Can James get over a bad case of Junk Box Conflation Syndrome?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am having a serious case of separation anxiety from my old car. In truth, I believe I am still in love with it. I thought maybe you two could help me out. My old car was a 1989 Jeep Cherokee -- a perfect first car for a 16-year-old boy, if you ask me, as long as you ignored the fact that it had no air bags, working seatbelts or safety features of any kind. The car had tons of personality. For instance, there were two things I had to keep with me at all times: a stick and a baseball bat. The stick was used to hold the trunk open, and the baseball bat was to reach underneath and pummel the gas tank in an attempt to unstick the fuel pump every time the car wouldn't start. I also found out one day that the hose that sprayed the back windshield with wiper fluid had been cut. Instead of going onto the back window, the wiper fluid would shoot out behind the car. This was discovered while sitting at a stoplight with a gorgeous black Mercedes-Benz not more than six inches from my rear bumper. I even gave this car a name: Marvin. Marvin and I went through a lot in the three years we were together. But then it came time for me to go away to college. Eventually, my father got tired of pressure-washing an oil stain the size of Rhode Island off the driveway every month and exclaimed to me one day, "Son, it's time for you to get a newer car." We drove off and came back with a beautiful, jet-black, Wolfsburg Edition Volkswagen Jetta. I never saw my old Jeep, Marvin, again.

Now my problem is this: Despite my love for my new car -- named Wolfgang, by the way -- I find myself mentioning my old Jeep in conversations at least three times a week. In fact, I even have reoccurring dreams about the car. It has been more than a year now, and I fear I will never be able to move on. Tom and Ray, I need your help. What can I do to get over my old car?

-- James

RAY: James, I hate to break it to you, but you're suffering from the same affliction as my brother: JBCS, Junk Box Conflation Syndrome. Also known as SBCS.

TOM: Junk box? Conflation? What are you talking about?

RAY: That's when a person takes a complete piece of unmitigated junk, and conflates it, in his mind, to something worthy of worship.

TOM: I have no idea what you're talking about.

RAY: My brother has had a series of complete and utter heaps throughout the years, each one worse than the last. They smelled bad. Parts would fall off as he drove them. No one else would ride with him.

TOM: Yeah. And what's the problem?

RAY: The problem is that once one of them went to the crusher, in his mind it became the greatest car ever built. My brother would wax poetic about what a wonderful, magnificent car it was until it made you sick.

TOM: They WERE magnificent vehicles. Every one of them. Especially my Sleek Black Beauty! Oh! What a car!

RAY: And he named them, too, which is something else you two appear to have in common, James.

TOM: The Sleek Black Beauty was a '65 AMC Ambassador convertible. What a car that was!

RAY: It was so decrepit that he abandoned it at the garage for eight months. The smell was chasing away customers. It had mushrooms growing in the carpet, and a family of raccoons living in it.

TOM: I was going to come back for it.

RAY: Yeah, with a shovel.

TOM: You had no right to crush it. I could have had that car back on the road in a day.

RAY: I agree -- it probably would have taken you all day to push it out to the road. The brakes were all seized.

TOM: Anyway, James, I'm sure your Jeep deserves to be brought up in conversation three times a week. I'm sure it was a wonderful car, and you should keep it alive in your memories.

RAY: James, you're going to be a social outcast, like my brother. My only advice is to seek out other people with your affliction. That way, at least you'll have a few people who can stand you long enough to play poker once in a while. Good luck, kid.

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