call and a heavy rainstorm, I came back to my car to find an inch of water on the floorboards.

There was something just really fun about driving around the freeways of Los Angeles in a tiny convertible car.

After a while, though, I gave it up to go into the Indian Health Service.  That’s another story.

Years later, I came back to LA and bought a new Mustang convertible that was the same color as that Alfa.  It’s still fun, and I’d do it again  in a minute.  But after that, I gave up buying used cars.

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