Friday, January 28, 2005

My Car is All Grown Up Now

I hit 80K miles on my Altima yesterday. This brought tears to my eyes. It seems like only yesterday I brought it home from the dealer, all shiny and smelling of this new-car smell. I know I must sound pathetic, but you’ve got to remember, I’m an immigrant. This is my second car ever, and the first one that I bought brand-new.

My previous car was a Buick Skylark. It was seven years old when I got it. By then, I’d been three months in the country and a week in my new job. When they hired me, I was told that I had to get myself a car, pronto! So I did. The Russian dealer who sold it to me swore that he had been saving it for his son. Today, I somehow doubt his words. But back then, it all made perfect sense to me. The car was actually decent – I only had to take it to the shop once when the alternator died. Of course, it had none of the fancy stuff. The doors, the windows, everything was manual. There was no CD player or cassette player, just the radio. The A/C never worked. The heater, on the other hand, worked fine for one whole winter before it died of old age. It couldn’t go over 70 mph, either, but – who needs the speeding tickets anyway? One spring, I noticed water on the floor of my car. Turned out, it was so rusted that the floor started to gradually disintegrate, leaving sizable holes.

Don’t ask me why, but I still loved the old rusty thing and didn’t want to part with it. Then one day, as I was pulling out of our apartment parking lot, my front bumper fell off. Just like that, without a warning. My parents came over and helped me duct tape it back on. So, when I brought my Buick to the dealer in the fall of ’99, it was pretty much covered with duct tape. The windshield was cracked as a result of my previous winter’s attempts to scrape the ice off it, which I can tell you is kind of challenging if the heater doesn’t work. The dealer looked at me suspiciously as I was telling him that the car was in great shape and it had been a tough decision for me to trade it in.

So that’s when I got my new car. For at least three years, that’s how we referred to it in the family. “Your new car”. Then all of a sudden we realized that it wasn’t so new anymore.

I took good care of it. I was giving away half of my take-home pay so I could pay it off as quickly as possible. I even broke it in like it said in the manual. Which, again, can be a challenge if you work 25 miles from home and the manual tells you to drive ten miles under the speed limit. I even tried to take the side streets to work. Thank God for flex hours. I was good to this car. And the car, in return, was good to me. It drove me all over town. It fit into the toughest parking spots when I had a job downtown. It ran 65 miles one way when I accidentally got myself into a job all the way across the Greater Cleveland area. It saved my life in the winter of ’00 when it managed to stop on a patch of black ice. It scared me to death in early spring of ’03 when it spinned out of control in the snow and made a perfect circle across all four lanes of an interstate. But after making the circle, it made a likewise perfect landing in a ditch without breaking down or getting me injured. It took us on out-of-town trips with never a problem. My kids grew up in it.

I thanked it with two bumper stickers. One says “Dave Barry For President”, and the other one, “Amend for Arnold”. On its 80K-mile anniversary, I gave it a luxury car wash. I cannot help it. I love that car. It may not be the newest or coolest or the most expensive car in the world, but the two of us go back a long way. There are a lot of memories that we share together. It is the best car for me, and I am the best driver for it, and that’s the truth. I wish it many more years of smooth running.

Because when I11 turns sixteen, I plan on giving it to him.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:15 PM

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