Well, perhaps my karma isn't so bad, after all. My friend Richard -- the one with whom I've been carpooling, and who I stranded when Penny's water pump gave out -- needs help getting his two older cars working. He's been injured, and he needs an automatic, so we revived his old Mercedes today. It's been sitting for a year, but we just gave it a jump start. Two tries later it was moving. Those old diesels are tough: all it needed was a new battery.
Then we went to rescue his other car, an old Civic hatchback. After four months of sitting, it started up with a jump, too. He has no place to keep it, so I was happy to take it off his hands for a paltry sum.
It's not too pretty, but it's in better shape than Penny was. It's two years younger, but it has 15,000 extra miles on it! It was a deal at the price anyway. It needed some help with the starter circuit's clutch interlock switch (my wife learned how to push-start a car), but even with the mechanic's bill the cost is only up to $400 or so. It'll need an A/C service, of course.
2007-02-03: One of the tires is in trouble, with a big bulge on the side. I swapped it for one of the EV's tires, which fits perfectly. It's a different max pressure than the existing tires, but everything seems to be working fine.
2007-02-05: After much consideration, and my wife's rejection of my favorite name ("Cielito", roughly Spanish for "sky boy"), I've decided to name it "Ao-kun", roughly Japanese for "little brother blue". I consider it especially apropro, since my EV is an older, bigger Civic wagon. Ah, the joys of Internet research!