Charlie’s expected triumph becomes tale of no-go woe
Another month, and Charlie would have made it. But now he sits forlorn in South Austin among other damaged colleagues, bruised, gashed and unable to move. And the Candy Man mourns.
“I almost cried when I saw it,” Harold McClung says. “It” is Charlie, and Charlie is his 2004 Lincoln Town Car cab, which McClung owns and drives for Austin Cab Co.
McClung, an Austin cabbie since 1998, had called me a few weeks ago, excited that his cab was about to reach a magical milestone: 500,000 miles. He told me the Ford Motor Co. people were interested in it, that this was roughly twice the road life of a normal cab. Busy with other stuff, I told McClung I’d get back to him in a few weeks.
Tragedy struck before that return call happened.
OK, “tragedy” might be hyperbole. But not if you’ve spent 12 hours a day and more than 300 days a year for the past six years cruising around Austin together.
It happened at 10:15 a.m. June 30. McClung, who dubbed himself the Candy Man on the way to his first day at truck-driving school about a quarter century ago (the Sammy Davis Jr. song was on the radio, and he figured truck drivers had to have a handle), is very precise about the time of
the accident. He and Austin police disagree about what happened next.
McClung, 48, a native of Bangs, a hamlet just west of Brownwood, said he properly paused at a four-way stop in East Austin (on the way to pay his weekly $235 lease to Austin Cab) and then pulled out. The other guy, in a maroon Ford pickup, ran the stop sign to McClung’s left and slammed into Charlie’s left rear.
No, say the other driver and the accident report, McClung “failed to come to a complete stop.”
Either way, the damage was done.
McClung went to the hospital with neck and back pain, and Charlie ended up at a towing yard on Burleson Road. There’s a substantial dent from behind the left rear wheel extending into the back door, along with a tear in the body. The frame might be bent. Insurance adjusters are still deciding if the car is totaled.
And the odometer (the car, sadly, won’t start now and required a jump to get enough juice to light up the electronic reading on the dash) sits frozen at 490,789.5 miles. Just 9,210.5 short of half a million miles. And maybe done.
“It is my love,” McClung says of the car.
He bought Charlie when the car had only 1,600 miles on it. Got it for just $13,000 because the owners were getting divorced. It has a huge trunk and an extended backseat area.
“I want you to have plenty of room,” McClung says.
Now, while Charlie’s fate hangs in the balance, McClung, a big, goateed man who favors a straw cowboy hat, is driving a smaller Chevy Impala on loan from the cab company. It does the job, but there’s no chemistry. If the worst happens, McClung said he’ll get another Town Car. The search, in fact, has begun already.
We all have to move on eventually.
Austin cabbie Harold McClung had driven his 2005 Lincoln Town Car just shy of 500,000 miles when he was in a wreck last month.
‘It is my love,’ Harold McClung says of his Lincoln Town Car, which won’t start after being damaged in a wreck last month. Insurance adjusters are deciding whether the car is totaled.