A s soon as I read the headline at the top of the Business page in last Wednesday's York Dispatch, I chuckled.
Then I laughed out loud.
It wouldn't have been funny to anyone else, but it was funny to me.
"Quality keeps old cars on the road longer," the headline read.
It was a headline written with me in mind, I'm sure.
Here's what I mean. A week earlier, one of my co-workers -- a young woman who's had about five cars in the eight years I've known her -- was giving me a hard time about the "old pile of junk" she saw in the York Dispatch parking lot.
At first, I thought she might have been talking about me. But she wasn't.
She was talking about my car. She is clearly annoyed by it. Somehow, it offends her sensibilities.
My car is a 1988 Jeep Cherokee. I'll say it's "tan," but you'd probably say it's "faded." It's got 203,500-plus miles on it. And while it's not the prettiest vehicle on the road, my auto mechanic did announce earlier this year that my car had reached the ripe old age of 25.
That is significant because it means my car is now an antique. Officially a classic, my mechanic tells me.
Except that it doesn't look like a classic, because I haven't treated it like a classic. It starts -- usually -- and it gets me where I need to go. I don't ask more of it than that. I only drive, and by choice, about 4,500 miles a year, because I don't wish to spend any more on gasoline than I absolutely must.
So I don't see the need to buy a new car -- and all the monthly payments and higher insurance rates that go along with it -- because I think it's silly to pay a lot of money on a car that mostly sits all day long in the parking lot at work, and all night long in the driveway at my house.
So I told my co-worker I didn't much care what she thought about my car. She said I was a cheapskate. I agreed. That's where the discussion ended.
Then about three days later, I got a phone call from my 38-year-old daughter, Stacy, at work.
"Dad," she said, "I'm coming over Saturday so we can go look for a new car."
"For you?" I asked.
"No, for you," she said. "You need a new car, and I'm going to help you pick one out."
"No," I said.
"Oh, yes," she said.
"Are you paying for it?" I asked.
"No, you're paying for it," she said.
"Then, no, I won't be car shopping with you on Saturday."
"Dad, you need a new car," she said.
"Perhaps. Some day. But not this day."
And then she called me a tightwad. I agreed. And the conversation pretty much ended right there.
She was irritated because I wouldn't accept her help. And I thought it was funny that this is the child I'm supposed to go live with in my old age, which is at least 10 years down the pike, I hope. Next thing you know, she'll be telling me to eat my Brussels sprouts because they're good for me. And I hate Brussels sprouts worse than I hate shopping for a new car.
Anyway, I'm sending Stacy a copy of the Associated Press story I read last week about Americans keeping their cars and trucks longer these days, a trend that is likely to continue indefinitely and maybe until I no longer care about driving.
OK, it's true the average age of cars on American highways these days is 11.4 years, which is a new record. And my own car is more than twice that age. I'll give you that much.
It's also true one of the reasons people are hanging on to their old cars is to avoid the monthly payments. I'm in tune with that. I haven't paid a car payment in at least 22 years. And I like it.
But there's more to it than just saving money. People are holding on to their cars because the old cars were just built so much better than the newer ones. Proof of that, according to the Polk research firm, is that the number of cars and trucks being sent to the scrap yards has dropped by 50 percent in the last five years.
"Cars are just lasting longer," Mark Seng, a Polk vice president, said last week.
Ahhh, yes. Clearly I'm not the only person who recognizes that fact.
Seng predicts that the percentage of cars age 12 or older will actually rise in the next five years.
Which is just fine by me.
Old Betsy may eventually get nudged aside, but she'll be a classic antique, not an old clunker, when it happens.
It's an idea I've grown accustomed to.
Apparently for good reason. Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when things were built to last.
Old Betsy is one.
And the very thought of it makes me smile.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.