Car Fire

Content provided by Vinila Thallavajhula, CLS Business Analyst

The first car I ever bought was a pre-owned, 1996 Honda Civic. It was a fun ride…


With streets hiding under a blanket of snow, houses beautifully lit and decorated, and festive spirits all around, everything about Christmas Eve was just perfect.

Living alone at the time, I decided to get some groceries to cook a nice meal with a friend, but when I got to the parking lot I was unable to find my car. I must have forgotten where I had parked, I thought. When I showed my friend where I thought I parked, she confirmed that it was indeed the right spot. To our horror, my car had disappeared.

I began to sense a chill in the wind. Within a moment’s time, I realized that all my good friends were out of town visiting their families for Christmas vacation. And there I was: my car stolen, an empty pantry, and a broken phone (my phone screen also decided to chime into the rhythm by refusing to display). That meant that if I could not remember someone’s number, I could not even call for help- luckily, 911 isn’t an easy number to forget.

My car was found on New Year’s Eve, and it cost me $1700 to fix the broken engine.


The summer following that eventful Christmas I went to India on a vacation. One morning, I was woken-up to a panicked call from my roommate in the U.S. I heard the dreadful words, “Your car has been broken into and the audio system is stolen. What do you want me to do?” I told her about three numbers that aren’t easy to forget, 911.

I never replaced the audio system.

The absence of an audio system in the car helped me spend all my driving time thinking about “important” stuff in life.


One day on my way to work, I was at a traffic light. I saw a very rugged man in the next lane trying to tell me something. Initially, I thought he was being a jerk. He was persistent and looked worried. I rolled down the window to ask him what the problem was. He told me that he saw some smoke coming from my car’s hood. While he was talking to me I saw the smoke too (imagine your favorite horror music in the background). Luckily, I was almost to the office, so, I sped from the traffic light trying to spare myself some embarrassment. I parked the car and waited for the smoke to subside. I breathed a sigh of relief and decided to take the car to a mechanic during my lunch break. After settling down at my desk, I saw an email from HR alerting employees that a car in the parking lot had started to produce smoke. I knew who the proud owner was.

I don’t remember how much I spent to fix the broken radiator.


One evening on my way from work, my car began to make a noise, then slow down. Somehow, I managed to get to the nearest parking lot. Like in all other crucial times, my cell phone died on me forcing me to ask the first person I saw for a phone. I then dialed the number that gets you going: AAA.

After this adventure with my precious car, I decided to be done with it.

It has been two years since I sold my car and those “perfect” days and evenings never fail to put a smile on my face every time I remember them.


In hindsight, my experiences with the car proved to exemplify the “penny wise and pound foolish” idiom. I should have sold my car when I was told the engine had to be replaced. It would have spared me a lot of time and money. I was too emotionally attached to the car to see the see the obvious financial repercussions and kept investing without realizing that it would later become a sunk cost.