The Little MG That Couldn’t by
(89 Stories)

Prompted By Car Trouble

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Sally’s MG was prone to break down

Sally bought a sporty little MG convertible, forest green, far from new.  It was irresistible, especially when she thought about how cute the new dog would look riding shotgun or in the tiny back seat.  It was also extremely unreliable, prone to breaking down at inopportune moments (as if there ever were an opportune time).  British electrical systems and all that.

Sally gallantly offered that I could take the MG, but I wouldn’t consider it—far too untrustworthy to risk taking over the bridge.

I had a Honda Accord hatchback, bought new, reliable over many years and across the country, and marginally sporty with its dull red color.  It was the trusted, if mundane, workhorse.  The cars maybe implied something about our respective personalities.

In any case, the time was the mid 1980’s.  One evening I was supposed to attend a meeting in San Francisco, across the Bay Bridge from Oakland, and the good old Honda inexplicably and suddenly died.  Big problem.  Sally gallantly offered that I could take the MG, but I wouldn’t consider it—far too untrustworthy to risk taking over the bridge.  Instead, I called around for a ride, and managed to catch Alan (also in the East Bay) before he left for the meeting.

I waited outside on the porch steps for him to arrive, finally catching a glimpse of him and then trying to suppress the mixture of horror and grim humor when he turned up in—what else?–a beat-up little forest-green MG.  It was vaguely reminiscent of meeting death in Samarra.  But what can you do when fate is in control?  I got in.

We shared stories of unreliable MGs as we headed out, because of course he had them too.  And as we neared the pre-bridge maze, the car began to sputter and shudder on cue.  At the last minute, he diverted it to an off-ramp near Children’s Hospital, where it died completely.  At least we weren’t on the bridge, and there was enough room on the shoulder to park the car.  But we did have to abandon the car and all hope of getting to the meeting, and then walk down the ramp and another mile or so back to Alan’s house to make phone calls.

Then what?  I have no recollection of how I finally reached home, defeated.  Maybe Sally came and picked me up in her little MG.




Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Ah Khati, this is a delightful story, and having met Sally I’m delighted now to be able to imagine her in her little green MG, doggie and all!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Great story about a not so great car, though absolutely cool looking. My father learned much the same lessons about British automotive reliability (an oxymoron) with the gorgeous XK-150 Jaguar convertible he had for a while. As he said, “My mechanic should pay me rent for the few times the car is in my garage rather than his.”

    I’ve been a fuddy-duffy but reliable Honda owner for years. (Hopefully, not famous last words.)

  3. Suzy says:

    Great picture of you and Buddy, and the MG with California plates – but where is Sally? Love the irony of your not wanting to take Sally’s forest green MG to your meeting in SF, and then getting picked up by Alan in another forest green MG. And, predictably, breaking down, but luckily before you got on the bridge. Wonderful story!

  4. Marian says:

    I’m glad this story is funny now, Khati, and in the Bay Area we both have had near misses with the bridge. Love the photo of you and the dog! British cars are notorious for their maintenance problems. My uncle had a Cortina that was on blocks most of the time. My boyfriend in the 1970s had a Sunbeam Imp, very rare, that needed a lot of TLC. There was only one mechanic who could work on them, an old Scottish man who was in his cups most of the time, so you had to catch him when he was sober.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      This story was even funny at the time—especially when Alan showed up in the very car I had refused to drive. The rest had the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. But it was also the end of cute mechanically-challenged sports cars in the family, replaced by pickup trucks.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Great car trouble story, Khati. Seems that between 3 cars, you should have been able to get to your meeting. At least no humans were harmed.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great photo, great story, the MG was great looking, but as John commented, British sports cars are notoriously difficult cars. Glad you could see the humor, even then. Sorry about your meeting. Even Buddy was a cute dog. You all were picture-perfect, even if the car was unreliable.

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