I mentioned my car briefly in yesterday’s post. My previous car – the one that John mangled early in its life – was Frankensteined back together and wound up lasting me to 251,000 miles. Even then, it did not die. I traded it for my current car: a 1999 Nissan Altima, which has already broken the old record and will pass the 256,000 mile mark this week. My mother says that the unusual durability of my cars is due to the fact that I have been assigned “really good car angels.” I am not inclined to start arguing with her about this.
A few days ago, I called one of the kids I mentor, to see if he wanted to join me for a late ice cream. Ever the adventurous one, he was up for it. When I arrived to pick him up, I chatted quickly with his dad at the door.
“What’s that sound,” he asked with furrowed brow.
“What sound?” I replied. I didn’t hear anything. He stepped around me out the door, to where my car was idling.
“That sound,” he said, matter-of-factly. “That’s not good. You need to get that looked at. Sounds like a [insert gobbledygook of automotive terms]. I’d hate to see you get stranded somewhere if that lets go.”
Now that he’d pointed it out, I suppose my car was making a sort of rattling/clicking noise. I honestly don’t hear it anymore. And, like I said in the last post, it goes right away when I crank up the stereo.
Of course, whatever that noise might be, it is certainly not lonely in my car.
When I turn right (or is it left?), the CV joint on the front right wheel clicks and grinds. And any time I go above 40, there’s a sort of fwip-fwip-fwip-fwip noise caused by bearings out on the left. Any slight bump or irregularity in the road results in a squeak and crunch, since the shocks (or is it struts?) in the back have been shot for some time.
Then there are the noiseless culprits.
My catalytic converter needs to be replaced before my September inspection. And the car hasn’t had working A/C in a few years. Or, rather, it has “sometimes A/C.” It works for five minutes. Or three. Or fifteen. And then it doesn’t. If I turn it off for ten minutes, it might come back. Or it might not. The might nots typically happen on the 90-degree days with matching humidity.
I don’t even notice new scratches, dings or dents. The body rot and paint fading kind of hide them. The rubber all around the windows looks like rats have been nibbling it. And the area around the gas tank lip, where the pump inserts, is rusting through. Last year, at inspection, I had a number of sensors replaced, along with needing to have metal sheets soldered in places where the flooring under the carpets had holes rotted in it.
For some time now, I’ve felt quite lucky at the end of each day that the old gal is still ticking. (Er … maybe I shouldn’t use another onomatopoeia, given all the other noises emitting from the poor thing.)
I apologize if all of this is sounding like the equivalent of folks getting to that age when conversation pretty much consists of enumerating one’s aches and pains in detail. So what’s my point?
Well, my point is that the car’s woes – aren’t. Aren’t woes, that is. Well, they are, I suppose. They exist. And I’m aware of them. I just don’t have the funds to put into anything but the most urgent of repairs. But when I think about my car, I don’t think about all of that. Honestly, I don’t.
I’ll tell you what I do think of.
I’ve had this car for nearly 10 years. During that time, I have had hundreds of friends and kids in and out of those now-dented and scratched doors.
Sodas have been spilled on those carpets by boisterous boys. And many a fry has been left under those seats – surprises I’ve found only much later.
We’ve laughed and blasted music and sang together at the top of our lungs in those seats.
The back seat and trunk have held more lost-and-found items of clothing than I can count, as well as board games, fishing nets, beach chairs and coolers.
The ashtray has held countless coins that have been scraped together (along with whatever we could find next to those fries under the seats) to buy ice cream cones.
The gas from many a gift card – generously given by friends who believe in what I do with that car – has been pumped into that rusted tank.
I’ve perfected my calm-and-steady voice while inwardly screaming in fear for my life, during road lessons for scores of new teen drivers.
We’ve driven to beaches and movies and pizza joints. We’ve made road trips to and from colleges and, sometimes, wherever the road took us for a while.
Many late-night conferences have been held in that car. Deep talks. Meaningful talks. Breakthrough talks. Sometimes inside. Sometimes leaning against the off-kilter hood under the stars.
And many tears have been soaked into the cracked leather of those front seats.
That is what I see when I look at my car with its 256,000 miles. Every mile holds a story.
And so, rather than champing at the bit to be rid of it, I’ll be a little sad to see it go. In the meantime, I’ll trace those scratches fondly with my fingertips and continue making one more memory – and one more – until it’s time to say goodbye.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, stories or questions. I invite you to leave your comments below.