Recent headlines have me remembering an incident from my adolescence. When I turned 16, I knew if I wanted a car, I’d have to pay for it. I started looking for the cheapest heap I could find. To my delight, I found the car of my dreams on a lot near my home. It was a red and white ’54 Ford with a beautiful paint job and white sidewalls. It was, as we said back then, “real cherry.” The price was too high, but dad knew his way around a car lot and I knew he could get the dealer to come down.
I don’t remember how long it was before I could get pop to take me over to make the deal, but I died a thousand deaths during the wait. Someone else was sure to buy that car before we could get over there. When we finally showed up at the lot, there she was, appearing to my adolescent eyes as the most glamorous magnetic mechanical creation in the history of manufacturing. And she had to be mine — all mine.
The lot owner was all smiles and cigars and assured us that in the automotive universe we’d never find a better car for the money. He didn’t need to convince me. I could tell by looking. Pop walked around the car — studying. The owner ignored me and followed pop keeping up a steady stream of chatter. Pop knelt by one of the beautifully sleek rear fenders to look at something. He glanced up to make eye contact with the salesman and something passed between them that was over my head. That’s when the dealer turned his attention to me. He started drawing word pictures of me pulling up to my girlfriend’s house in this beauty, or me driving her to the stadium with my friends aboard.
Pop asked him to start it up. It was loud, but that was fine with me. In fact, I loved it. Pop opened the hood, took a look, thanked the man and said “Let’s go.” I was heartbroken and eager to argue, but pop said we’d talk about it later. The salesman followed us to our Plymouth suggesting he might come off the price to allow for a new muffler. Pop thanked him again and we drove away. I was furious and frustrated. Pop was amused. I went through my whining routine about how, if I was going to spend my own money, I should be able to buy what I want. After he heard me out, pop said, “Let me tell you about that car. If you still want it after you know the facts, it’s your headache.”
The body was rusted and painted over. The engine had not been properly lubricated and the rods were knocking. The loud motor noise was intended to camouflage the fact that the engine was on its last legs. Couldn’t we fix the motor? “Son, by the time you hear the rods knocking, she’s too far gone.”
What does this have to do with recent headlines? Let’s start with the rusted body. A sharp trader made cosmetic adjustments calculated to fool a gullible buyer into purchasing a poor quality product.
Recently, the voters of South Carolina re-elected Mark Sanford. Today, Anthony Weiner is a legitimate contender for mayor of New York. Both these man committed shameful betrayals of the public trust. They lied to their constituents, their friends and their families. They held their nation up to ridicule. They compounded their deceitful acts with conduct that can only be described as low and cowardly. Today, they’ve painted over their underlying corruptions. Sadly, voters are too willing to fall for the fancy paint job. Even when they’ve seen the disgusting defect with their own eyes, they can’t focus on anything but the glamour.
About those knocking rods; we’ve now learned that the Internal Revenue Service has exploited its vast enforcement powers to discriminate against American citizens who express views unacceptable to “the Bureau.” Just as an engine that is poorly lubricated will ultimately fail, powerful government agencies that are poorly supervised will ultimately betray. Is it me, or are there bureaucratic rods knocking all over this country? Engine repair won’t do. We need to replace the motor.
So, whatever became of that car? Well, I didn’t buy it. I knew the guy that did. He drove it a couple of weeks and blew the engine. Instead, I spent a couple of hundred bucks and got a ’61 Falcon. Not so “cool,” but ultimately worth the money. Thanks for the lesson, pop. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.