Thursday, October 23, 2008

Re: In Car Nation

They say death comes in threes, which has been true for me recently, if I can count people and cars together, which I can, because I have long, loving relationships with both.

Two perfectly good friends keeled over unexpectedly, and as I wrote you last week, my perfectly good car burst into flames. All three were having great fun amidst friends when struck down, the only real difference being that my two human friends just stopped functioning and did not spontaneously combust, which is best for all involved, whereas my car continued to run just fine while in flames, getting about 35 miles to the gallon.

I was with my car for exactly 20 years. Thanks to the generosity of friends I've gotten by the last two weeks with borrowed wheels while I sorted out a new relationship. When I go to my garage, it still startles me to see a big white Chevy pickup where my little red Toyota used to be. It's kind of like a friend loaning you his sister the day after you are widowed, "just until you meet someone else." You're thankful, but it feels funny. You become aware of your habits, and tread a little more politely than you otherwise might.

With people, we mourn alone awhile before replacing them. With cars, one has no choice but to move on.

I knew my little Celica her whole life, and was accustomed to her quirks and habits. She was in lovely shape after all these years, a pleasure to look at, nimble and efficient—the Japanese age very well. Her temporary replacement is classically Midwestern: white, sturdy and reliable. Where my old girl was the type you'd want to bring on an autumn picnic in the country, the temp is who you'd call if you need to move a dresser. I'll probably go back to another Japanese car, but in the meantime I enjoy being with big Bertha. I wear my cowboy hat more. It's like, even though I never eat sauerbraten, if I found myself suddenly living with someone who knew how to cook it, well—why not?

Through a mutual friend, I've met an Accord. We're still at that awkward stage, sizing each other up. She's older too, has some dings under the surface and limps to the left a bit from an accident years ago, but she's real good on the inside. Besides, I ain't no spring chicken either, and have scars of my own. And as I said, one must move on in such matters, and she'll do.

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