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When Hubby and I married, I was introduced to one of his family’s traditions. Every car must have The Book. The Book has every oil change, tire change, and —get this— every gas fill-up recorded in it. In the 1970s, The Book was widely produced and could be found in stationery stores or office supplies stores. When a new car was purchased, the first thing put into the car was The Book.

Coming from a family who tracked nothing about a car other than if the needle was on the E or if the oil light came on, this was a drastic change. I was chided more than once for forgetting to record the addition of gas to the tank. This newlywed bride’s long-time habits took a long time to overcome. Gradually it became routine. As the kids got older, they’d remind me write in The Book.

As The Book filled up, we searched for a new book. They became very hard to find, but thank goodness, the internet was invented about then and we could order them on-line. As they got rarer, they got more expensive. We finally threw in the towel and got a small spiral notebook to replace The Book. It wasn’t as neat and didn’t have the nice tabs that bookmarked the categories, but it would suffice. Better that than no The Book at all.

We bought a car for Daughter when she left for college. Included in the glove box was The Book. Since money was tight, she used it to track expenses. When we bought a truck for Son, he got one too. I don’t know if he used his or not.

The Book had its good uses. When we put new tires on the cars, the mileage was noted so we knew which tires wore the best—or worst. Oil changes were easy to schedule because the date of the last one was recorded (it was the days before stickers on the windshield). If we wanted to know what kind of mileage we were getting, it was easy to calculate. It was the vehicle’s diary, and we read it a lot.

We keep our cars for a long time. We kept my first car, a ’68 Chevy Nova, for 23 years (it was 7 years old when I bought it). About midway, we had it repainted and reupholstered. Eventually the floor was rusted out under the carpet. If you drove through a water puddle, water would shoot up out of the floorboard, drenching the passenger. When Hubby used it to drive to work, I was afraid the floor would rust out, the seats fall down, and Hubby would run over himself. How would I explain that to the insurance company? Near the end, it went through a lot of oil. When Hubby changed the oil in the other cars, he’d dump the used oil in the Nova and eventually it’d be gone. Our own recycling program. The door locks quit working but no one wanted a car that old anyway. Any key —and I mean ANY key— would start it, but we kept that secret so no one would drive off with it. That good ol’ car went through several The Books, and we’re glad it did.

In our house full of computers, The Book has been replaced by a spreadsheet. Each gas fill-up is no longer recorded, but the credit card company tracks how much we spend on gas. Hubby keeps watch over our cars while I check if the needle is close to the E or the Check Engine light is on. Sometimes old habits come back.

P.S. If you drive my mother-in-law’s van, you better write everything down in The Book, including the price of gas, the gallons, the total, and the miles per gallon. Some habits never die.

2 Responses

  1. I remember keeping track of mileage; gas gallons and cost of gas during the gas crisis years. At this point in life I do things like get oil changes before they’re due, because although I don’t drive that far, I figure the oil must get dirty just sitting there. Nice story about the book, Carol!

  2. I thought as soon as I got married I could give up THE BOOK. But hubby thought it was the best thing ever invented for cars, and 17 years later I’m still filling out THE BOOK…..

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