DON'T TELL me they're not out there. I know they are.
Driveway nuts. People who are crazy about taking care of their driveways.
We had one on our block.
This guy built his house next to what we affectionately referred to as the Prestwick Hilton. The Prestwick Hilton, a two-story, red-brick colonial in the southern style, lived up to its name by stretching from one end of its half-acre lot to the other. The nomenclature was our little way of labeling the tastes of people who ostensibly moved out of the city to avoid being able to look out their bathroom window directly into the bathroom window of their next-door neighbors, but couldn't help spending $250,000 on a house that allowed them to continue seeing the Joneses up close and personal.
The Driveway Nut built his house next door to the Hilton and of course he was not at all intimidated and built what we later dubbed the Prestwick Hilton West.
He was three doors up from the Grinch, who never opened his window shades, and across the street from the Yard Nut, who put tree stumps the size of sequoias along the street to ward off motorists.
It was a swell neighborhood.
In front of his house, the Driveway Nut constructed a circular drive that was appropriate to presidents and monarchs. And he kept it that way.
The driveway was asphalt, black as sin. Never did a Sunday pass that the Nut was not out on it, picking off stray dog hairs, insect wings, leaves (God help the errant tree) and preening it in every possible way.
He watered it when it was dry and thirsty. When it showed signs of losing its spit-polish sheen, he applied another coating of black and smoothed it over and touched it up and loved it ever so tenderly.
This went on for several months and he established himself as the best driveway keeper near and far. Then a strange thing happened.
One Sunday we drove by the Prestwick Hilton West and the Driveway Nut was not there. "Where's the Nut?" we wondered.
The next Sunday he failed to appear again and we became concerned. By the third Sunday -- still no Nut -- the driveway was beginning to look a little ragged and the rumor mills were churning.
Finally, there he was. We saw him standing beside his driveway, sticking out his chest and rocking on his heels, proud as a new father. And we gaped in disbelief. He had ripped out the asphalt and replaced it with bricks.
Which just goes to show that even the love of a driveway nut is a fickle thing.
In a free society, you don't have to be rich to love your driveway. Even if you have a little driveway, you can still care for it as well as the next man.
For instance, if your asphalt driveway begins to look a little worn, losing its shine, you can apply a gilsonite driveway sealer or a coal-tar emulsion to perk it up again. Many lumber and hardware stores sell the stuff in five-gallon quantities for about $7. You pour it on, then smooth it out with a heavy-duty broom or a large squeegie.
If it's a new driveway, give it about three months to age first and don't do it too often. "A lot of customers run into problems," says Hechinger merchandiser Jerry Brase, "because they run out and do it every year. They end up with so many coats that the top coat doesn't dry out. It's a sticky mess."
Asphalt patching mixes sell for around $3 for a 60-pound bag.
Cleaners for getting out ugly stains cost around $3 a quart or $5 for a half-gallon can. You can patch up cracks with caulking compound that sells for about $2.
Concrete cleaners sell for about the same as asphalt cleaners. Sometimes you change the oil in your car on your concrete driveway and some of it spills over and you end up with a big black spot. Concrete cleaner will help.
After a time, concrete driveways start to crack and peel. The top comes off in little pieces and gets in the lawn and the stones inside the concrete begin to show through. Then you run over it with the lawn mower wearing your shorts and all the little stones hit you in the ankles. That hurts.
For about $4 for a 15-pound bag, or $7 for a 40-pound bag of concrete bonding coating, you can fix the driveway and save your ankles. You can buy a concrete mix that's like mortar -- no gravel in it -- in a two-gallon container for $10.
Concrete mixes with stones in it, for fixing holes and things, cost less than $2 for a 50-pound bag.
Your driveway may be in bad shape indeed. It may even need replacing or a new overlay. Several companies, listed under "paving" in the Yellow Pages, will be happy to do the job. Beware of the vanishing "gypsies," who, consumer affairs officials say, still make the rounds occasionally offering driveway work at cut-rate prices.
Usually the materials they use, and the workmanship, are as cheap as their prices.
Patching asphalt by a construction company costs about 80 cents a square foot. Compare this to about $15 a square yard if portions need to be ripped out and replaced. If it is 15 to 20 years old, it may need a new top coat consisting of 1-1/2 inches of material. The job will probably run around $150.
"Asphalt is no better than the base it's laid on," said Roger Taylor of Annandale Asphalt. So a quick cover-up may not be the answer to your driveway woes.
Taylor describes today's concrete prices as "out of sight." New driveways are running about $18 to $20 a square yard. If a section of your old drive is begging to be removed and replaced, count on prices more in the range of $35 to $40.
Most importantly, don't feel ashamed of taking care of your driveway. Everybody's nuts about something. I once knew this guy who raised dogs . . . .