My Buick: A Post-Sandy Parable

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Nov 01, 2012

I inherited a 1999 Buick Regal from my father-in-law. Not my father’s Oldsmobile, but close. When I drove the thing to the local drive-in, a friend who thinks I’m Mr. Car yelled out, “What are you doing driving THAT?”

OK, it’s not a cool car, and it’s a gas guzzler to boot, but it has a CD player, a working heater, comfy seats. The fact that I can appreciate those things at all must mean I’m ready for AARP membership. But I slink down in the seat when behind the Regal’s wheel.

So when Hurricane Sandy came around, I saw my opportunity. The car was parked under a huge oak—exactly the kind of tree expected to come down in the storm. All I had to do was leave it there…

Falling trees were the big hazard in my neighborhood. (Jim Motavalli photo)The wind started to blow. I looked out the window, and there was the poor Buick--forlorn, begging to be rescued. The wind picked up, started to howl. The leaves I’d bagged were liberated and blew around in a frenzy. Only emergency vehicles were coming by. There sat the Buick, its grey exoskeleton glowing in the fading light.

The survivor: My unhip 1999 Buick Regal. (Jim Motavalli photo.)Finally, I could stand it no longer. My conscience got the better of me, and I moved it around the corner. Soon after, my neighbor’s wooden fence blew apart, sending a big rectangular section straight across the road at, what, 40 mph? Guess what would have been taken out by a jet-propelled fence? Yes, the Buick!

This fence would have taken out my Buick, no question about it. (Jim Motavalli photo)Now, we’re in post-Sandy clean-up mode. We walked around the corner, and a huge oak—much like the one on my block that made it through the storm—had come down, taking out a multitude of power and telephone lines. It landed right where my neighbor had, until earlier that night, parked his derelict 1993 Mazda Miata.

Now, I had discussed buying that car from him but we decided it was too far gone and he should turn it into a parts vehicle for his other Miata. But if he’d just left the car where it was…

So neither of us is going to see a big insurance payout. But we’ll also sleep well tonight, even if it’s by candlelight.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter