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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

Middle Age and the Mazdamobile

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

OK, I admit it... I picked a Maxda RX-7 to impress women. But it was a dud from the start. Not the car; the concept. I didn’t say a thing to the next one till our third date. “How do you like my car?” I asked. “It’s OK, I guess; what kind is it?” she replied with feigned interest. “It’s a new Mazda RX-7,” I said, with obvious pride. “Oh, is that one of those little, foreign imports... like a Yugo?” Well, that sealed it; there would be no fourth date for us.

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Fall, 2001:

I guess that I am not the only one affected by the middle age blahs. It is happening to the Mazdamobile, too.

I drive a 1981 Mazda RX-7 sports car; it is as much a part of me as the birth mark on my little finger and the tattoo on my left cheek. I am the original owner; I have had it for nearly 19 years. It has over 443,000 miles on it. That's right: 443,000 - nearly half a million miles! As the new millennium approaches, it is beginning to show its age. But then, aren't we all?

(Hey, I was just kidding about the tattoo; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

I've recently noticed several unusual vibrations and noises at higher speeds. I'm pretty much the same, too. And it is a little hard to get the car going on cold, winter mornings.... just like me. But we're both here for the long run, our looks and age notwithstanding.

I owe my good fortune to three things. First, the rotary engine in the RX-7 is absolutely amazing. The rest of the car is made exceptionally well, too. Rust? Not a bit - after 18 years! Say what you want, but the Japanese proved that a car does not have to fall apart after four years. That sure was news to us back in the seventies, thank you General Motors. Second, I take pretty good care of the car. And third, I have a terrific mechanic. Jeff, the owner of Maztech in Tampa, is like all the doctors on "E.R." rolled into one. There is nothing on that car he cannot diagnose and fix. Finding a good mechanic is like finding an honest lawyer; only it would not bother me one bit if we took Shakespeare's advice and killed all the lawyers, even the three honest ones. But leave Jeff alone!

I bought the Mazdamobile after... a personal crisis of sorts, in the fall of 1980. Actually, I did not buy it. I was working for a client 80 miles away in Orlando. After my seven year-old Pinto (the car, not the horse) broke down twice on the way over, my client offered to buy me a real car... and allow me to pay it off in services rendered. Well, it took me over three years, but I never made a cash payment on the Mazdamobile. I still get to Orlando to visit the client on occasion. They are amazed that I am still driving the same car. I tell them I am waiting for them to buy me a new one. They tell me to keep on waiting.

OK, I admit it... I picked a Maxda RX-7 to impress women. But it was a dud from the start. Not the car; the concept. The first lady I dated said she thought the RX-7s were OK, but she much preferred her BMW. The second was thoroughly unimpressed: "Oh yeah; my kid sister has one of those; they're not bad." I didn't say a thing to the next one till our third date. "How do you like my car?" I asked. "It's OK, I guess; what kind is it?" she replied with feigned interest. "It's a new Mazda RX-7," I said, with obvious pride. "Oh, is that one of those little, foreign imports... like a Yugo?" Well, that sealed it; there would be no fourth date for us.

I had to have the odometer replaced by the dealer at 219,000 miles. I did not ask them to turn back the odometer; I wanted it to read exactly what the old one did. No dice; they said they have to start it at zero. "How will a potential buyer know what the mileage actually is?" I asked the dealer. "You can tell them to give us a call; we keep the records on file." A decade later, I am still driving the Mazdamobile; the dealer went out of business in 1992.

A few years ago, I made the mistake of bragging about the mileage to a lady on our first date. When I told her the Mazdamobile had over 300,000 miles on it, she gave me this increduous look, and then checked. "But the odometer reads just over 105,000 miles?" "Yeah, but I had the odometer replaced at 219,000." She gave me a stare like I was Bill Clinton ordering a cigar: "I just want to chomp on it... honest." Well, there would be no second date for us. Monica Lewinsky, she wasn't. Hillary Clinton, she wasn't. If I'd lie to her about that....

Today, I seldom mention the car to the object of my affection; after all, it does have a few visible imperfections. My emergency road kit now includes a roll of duct tape and an industrial strength tube of Super Glue. And I'll tell you this: the AAA does not make a penny off of me. On several occasions, the pacemaker (that would be what Jeff calls the alternator) has failed and left us stranded on the side of the road. It is painful to see the Mazdamobile being towed down the interstate - but I guess it sure beats the alternative.

The county in which I live requires an annual auto emissions inspection, always a source of enormous anxiety for me. You never know what may be coming out of the tailpipe of a car with nearly a half a million miles on it. (Oh no... you'll have to make up your own line, here.) With the engine running, they stick a probe into the tailpipe and read the results on a computer. A couple years ago, the technician said I failed. "According to the computer, your engine is not even running." I swear that's what he said. I protested vigorously. "Do you hear that engine noise? Do you see the hood vibrating? Now, what are you going to believe, your eyes and your ears, or that stupid computer?" Like spitting in the wind, friends... it was useless... and self-destructive as well.

A while back, the front rotor of the engine blew just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. I crawled to Atlanta (400 miles) with half the engine dead. Boy, you think the would-be triple-crown racehorse winner Charismatic was courageous limping across the finish line at the Belmont Stakes with two broken bones in his leg... you should have seen the Mazdamobile rolling down Interstate 75 at 3 in the morning with an 18-wheeler barrelling up behind him at 80 miles an hour! I'll show you courage!

Anyway, once in Atlanta, my new best friend, mechanic Charlie Shatzen, ripped that ailing sucker out and replaced it. Forty-eight hours later, I was on my way, with a new lease on wheels. That day I drove it 475 miles back to Tampa, just in time to conduct a seminar I had scheduled months earlier.

Today, Charlie runs Mazcare -- www.mazcare.com -- in Marietta, Georgia. I paid him a visit recently... some 15 years after our encounter. Sure; he remembered me and the great job he did on the Mazdamobile. Pay him a visit; mention my name. Watch him smile.

We have made it successfully to Atlanta and back more times than I can count. And we make the annual trip to Cleveland; we'll be going again sometime in late August, as long as Jeff gives us a clean bill of health.

A couple years ago, Jeff threatened to move to Oregon; I told him I would follow him there. I'll bet that sure would have shocked his wife!

I'm not sure if the car is hindering my social life, but surely it is not helping it. Oh, I keep the car washed and waxed. But you know, there are some things a little spit and polish cannot hide. We all ought to be able to relate to that. Besides, what are my chances of finding a woman that really gets turned on by a 19 year-old car with a faulty pacemaker?

Six years ago I told people that at this rate, I would have my next car when I turned 60. Heck, at this rate, I'll still have this car when I turn 60.

Nonetheless, my goal is to make it to half a million miles. When I get there, I intend to write to the Mazda people. I'll let them use my story and my car in a commercial for Mazda. All I will ask for in return is a new RX-7. I suspect, however, that they'll tell me to keep on waiting.

Life goes on. Fortunately, so does the Mazdamobile.


Update: fall, 2004 -- Well, the Mazdamobile rolls on. Now at 24 years of age, the Mazdamobile is showing its age. But it has a right to. It now has over 518,000 miles on it. That's right, well over half a million miles!! And it is still running on the rebuilt engine.

I donno' what the goal is now. I guess it is pretty much the same as my own personal goal: keep on keeping on. So far, so good, huh?


Update: fall, 2007: The Mazda story is now a 4-part series:

Part 2: Tome of the Mazdamobile
Part 3: The Search for a Travel Companion
Part 4: The Search Comes to an End


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