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Dollar Days: My First and Only Minivan

02/03/2015 03:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

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After the heroic, yet violent death of my brown Volvo, I rented a car for a few days to get to and from my new job at the outpatient program. I tried to figure out my next automotive move but lacking funds, my choices were limited. Jeff and I had been seeing each other less than two months at this point when he made me an offer I was in no position to refuse. Jeff offered to sell me his mini-van for $1. I accepted.

The 1997 Plymouth Grand Voyager had been Jeff's tour van for his last band. They had driven it back and forth across the country a number of times and it had seen better, cleaner days. It was missing three of its hubcaps and the interior smelled like The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Jeff had been eyeing a new hybrid and decided to buy it a little sooner than he had planned in order to give me some wheels. He's swell like that.

One of my job duties at the outpatient program would involve driving some of the teenage patients to and from appointments. The van would be perfect. I spent $18 at the car wash, ordered some cheap replacement hubcaps off the internet, gassed her up and we were ready to roll.

On my third day behind the wheel of The Voyager, I had made a deal with my two 16-year-old passengers, Tommy and Adam. I would let them pick the radio station and in exchange, they would stop begging me to let them pick the radio station. It was a sweltering afternoon and we had the air conditioner blasting as we crawled along in the Santa Monica Boulevard traffic enjoying the sweet tones of Three 6 Mafia. Suddenly, the air shut off and the temperature gauge started moving up. We were overheating.

Having driven old, crappy cars almost exclusively in my driving career, I knew that with an overheating car, I needed to first turn the heater on high to try and pull some of the hot air away from the engine. With the 103 degree temp outside and the heater set to 10, the interior of the van felt as if we were driving onto the face of the sun. We rolled down all the car windows and inched along back to the office, treating the nearby motorists to "Pussy Got Ya Hooked" blasting from the van's crappy speakers. I silently prayed that my boss would not drive by.

When I got back to my desk, I immediately called Jeff and told him what had happened. He explained that he was aware of the van's compressor problem. Then he said, "I guess I need to take it to a real mechanic."

"What do you mean? You've been taking it to a pretend mechanic?"

"Not exactly, he's more of a psychic."

"I want my dollar back."

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