Hey, there! I got your email about wanting to borrow the car. Not everyone in New York has a car and so I think it’s incumbent upon those of us who do to lend them out often. And of course the best use of the car is to take it out of town for the weekend—we all need an escape sometimes—so I was especially glad to learn that you guys’ll be going upstate. So the answer is: Sure! No problem at all!

Well, I guess there are some problems. Not with you taking the car, per se, but with the car itself. Here’s a rundown of some things you should know about the Volvo before heading out:

  • You can drive up to about 80 miles-per-hour before the car really starts rumbling.
  • Whenever you brake, especially at higher speeds or coming down a hill, you will feel the car rumbling.
  • Sometimes when you’re driving, a red light comes on on the dashboard warning light panel that says “BRAKE.” When it does, the odometer goes blank and the speedometer, no matter how fast you’re going, drops to zero. After a while—sometimes the duration of your trip and into the next one, but sometimes only 30 or so seconds—the “BRAKE” light goes off and the numbers come back on the odometer and the speedometer shoots up to whatever your current speed is. It’s hilarious. Though, mind you, it is deeply illegal to drive with a malfunctioning speedometer. But it’s also liberating; you can just drive with the flow of traffic or, if you’re on the highway alone, just go however fast you think it feels right to drive.
  • Ignore all the other warning indicator lights. The engine does not, in fact, need to be checked and the car is way past serviceable. And I’m not even sure what automatic braking systems do.
  • People will almost surely stop to ask you how much you’d pay to have the dents all along the driver side popped out (side-swiped while parked by a cab year ago; you can still see the yellow paint). I usually tell them it’s my anti-theft device.
  • If you turn off the lights when you turn off the car, the battery will, paradoxically, die. However, if you just leave the light switch where it is, the battery won’t die. So just don’t touch the lights.
  • Oh, speaking of the lights, they’re pretty weak. Sometimes I use the brights for driving at night, irrespective of other cars around. The brights aren’t that strong either, so I’ve never gotten complaints from other drivers (in the form of them flashing their brights at me).
  • The rear passengers’ side door doesn’t unlock when you ULAD (unlock all doors). You have to do it from inside the car, which can be quite a reach.
  • The rear drivers’ side does not open from the inside. You have to get let out by your chauffeur.
  • The latch for the door to the gas tank is broken, so it doesn’t latch shut. Pray super hard that no miscreants pour foreign liquids in there.
  • The tape player seems to be busted. But I have a bunch of CDs in a bag in the car and the CD player works great for a 16-year-old CD player that’s gotten heavy use.
  • The rear speakers are blown out.
  • The sunroof is broken. You can crack it, but not open it all the way. Even when it’s closed, it makes a lot of wind noise. You can try to fiddle with it to close it as best possible and reduce the hissing. That’s what I do, at least.
  • Sometimes—often—when you turn the car off, you have to kind of press the key a little bit further back than it feels like it wants to go then you feel it click, at which point you can take the key out. Don’t force it and break the key, but urge it on ever so gently. If that doesn’t work, try jiggling the little button the shifter to make sure it’s popped out to make it official that you’re in P(ark).
  • The lights on the shifter don’t really light up. At night, just estimate where ‘P’ or ‘R’ or ‘D’ are depending on which way you want to go, and have at it. Or use the flashlight on your cell phone.
  • The transmission is shit. I’ve been waiting for years for it to drop. If you don’t baby it a little as you drive it’ll jerk a lot—especially going uphill at a steep gradient. Sometimes it’ll slam into gear anyway. It doesn’t feel good, for you or, presumably, the car, but it is what it is.
  • Don’t go too far. My mechanic told me he would not drive to Montana in the Volvo. Last time I was in, his deputy Dave, a middle-aged Jamaican with kind eyes, said to me, “Ari”—that’s what he thinks my name is—”No offense, but: How long ya gonna drive this car?”

Enjoy the trip!

 

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