Sunday, June 24, 2012

A salute to Det. Leonard Biscoe

I should start with a recap for anyone who is not familiar with Lenny and his noble service to the Payne family.

In the summer of 2006, John bought a car that we would share for two years.  Because he was a retired police car, and because he was old and white, we named him Lenny.  Leonard "Lennie" Briscoe (Yes, it's really spelled with an "ie," I just looked on Wikipedia) was the old white cop from Law and Order.

Lenny got us from here to there and often did so in some semblance of style.  Not much style, mind you, but he got the job done.  John cared for him better than I did, so he was always clean in those days.

John moved and I took over custody of Lenny.  About a year later, Lenny blew a head gasket.  If you don't know cars, that's a huge repair.  Like a costs-more-than-the-car repair.  I was going to just give up and either pay somebody thousands of dollars to repair it or sell it to a junkyard.  Jason Lillrose saved me from that and helped me to repair Lenny.  It took the better part of a year, and Jason never got to sleep past sunrise on a Saturday, but we got it done. And done in time to leave Provo.

I came to Ann Arbor two years ago (which still shocks and amazes me), bringing with me only what I could pack into Lenny's back seat and trunk.  Thankfully, Lenny had plenty of room.  I have mentioned before how he struggled a bit on the trip, but we got to Ann Arbor safely.

Kate and I got married and bought a truck, which forced Lenny to share driving duties.  It also forced us to start paying insurance on two cars.  Which is more expensive, it turns out.  Recently, we bought a new car and sold off Clifford pretty easily.  But selling Lenny was hard.  His brakes needed work, which would cost either $400 or a couple hours of my time.  It was in the middle of prelim season, and I wasn't able to spend a couple hours or a couple hundred dollars.

So now, almost two months after prelims, I finally got the brakes done over the weekend.  Lenny was ready to sell.  I put an ad on Craigslist and quickly had people calling.  The first guy came and looked down his nose at Lenny.  He offered me a very generous offer of 40% of my asking price.  I thanked him for coming to look, but figured I could find somebody else.

The next guy seemed happy with Lenny but his wife was skeptical.  I told them to talk it out while I went inside to get the title.  I came back and they wanted the car, so we started signing papers and getting everything in order.  I handed them the title, waved goodbye, and left them to figure out how to get Lenny to his new home.  He was moments away from retirement.  And he died.

As soon as the title was in their hands, Lenny would not start.  They got him to barely start, and when he did start, he choked and died before they could go more than a few feet.  We talked about it for a few minutes, and although I could legally have just walked away (the title was in their name and I had the money, after all), it just didn't feel right.  I gave them their money back and took the title back.  The guy told me they were still really interested, but I had to get whatever was wrong fixed.  They lived an hour away and had a good mechanic there, but that didn't help them if the car was stuck in our parking lot. 

After they drove away, we decided to get Lenny back into a parking space (instead of out in the middle of the lot) and leave him overnight till we could get him to a mechanic.  Just as quickly as he had taken ill, he recovered, knowing that the title was back in my hands.  That old jerk just wasn't ready to be sold, I guess.

The next day, I took Lenny to the mechanic.  He started fine, drove there fine, and was just fine for the mechanic, who told me there was nothing wrong that should prevent him from starting.  I called the buyer and told him that.  I told him additionally that if he was worried about Lenny's ability to perform and make it from my house to his (which would be a very reasonable worry) that I would drive it to him.  He said if I made it there, he would buy it for the price we had discussed earlier (and even offered to give me more to make up for taking it to the shop).

Kate and I drove out the next day, and now Lenny is no longer with us.  It's a sad day, but a day we all knew was coming.  It seems silly to wax so rhapsodic over a car, but here we are.  I'll miss that old guy, with all his flaws and all his memories.  So, hats off to Lenny, who has safely driven me many thousands of miles, and even managed to impress some folks along the way.

Lenny, as I would like to remember him

Lenny, as I will more likely remember him


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