Guest Opinion: Village Matters

By Ann Christoph

Crises just keep rolling in

There will be a new council and a new approach to leading our city as a result of Tuesday’s election. Look for detailed comments next time.  Meantime here are a few thoughts about the challenges of moving on with real life that insists on ignoring politics and dishes out unrelated obstacles day after day.

Does anybody want a 1984 BMW 528e? I’ve been driving this car since it was seven years old. It used to be owned by a local woman who had it serviced at Laguna BMW Service—Mike Hendrix at the Art Deco station at Anita Street. The owner wanted an SUV, so she sold the car to Mike, who wanted it for his daughter. His daughter said, “No way!” to standard shift. I had a 1980 320, 2-door Beemer, also standard shift, so Mike thought I might be a good prospect to take this 4-door upgrade off his hands. He knew it was a good car, so that was a strong recommendation.

As you can see, with how long I have kept the 1984, I am not one to buy a new car or to change from car to car on a whim. I must admit, in recent years, whenever I anticipated a “long trip” (like outside of Laguna), I would wonder if my car would make it there and back. My friends have been urging a new car for some time… but I never change much about my way of life—especially cars– unless I am forced to by some factor beyond my control. Well, that factor has happened.

Last week as I passed the Crystal Cove shopping center to pick up a friend from the airport, there was a strange grinding noise. “Is that my car?” I said, hoping I was hearing something near, but not in, my car. But we lost power. I pulled into Crystal Heights Drive. No starting, fluid visible on the pavement. A loyal friend rescued me so my guest could be picked up on time. The car is now in the shop awaiting its fate.

What do I love about the car? It’s classic sedan shape; the modest traditional BMW dual rounded rectangle grille, the visibility through large windows—no encapsulated feel, the way the doors ring when I close them. The automatic locks and the retractable aerial still work. It’s always a thrill to have the valets tell me how much they love my car—seal of approval from the younger generation. It’s fun to read the owner’s manual extolling the virtues of the “onboard computer” and how the car was designed to save gas. Come to find out, it was BMW’s answer to the gas crisis of the early 1980s. They designed a special engine that sacrificed BMW’s high-performance model for efficiency—thus the “e” in the model number.

So one could complain that it’s more gutless than one would expect in a BMW.

Even though I’ve kept up with the maintenance, and the A/C works, there are still quirks I have come to accept. A mysterious electrical problem mechanics couldn’t isolate, so I have a kill switch that prevents a drain on the battery when the car’s not running, a retrofit starting switch, and the motherboard for the “onboard computer” expired, so various electronic functions no longer work. Oh well, I don’t need to calculate my mileage, and the fact the car doesn’t remember my favorite radio station is just a minor annoyance.

Since I drive less than 6,000 miles a year, and most of it’s around town, I was willing to keep going with the $1,000 repairs from time to time. The valets’ compliments made it all worthwhile! But now the car is not drivable unless there is a major engine repair, $4,500 and counting.

This dilemma reminds us that despite elections and compelling local and national issues we face, other crises don’t stop. They keep coming, forcing us to pay attention to real life.


Allie, our community garden cat, died last weekend. Tears all around. Jim Henry’s memorial gathering acknowledged his kindness and contributions to Laguna’s architecture and his clients’ family lives. Real estate markets change, nearby houses sell, and new neighbors move in. Will we soon collect the funds to put a slurry coat on our street? When will I stop putting up with a leaking clothes washer and face up to moving everything in the laundry room to install a new one? Maybe after I decide on a new car.

Share this:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here