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Krazy for Tryin' to Be Generous

May 30, 1996|RIP RENSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Krazy Kar is back.

Perhaps some readers will recall a lengthy ode to my remarkable automobile in these pages about a year ago. The car, a 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit, had much in common with its cousin, the Energizer Bunny. Both kept going, and going. . . .

A friend dubbed it Krazy Kar because it resembled something out of an old Fleischer Brothers cartoon. It hiccuped and coughed, choked and sputtered, like Mel Blanc was hiding under the hood. It featured tires of disparate sizes, prehistoric shocks, a steering wheel with a 2-inch chunk missing, an asthmatic horn, flaccid emergency brake and duct-tape bandages around windows, seats and taillights. Sometimes the tape unwound and trailed far behind, like burial wrappings after the mummy. Birds were inordinately fond of the Krazy Kar, and shiny, nice autos got out of its way--rather like shiny, nice people veer away from the homeless.

A few months ago, I donated the Kar--and all its 187,000 miles--to one of those charitable organizations that advertises on the radio. You know, donate your car in any condition to help a needy family, or words to that effect. So what, I thought, if I am the only human (garage mechanics included) who could actually locate first gear in the beast--it might be salvageable enough for some hard(er)-luck soul.

I signed off on the Krazy Kar one sunny morning and watched it being towed away, with gratitude in my heart. Its replacement awaited--an older Honda also donated to charity (me) by a dear friend. Eight weeks later, the Kar came back to haunt me. (I should have known; long-term relationships are seldom so easily terminated.) Seems it was still going, and going . . . and going . . . wrong.

"A vehicle registered in your name has been illegally parked. Amount now due: $30 . . . Due after 3/18/96: $60 . . . Due after 3/28/96: $90 . . . Failure to pay this ticket may result in the impounding of your vehicle."

The notice came from the City of Compton Police Deportment. Seems the Krazy Kar had moved to Compton and was behaving irresponsibly. Probably staying up late and running around with Jeeps and sport-utility vehicles. Hittin' that 50-weight motor oil again.

*

Iphoned Compton Police, where a recording referred me to another recording. The second recording invited me to plead my case on tape, then cut me off before I could get past, "Uhh. . . ." Good thing I'm not reporting something important, like a cat stuck in a tree, I thought. Then I phoned the charitable organization to which I had given the Krazy Kar up for adoption. I explained to a young woman that I had been cited for a car I no longer owned, and that this was upsetting. Before I could get another word out. . . .

"Sir, the car will be registered to you for the next five years!"

"What? That's ridiculous! I . . . "

"Now don't be rude, sir," she said in a practiced tone.

"Rude? You interrupted me. I donated the car to you people in the first place, and--what do you mean, five years!"

"You don't have to be rude, sir. It's in the papers you signed."

Rude? Hey, now that was an idea! I dialed the main headquarters of the organization, brought them up to snuff, and . . .

"So I'll tell you what," I said. "If the person driving the [expletive] car mows down two people in a crosswalk, and the car is still registered to me--meaning I'm held liable--I promise you that I will hire [expletive] F. Lee Bailey and sue you people into the far reaches of hell." The response:

"Sir, I'm just a receptionist, and I wouldn't blame you if you did."

Bureaucracy was doing to me essentially what Madonna has done to the popular song. I had given the car away in an act of charity. The car had been promptly sold to a parking scofflaw. Somehow, I was still the legal owner. What's more, I would remain legal owner for five years, no matter how many future scofflaws might be stymied by the Krazy Kar's phantom first gear.

This was it--tragic news for fundamentalists: positive proof that humans are indeed descended from monkeys.

Next telephonic stop, the Department of Motor Vehicles, where a pleasant woman confirmed that I am still official keeper of the Krazy Kar, adding that she certainly had never heard of any five-year, post-sale registration clause. "That's weird," she said.

Follow me, if you will, back to the charitable organization, where an apologetic supervisor revealed by phone that (drum roll) the Kar, in fact, would not really be registered to me for five more years after all!

"But you do remain on the DMV records as an 'interested party' for the next five years," she added pregnantly.

Interested party? I had more interest in navel lint. Just exactly what did this mean?

"I'm not exactly sure," she said.

*

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