The Toyota Turmoil

My dad sold used cars for a living. Even though I had “owned” 19 cars by age 20, I never kept one long enough to pay off the debt. This assured that I would forever have car debt in my life. Then came the Toyota Corolla at age 20. It was the nicest car I had “owned” to date and was the newest although it had a ton of miles on it. I am grateful as I look back because I did eventually pay it off. It got me through college and the first three years of my marriage. It was a two-door beauty built more for a grandma than a young 20 year old, and it had about as much room in it as a cardboard box. I hesitate to say it was a 5-speed because that would make it appear sportier than it was. It had about as much pick-up as a golf cart, and although I tried, I was never able to actually spin the wheels. The closest thing I got to “burning rubber” was when I slammed on the brake to avoid someone driving too slow.

I recall on my wedding day, some really good friends decided to share with the world that we were just married. The problem was they used shaving cream on the hood, which left a permanent reminder that we just got married. It did not matter how much I washed, waxed, or buffed the words, they would not fade at all.

I needed to pay this car off and drive it till the wheels fell off so I would get my money’s worth. The end result was driving for another three years with this constant reminder tattooed for everyone to see. I learned a valuable lesson at this time in my life. If you look at something you don’t like long enough, it disappears, or at least it does to you. After about a year I don’t even recall seeing “Just Married” on my hood at all. I also was fortunate enough to have good friends that would not remind me it was there.

I learned another valuable lesson: the fear of lack will take away your common sense. Sound crazy? Let me explain. Before I was married, I decided I needed a new car stereo. I wouldn’t have a cheap one; I had to have one of the most expensive stereos that just happened to be installed in all the new Lamborghini sports cars at that time. After all, I did have a foreign car myself so I never thought twice about it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the stereo costs more than the car itself! Hey, I had tunes, and that was all that mattered to my common-senseless mind!

One summer, my family and I trekked up to Hot Springs for a vacation. Can’t you just picture the three of us driving four hours in a two-door Toyota with about 170,000 miles on it? We did have two cars, but the other one was not nearly as nice as the Toyota. The Toyota was fairly dependable other than one minor problem: getting it started. About a year earlier the ignition key decided it did not want to turn all the time. I “fixed” it by putting some hi-tech graphite in the key hole, and it was good as new as long as you wiggled it back and forth every now and then.

After we got to Hot Springs, we decided to check out a museum they had for kids. It seemed like we drove forever to get there and when we arrived, we had only an hour or two to go through it. We stayed as long as they would let us, and then the Toyota Turmoil was about to begin. We walked out to the car where there were no other cars were to be seen. While I was packing the stroller that had to be the size of the trunk, my wife took the dreaded task of buckling a squirmy, slippery, drooling one year old in a car seat which he hated with a passion.

I put the key in the ignition, turned the key, and without saying anything, had a brief moment of “Oh $H%#!” My first thought was something like “today is the day that I might die.” Let me explain. My wife had been after me for a year to take the car to a shop and have the ignition properly fixed. With my fear of lack, I just could not see paying someone to do something I could do myself. But in reality, I was afraid that the repair would cost more than what the car was worth. Without her noticing, I sneaked my secret stash of hi-tech graphite that was under my seat and doused the key hole. By the time I was ready to try the key again, my wife had picked up on what was going on. Immediately she issued me the “glaring eyes” which actually penetrated my skull. I have always thought that the US defense department should do some research on American wives’ “glaring eyes” to use in combat. All men know this, but just in case you do not, wives “glaring eyes” automatically make men do one of three things: 1) run for their lives, 2) throw a temper tantrum, or 3) become completely ignorant.

As you might expect, the key did not turn the second time. I decided the best thing was to wiggle it harder. Then the worst thing happened. SNAP! “Oh SH#@! You have got to be kidding me!” From all the previous wiggling of the key, it must have made it weak and caused it to break off in the ignition. “Glaring eyes” said nothing, but her communication was perfectly clear. I quickly scanned my mind for which option to choose? Without missing a beat, screaming and yelling became the strategy. The temper-tantrum strategy was a good one because “glaring eyes” would be defenseless. Get her to work at calming me down, and I was off the hook for the time being. Heck, I could always apologize later. I somehow gathered my composure and got a wrecker on the phone so they could come tow the car.

After waiting about an hour to an hour and a half with a screaming child in the steaming summer heat, my wife’s “glaring eyes” returned. She sat in the shade with my son, and I stayed as far away as I could without ever making eye contact. Finally, the wrecker showed up. The tow truck driver was very nice, and after I heard what he said I thought we must be related somehow. After I told him of my issue, he had a brilliant idea. He said, “Fixing that is probably going to cost more than the car is worth.” (THANK YOU, I sure wish “glaring eyes” had been close enough to hear that!) He had seen this kind of thing before, and said he could fix it for me in a few minutes. He said I wouldn’t even need a key to start it anymore. BINGO!!! The magic words, “you wouldn’t even need a key” made perfect sense to me. Problem SOLVED! After about 10 minutes, he had taken the steering wheel cover off, and he showed me the white plastic thing of beauty. He said “All you need is a screwdriver to start it.” I paid him for his troubles with a nice tip and a smile on my face. With my dignity back, we got in the car, used my screwdriver and started the Toyota perfectly. A smile came to my face as I realized that I would never have to worry about the key sticking again. Things were starting to look up.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, “glaring eyes” were back! I searched my brain for the appropriate option. Although jumping out of the moving car didn’t seem quite so bad at the time, I knew I couldn’t because I was driving. Then the next option of the temper tantrum would not be effective because the rules state you can never have more than one in a given 24 hour period. So, that left me with option number three: become completely ignorant. I stated “but...” and was interrupted with the eyes. I tried again “but, I…” more glaring eyes. I then proceeded to state something like this was a good thing that happened and that she should be grateful for me not getting it fixed a year ago. Look how much money we just saved! I rationalized the whole thing, and as I look back now, it must have sounded like something Jim Carey would say in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” Then it went silent because I even scared myself with some of the stupid rationalizations that I said.

I drove that car for another year before getting a “new” used car. For that entire year, I had to put a towel over the ignition so others would not see that it did not need a key to start it. When I look back at it now, I had nothing to worry about because no one in their right mind would have wanted to steal that car. When I took the car to trade it in, the look of the salesperson face was priceless. (I was keeping my towel!) They offered me a very low amount, and when I told him I was going to take the stereo out I thought they were going to make me pay them to take it off my hands.

I believe the fear of lack brought these events to me because all of my focus was on the lack. In return, I was constantly given what I thought about all the time – more car troubles and more lack in other areas. So how did I overcome my fear of lack? Did I finally discover once and for all the missing formula to not worry about money? You will have to come back soon and read the story, “Mano-a-mano Murano” to find out if I learned the necessary skills to buy a new car without all my baggage.

Author's Bio: 

Bill King is a writer, speaker, and consultant. His latest website teaches the Law of Attraction from a completely different point of view. It's called, and it is built on the premise that negative thoughts stink. His approach is geared toward Law of Attraction newbies, and he uses humor to break down the barriers many people have to taking full responsibility for the circumstances of their lives. There's a quiz they can take to check their stink-o-city, tons of easy-to-follow exercises, and even a kindness meter where they can log kind deeds.