First, a story. The last time I went car shopping, I dragged my mother to half a dozen different dealerships and sat in probably twice that many cars. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I kept saying “I’ll know when I’ve found it.”
Then at the end of the day, I sat in a 1997 Geo Prizm (in 2005). It had 70k miles on it already and on paper would not have been the right car. I saw it across the lot, thought “hmmmm,” and went and sat in the driver’s seat. I knew instantly that this was my car. Formalities were observed: we took it on a test drive down to the local library and looked up the Consumer Reports, negotiated with the dealership, but it was all a foregone conclusion.
I named her Callie, because I had just started watching Battlestar Galactica, and she was a far, FAR better car than she should have been. I put studded tires on her and drove her through ridiculous snowstorms when I lived in a town in the mountains in Vermont, population 831. I drove her to my first real job. I got in my first accident with her (minor rear-end, but still). I drove her to and from the barn after I got Tristan, long cold winter nights often crying the whole way because he had reared and bodyslammed me and on and on. I drove her so many hundreds of miles in stop and go traffic when I had Tristan at my old barn, parked her on practically every side street in Boston and Cambridge and Somerville. She was the car I had to stash when I stayed at my boyfriend’s apartment that had NO parking. She was the car that suffered when our downstairs neighbor keyed her and poured glue in the locks and spat on the windshield and broke off the antenna and on and on after deciding that we made too much noise. (Examples of too much noise: dropping a quarter on the floor at 6pm on a Sunday; having 4 people over for brunch at 11am on a Saturday; opening a rolling closet door at 7pm on a Tuesday. It’s a long story.)
Whew. If you’ve made it through that sentimental wall of text, I applaud you. I’ve also done some burying of the lead. Yesterday, I brought Callie to the dealership and left her there, and came home with a new car. She’d been declining precipitously for a good year and a half. Parts were failing faster than I could keep up. She caught on fire twice. (Well, not actual flames, but HUGE clouds of smoke billowing from under the hood within seconds; close enough!) For the first time ever, she left me stranded on the side of the road and had to be towed to a mechanic. I opted out of the substantial work she needed to pass inspection and parked her starting in April. After 9 years and 157,000 miles together, it was time.
I’m not saying I didn’t cry like a baby when I was driving away, knowing she was going to be broken up for parts. I get sentimental about these things. When I was 10 or so, my parents traded in the family van I had grown up with. I had to be forcibly removed from the car, I was sobbing and had my arms wrapped around the seat. Maybe not my proudest moment.