It isn’t every day that one buys a new automobile. Therefore, it should be an occasion marked with at least some measure of anticipation and excitement as I drive the shiny, as yet undented chariot off the dealer’s lot. So why do I feel like I want to go directly home, cover my mirrors, and sit on a hard wooden box for a week?
Yes, I am in mourning for my old car, which didn’t die exactly, but was economically disposed of as a trade-in for a newer, more fuel-efficient, somewhat smaller version of itself. I had convinced myself that its time had come and I needed to let it go before it became unreliable. The decision was buoyed by my adult children, who are secure in the knowledge that being of a certain age themselves, they now know what’s best for me. They couldn’t quite understand how their mother cared so little for her safety that she didn’t have a back-up screen. Hey, I’ve been craning my neck for years, and only occasionally have stone walls made contact with my rear end.
So who was this person that was shedding tears as she was cleaning out the old car? Do I know her? It is so uncharacteristic of her to become attached to an inanimate object. The person I know considers it a religious experience to make frequent trips to the local dump for the purpose of purging one’s environment of “stuff.” Yet here she is, crying over a rusting, twelve-year-old vehicle that has clocked enough mileage to warrant a parking space in an assisted living facility.
But it isn’t easy separating from an old friend, even if that friend is made of steel and weighs over three tons.
How can you not get sentimental over something that has been with you through certain significant events in your life? If you read the old parking stickers on the bumper and window, they will tell the story of homes formerly owned and places formerly lived – a whole jumble of memories.
Open the back and you will see a coating of fur and other evidence of two large dogs which this car has transported not just from one place to another, but from puppyhood to old age.
I’m sure if I looked between the cracks in the back seat I would find cookie crumbs and broken bits of pretzels where my three youngest grandchildren sat lined up in their car seats. This won’t happen in the new car. It isn’t big enough.
The old car is the pair of shoes, which, although scuffed, are perfectly broken in, the favorite sweater with the hole in the elbow that you just can’t seem to part with. And if the hole gets bigger, or another hole appears, the initial damage is done so it no longer matters.
It is a cocoon, a room of my own on wheels where I feel relaxed as I run my errands, listen to audio books, and am soothed by the company of my two Labs, who are always eager to go for a ride.
Okay – I’m done now. Thanks for listening.
I don’t mean to appear ungrateful. I very much appreciate the fact that I can afford to buy a new car. And the new car is rather pretty, with the romantic-sounding name of “Venza,” evocative of some hill town in Italy. (Although it probably means something quite different in Japanese. I don’t even want to guess.)
And the new car is trying very hard to make me happy. It does many things that my old car could never dream of doing. It starts with a push of a button (keys are so yesterday), answers my cell phone, automatically adjusts my seat, maps out my driving route, has the coveted back-up screen, and I have the security of knowing that if I do get into an accident, trap doors will spring open and not just two, but multiple air bags will rush at me from all sides.
My dogs are still somewhat suspicious of their new transportation. They’re not sure about the smaller cargo space which they now have to occupy, and their noses twitch at the new car smell. (I’ve always wondered if that’s real, or some spray the manufacturer uses?)
But together we are breaking it in. And soon their smell will replace the new car spray.
As for me, I have already littered the front passenger seat with not one, but two different audio books, reusable shopping bags for the super market, and a water bottle. I have been careful about cleaning up after the gum wrappers and pistachio shells, at least so far.
While the inside begins to feel homier, the tension still exists around the car’s still-perfect exterior and the anticipation of that awful moment when it will acquire its first scratch. And I know it will. Eventually. It is a painful, but inevitable milestone in our relationship.
But I think I might be ready to uncover my mirrors and get up from the wooden box, and begin to really enjoy my new car. However, it will take a lot more time before I stop craning my neck!