When I die, I think this is what my tombstone will say: Here lies Doug DeMuro. Crushed a PT Cruiser with a Hummer.
I say this because I’ve been doing this car journalism thing full time for about three years now, and I’m starting to think that my readers believe no achievement will ever top the time I used my Hummer to crush a Chrysler PT Cruiser.
(Author’s Note: Good news, everyone! I wrote a book! Not only does it contain the full version of this story, but it also includes dozens of other new stories and tales from behind the scenes, along with a few of my favorite columns from Jalopnik. Click here for details on how to buy it on Amazon (Kindle), iBooks, or paperback.)
I get the feeling that I could announce tomorrow that I’ve become the first person to visit Neptune in a Range Rover, and my readers would carefully peruse my story, chuckle a bit, think about it for a while, and then they’d call over their wife and say: “Honey! Some guy on the Internet traveled 2.8 billion miles through outer space in an SUV! You’ve got to see the video where he crushes a PT Cruiser with a Hummer!”
So my crowning contribution to the world of journalism is the time I crushed a pathetically used, broken-down, poorly maintained, wood-paneled Chrysler PT Cruiser with a military vehicle designed to pursue serious enemy combatants through a wide array of rugged terrain, provided this terrain is no narrower than a standard elevator.
And you know what? I’m OK with that. Although if I ever take a Range Rover to Neptune, dammit, you’d better at least give me a re-tweet. But there’s a little more to the PT Cruiser destruction story than you originally thought.
Here’s what I announced online: I purchased a PT Cruiser from a shady guy in Camden, New Jersey (motto: “GET DOWN!”), and then I crushed it with the help of an even shadier guy in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania (motto: “Daily Extradition Service To Camden, New Jersey!”).
Here’s what actually happened: Yes, I purchased a PT Cruiser from a shady guy in Camden. And yes, I crushed it with the help of a shady guy in Upper Darby. But what I didn’t tell everyone is that I tracked down the PT Cruiser’s original owner on Facebook. And let’s just say I’m still looking over my shoulder, just in case he ever finds that video of me crushing his beloved car.
This part of the story begins a few nights after I bought the PT Cruiser. My friend Peri flew in from Atlanta, Georgia, in order to check out the Hummer and experience the PT Cruiser destruction in person.
He’s the one you can hear in the video yelling, “KEEP GOING! KEEP GOING!” like a marine biologist cheering on a group of newly hatched sea turtles.
So we were sitting around the night before the crushing, talking about how it was going to go, and we started perusing the PT Cruiser’s title. On the back, there were dozens of reassignments. The shady guy I bought it from in turn bought it from some other shady used car dealer, who bought it from some other shady used car dealer, who bought it from some other shady used car dealer, who—despite being located in Delaware—used a notary stamp from Georgia. The whole thing is probably a who’s who of mid-Atlantic drug dealers.
This theory is reinforced by the fact that the car had no license plate when I bought it, except for an expired temporary tag issued to a Pontiac G6. The whole transaction was a poster child for why you shouldn’t acquire anything on Craigslist, even if it’s brand new, never opened, and sitting on the curb in front of someone’s house for free.
But as we turned over the title to the front, we learned the names of the PT Cruiser’s previous owners: a New Jersey couple named Mildred and Ronald. Better yet, we had Mildred and Ronald’s address, and their last name. Yes, that’s right: their last name. Their highly unusual last name that returned only one result when plugging it into Facebook: a guy in New Jersey named Ronald, who had a wife named Mildred.
So Peri and I huddled around the computer, and we excitedly clicked on the profile, and we discovered that Ronald is a pleasant-looking older guy with white hair, and a ponytail, and children, and grandchildren, and … the PT Cruiser, right there in his cover photo. That’s right: the very PT Cruiser we were about to crush the following afternoon. There it was, sitting there at the top of Grampa Ronald’s Facebook page.
Now we were really interested. So we scrolled down for a few seconds in Ronald’s Facebook feed, and there it was: a post about the car.
