Friday, October 19, 2012

Rolling Away

Just got back from getting my new car inspected. I’m really happy to have it, and it’s going to serve me well for many years, I’m sure.

But yesterday, I donated my old car, a Chevy Cavalier Rally Sport, to the American Lung Association, and even knowing how sentimental I can be, I was surprised at how much it pained me to say goodbye.

I bought the car in January of 1999, just a few weeks into dating Kathy. I’d been in an accident that didn’t hurt anyone, but had totaled my previous car. I needed a new one, quick, because Kathy lived close to two hours away, and I had no intention of spending any weekends apart from her, if I could help it. I think I borrowed the family car just once to see her; by the next weekend, I had my Rally Sport. And it traveled the PA and NJ turnpikes nearly every weekend for three years, until we moved in together.

As the tow truck was pulling it away, I said to Kathy, “That’s the car that brought me to you.”

It also managed to let Kathy know I could take a joke. Within a few weeks of me buying it, Kathy and I attended our friends’ wedding out of town. After the reception, one of my friends noticed that the Rally Sport shared my initials, and pointed that out… as if it were some weird manifestation of ego that I had to have a car that shared my initials. And suddenly there were a barrage of comments about the car, all with the letters R.S. “It’s really spiffy” is the one I remember best, but the comments were relentless. Not insulting, but just merciless teasing. And I did my best to take it with good grace, and give as good as I got whenever I saw an opening. And I’d like to think Kathy noticed I was someone who wouldn’t blow a fuse at a little ribbing, and I hope that recommended me.

The Cavalier had a lot of miles on it, so I can relate. Its systems were failing, one by one. First the CD player went. Then the trunk began leaking badly enough that I had to remove the carpeting because it had molded. The back seat no longer had any padding under it (it had molded), and the cushion would occasionally detach from the bench. The air conditioning stopped working several summers ago. And sometime this summer, I was no longer able to direct which heating and cooling vents the air would come out of… which promised a fall and winter of fogged, undefrostable windshields. 

It was clearly time to move on.

But still. That was the car that brought me to my wife. Every weekend, for months and years on end, since before she was even my girlfriend, really. I owe it a debt.

There was a photo of us, a Polaroid, in the change well of the Cavalier. Four photos, shot in a boardwalk booth, of Kathy and I, smooching and grinning like crazy. We both have more hair than we do now, and it’s clear we’re over-the-moon in love.

You can bet that photo is in the center console of my new car. It’s a smooth ride, and the air conditioning works, but it has a lot to live up to.



Fran Donato said...

My boyfriend (of 5 1/2 years now) and I both recently had similar experiences. The car that brought me to him every other weekend, an hour and a half away, had been issuing "Fix Me or Leave Me" warnings for the past year, and just as it hit the 210,000 mile mark a month and a half ago, most of which I'd put on myself, I sold it to my beloved mechanic & got a 2006 Corolla. The car that brought my boyfriend to me every other weekend, also for the first three years until we moved in together, shared a similar fate. It had about 75,000 less miles on it though, so it went to a nice couple whose son would soon call it his First. We were both somewhat surprised at how emotional we were leading up to, during, and after the moment of departure. I took several pictures of each occasion, counting on the day we'd look back at them and let the warm fuzzies wash over us. :]

Rob S. said...

Yeah, it seemed really strange to me how invested I was in this car, until I realized all the things it did for me to (literally) bring me to where I am now.

Good luck with your new cars!

Brenda Usdin said...

How poignant. I felt that way when we moved out of the condo in Robbinsville. It was tiny, cramped and a dump but it was where our "life" began. Where we were when we got engaged, got married, when we decided to have a child, had the child and then decided it was time to move on. It snuck up on us. We didn't expect that rush of nostaglia over that place. You probably didn't expect it about your car either, but there it was.