After having paid yet another parking ticket and after driving with the check engine light on for a week and, once again, taking it to the mechanic and having the mechanic tell me that it would cost five hundred and fifty dollars to fix the axel and after having put it up for sale on craigslist and having gotten no responses, I decided that it was time to get rid of my car. So last Wednesday, I donated my 1998 Toyota Tercel to Wishes on Wheels (I refuse to encourage more Kars 4 Kids ads with my donation).
It was just a car but it was nice to have it whenever I needed to run an errand. When I moved from the apartment I had lived in for twelve years, it really helped. When I needed new IKEA furniture, it was really convenient to have around. If I ever needed to head out of town for a holiday, I didn’t need to take a plane, train, or – heaven forbid – bus. I took that car to no less than three improv festivals in Philadelphia. I also took it to the Ithaca Improv Festival. It was only four of us from my improv team The Wrath on a four and a half hour drive and it was a great bonding experience for all of us.
It was just a car, though.
My girlfriend and I drove in that car up to her family’s place in Maine when we had only been dating for a few months. On the way, I took her to the house where I grew up until the age of four in Cape Elizabeth, outside of Portland. (It turns out the huge hill that I used to ride my big wheel down was actually a slight incline of the front yard.) When we were about to get back on the road, I noticed that I had to push the brake pedal to the floor hard to get the car to stop. We took the car to a garage to find that the break lines were leaking. We had to rent another car from the airport to finish the trip and picked my car back up on the way home. I remember my girlfriend being so calm about the whole thing and how it calmed me down. I remember thinking, huh, I like this girl. We still talk about that trip.
Whatever. It was just a car.
It was my father’s car and on his last birthday, I took him to a steakhouse. It was just the two of us because my mother had died the week before. He drove and, when we got there, he pulled into a handicapped spot. He reached into the glove compartment and took out the blue permit that he hung on the rearview mirror to let people know that he needed that spot. I already knew that my life would never be the same but, at that moment, I knew that my life hadn’t been the same for a very long time and I hadn’t been paying attention.
In fact, we had driven home in that car from the hospital the day my mother died. After my father passed away the following summer, I inherited the car and I would drive it to and from Rochester from Brooklyn to take care of my parents’ house and settle everything. I must have made that trip twelve times with that piece of crap radio (on which I happened to hear the best song I’ve ever heard).
It was just a car.
And it was old and the speedometer was in kilometers per hour which annoyed me. It cost me more in insurance and parking tickets and repairs and gas and tolls than any number of plane tickets or Zip Car trips could have cost. I had to buy new tires when the original ones kept going flat. One time a gas line ruptured and, when I took it to the mechanic, it was dripping so much gas that I wondered how close I had come to blowing up all the times I somehow decided that all cars smell a little bit like gas all the time. Once I went to move it to another spot and I pulled on the handle of the driver’s side door and it broke off in my hand like it was some “having a bad day” montage in a Steve Carrell comedy. And if I never have to find a parking spot in Park Slope again it will be too soon.
It was just a car.
And I miss it already.