Our 2002 PT Cruiser! it began. And right then I knew: this guy formed some beautiful emotional connection with this car, and we were about to destroy his pride and joy for our own amusement. Excitement was starting to turn to guilt.
Stacey learned to drive in this car and got her driver’s license in it while carrying our granddaughter, Adrienne. Adrienne’s first ride in a car was in that car with us.
Oh God, I thought. Did the guy write this SPECIFICALLY FOR ME? Is he trying to make me CRY? Is he trying to make me feel GUILTY? Is he trying to STOP ME? And more importantly: Why the hell doesn’t Stacey have a car of her own?
Sadly, we’ve outgrown it, and moved on to a minivan that we needed for the extra room and dependability.
Wait, you’re telling me the PT Cruiser isn’t dependable? The one that sounds like Flight for Life is taking off every time it goes above 30 miles an hour? The one with more illumination from the warning lights in the gauge cluster than from the cloudy headlights? Whoa there, Ronald. Didn’t know you were a mechanic.
Rather than sell it, we donated it to the Breast Cancer Research Center.
Oh, son of a … You’ve got to be kidding.
I hope it does someone else even half as much as it did for us, and I hope the donation helps out in some small way to the cause. They say every bit helps. :)
The smiley face at the end really did it. Immediately, I started to feel the sadness, the guilt, the second-guessing. Am I really going to crush this old man’s beloved car? The first car his daughter ever drove? The car he used to bring his granddaughter home from the hospital? The car he donated to help breast cancer research? I’m going to crush this thing with a Hummer? Just for some silly YouTube video? As a joke? For the amusement of some people on the Internet I’ve never met?
Yeah, sure, it was legally mine; the breast cancer charity probably sold it at auction, and then it bounced around used car lots for a couple months until I bought it. But after reading Ronald’s post, I started to feel really unsure of the whole thing. I was beginning to wonder if maybe we should just call it all off.
Out of curiosity, we scrolled a little further. And that’s when I saw the first picture of Monica Lewinsky.
As it turned out, Ronald wasn’t just a grandfather, and an older guy, and a proud PT Cruiser owner. Ronald was a conservative. And not the nice kind of conservative who cares about family, and God, and country, the kind you hope you have as a neighbor because he’ll fix your running toilet while you’re away on vacation and give you his garage code so you can borrow his hedge trimmers. Ronald was the kind of way out there conservative who sits down on a city bus and loudly announces that Barack Obama is a Muslim from Africa who was elected by “the Jews.”
The Monica Lewinsky picture, as it turned out, was an image of her next to the words MONICA 2016—I GOT THE JOB DONE WHEN HILLARY COULDN’T. Ronald had proudly shared this photo, along with several other articles from right-wing news sources (actually amateur WordPress blogs) that referred to Hillary Clinton as the anti-Christ. But my personal favorite post Ronald shared was an image of a woman getting attacked, along with the following caption:
LIBERAL ANTI-RAPE TIPS: Urinate on yourself to ruin your rapist’s mood.
CONSERVATIVE ANTI-RAPE TIPS: Pull out a Glock and make the rapist piss himself.
It turns out good ol’ Grampa Ronald was in the business of giving out “rape prevention tips.” And in his mind, the liberals were telling women that the best way to prevent a rape is to pee on yourself in hopes that the rapist will run away in disgust. Ronald, the pleasant-looking old guy. Ronald, the supporter of breast cancer charities. Ronald, the crusader for women’s rights.
Needless to say, my mind was entirely clear of guilty thoughts about Ronald the next day as I sat behind the wheel of my giant yellow Hummer and caved in the PT Cruiser’s roof.
This story is one of many excellent tales in Bumper to Bumper. Others include the time I bribed a “government official” on a car launch in South Africa, the time a customer screamed at me when I worked at a Saturn dealer, the time I crashed my Porsche company car into a tree, and details on my relationship with Aston Martin and Land Rover corporate.