Little did I know on that beautiful spring day that the used Chrysler Le Baron would shortly become the “car from hell”. My wife fell in love with the car from the moment she got behind the wheel, but unfortunately the romance would be short lived.
One of the features my wife loved most about the car was the synthesized pseudo-sexy electronic female voice gently reminding you to “please fasten your seat belt” … or that “you are low on gas” … “your lights are on” … or “please check your engine”. This voice synthesis reminder system that was intended to be a luxury feature and a hip digital age convenience soon turned into the bane of my existence. A month or so after we had purchased the car and she had a chance to “get the feel” of it … my wife informed me she didn’t like it. Since she couldn’t just “return” it like she could take back a dress to Bloomingdales, she informed me was taking my Saab 900 and the Le Baron with the sexy female voice was mine.
My troubles began one July morning when I started up the car in my driveway to begin my 125 mile drive to the advertising agency where I worked at the time. I got behind the wheel as usual, turned the key in the ignition, turned on Kiss Country on the radio and instead of hearing the gentle female electronic voice with the Japanese accent remind me to “please fasten your seat belt”, it informed me that “a door is ajar”.
Assuming that the voice knew more than I did I opened the driver’s side door and closed it again, thinking it would remedy the situation. I was wrong. I gave the voice the benefit of the doubt and got to check all the car doors and the trunk to make sure all doors were tightly closed. When I got back in the car and closed the door, I again heard that never to be forgotten phrase “a door is a ar”.
Thinking the voice would just shut itself off once I put the car in gear, I pulled out of the driveway and raced down the long winding road to the Interstate. The voice, however, never shut up … It kept repeating “a door is a jar” … ” a door is ajar”. To add insult to injury, the voice playing continually through the car’s speakers rendered my radio inoperable … so no Kiss Country on the long drive to work … just the incessant mantra “a door is ajar” being repeated over and over again.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the Interstate slowed from a crawl to a dead standstill. After a few minutes I got out of the car as other drivers were doing to see what the problem could be. When I asked one of them if they knew what happened, the guy replied “Didn’t you hear on the radio … a tractor trailer jack knifed about 10 miles down the road just before the next exit”. How could I hear it on the radio when my car was too busy telling me that “a door is ajar”.
Three hours later when I got to the office annoyed, tired, frustrated and suffering from the world’s biggest headache, the first thing I did was call the nearest Chrysler dealer. After telling him the gruesome details, the service manager told me it sounded like a malfunctioning of a master chip and audio circuitry system … or some similar sounding nonsense. He also informed me that unfortunately the car was no longer under warranty, so to repair this defect would cost me a little over $3000. Thinking it was just a dealership rip-off price game, I called my buddy Jimbo who’s a top notch auto mechanic and sought his advice. Jim gave me a similar diagnosis and said if he ordered the parts from Chrysler, he could do the job for a little under $1500. It might as well have been $15,000 because my wife and had a lot of expenses and not a penny to spare!
I purchased a battery operated radio and CD player with earphones so I could keep my sanity … or what was left of it. On the ride home, it appeared for a while that my plan was actually working … the radio/CD player I bought was drowning out the non-stopa “door is ajar” chorus. Suddenly, the “car from hell” struck again. I heard a large thud and a shake and soon felt nothing but warm air blowing through the air conditioning vents. The temperature was in the high 90s and the humidity was near 100% … it was a fine time for the car to blow it’s cool. Since air-conditioning in July is a necessity, I paid the $500 or so to get it fixed.
About two weeks later, more car trouble began. The motor in the electric seat shorted out and the driver side bucket seat was frozen in a very uncomfortable driving position. The local Chrysler dealership informed me that they would have to replace the motor and probably the whole seat as well … but with one caveat. Chrysler no longer made the bucket seat in that color … or for my year and model car …. so they would have to do some searching to find a replacement… and the warranty is expired and this repair would not be covered. I called my buddy Jim whose professional advice was … “Get rid of that #!&%+*! car.
Finally about two weeks later, something happened that ended my relationship with the Chrysler LeBaron. The entire floor of the car started feeling very hot… even with the air-conditioning running at full blast. There was also a strange burning-like smell I couldn’t explain. The “car from hell” was literally living up to Its name and became so hot it could barely be driven.
My buddy Jim checked out the car and said that the turbo charger on the car was dead and the car was now dangerous to drive and could possibly even catch on fire at a moment’s notice. It was time to get rid of the car.
Now it was time for my revenge. Sending the “car from hell” to a junk yard was not just retribution for a car that had inflicted such cruel punishment on me. It was my sacred duty to make sure that this car “paid the price” and could never resurrect itself to inflict such pain on another human being.
I donated the Chrysler Le Baron to my town’s volunteer fire department so they could destroy it and use it to let firefighters practice using “The jars of life”. SInce the fire chief was a pal of mine and was aware of my ordeal, we planned an appropriate “execution” for the “car from hell”, one beautiful Saturday morning in mid-September.
We all gathered in the field behind the firehouse and knocked out the glass of the car with sledge hammers. Smashing that car with a sledge hammer sure felt good!
Next we dismantled the engine and disposed of all parts in accordance with EPA and local regulations to prepare the moment of truth … the cutting into the car with the jaws of life. Quickly, the volunteer firemen reacted as if it were a real accident and used the jaws of life to remove the dummies from the seats of the car, practicing different techniques in reaction to different real-life scenarios.
Within half an hour, 6 firefighters had been trained in lifesaving skills and the the 4 dummies were rescued from the car unharmed. Nothing remained of the Le Baron but the frame. The “car from hell” went back to the devil … and there it remains.