It’s sad when you have to say goodbye to a faithful companion. In my case, it’s my 2002 Nissan Sentra that has carried me safely through the streets of Chicago for eight years and 146,000 miles. I recently brought it to Elite Tire for a checkup and learned the old warhorse needed $3,500 in repairs. This was twice the value of the car – time for my aged friend to retire to a salvage yard.

I’ll never forget the day we met. It only had a couple of hundred miles on it and was my first car to feature a CD player. I saw it at a place called Automotive Leasing, which advertised that you could trade in your leased car for their leased car. It was an offer that was literally too good to be true.

I had grown tired of my Saturn station wagon with its cassette tape player. Leasing it had been a wild decision made in the midst of my mid-life crisis and now I felt like a prisoner in a tiny box on wheels. I completed the paperwork that called for Automotive Leasing to pay off Saturn and drove off in my new ride.

Well, it took a little hounding, but they finally paid off my Saturn lease. In fact, all was clear sailing, until a few years later when Saturn called and said they wanted their car back. It seemed I had failed to grasp the part of the lease that requires returning the vehicle. I told them I didn’t know where the car was and explained my deal with Automotive Leasing. They sympathetically said that I had been a victim of a crime – that the Saturn had, in effect, been stolen from me.

So, I called Automotive Leasing and reached a disconnected number. I called the police and they referred me to the Attorney General. After reporting the crime (I’m pretty sure I was an accomplice) to the AG, I telephoned an attorney who was suing Automotive Leasing. He said I was the only customer he knew of that had their lease paid off.

This crisis behind me, I drove many happy miles before the Nissan began to show signs of age. Its ball joints were creaking, it was burning oil, the suspension was shot and worse, it had developed a substance abuse problem. It was guzzling a bottle of power steering fluid a day. It was ridiculous. I began finding empties that I didn’t remember buying.

Now, before winter sets in, I have to replace my tired set of wheels. So far, I’ve been car shopping in Forest Park, hoping to spend my money here. It’s been a dream to test-drive cars with functioning shock absorbers. And, if they let me lease one, I promise not to lose it.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.