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Me and My Old Car

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By David Whitlock

 

This year between 30 and 40 million Americans will sell a used car. I’m one of them; I just parted with my old car.


I bought the 1996 T-Bird mainly out of desperation; Lori and I had grown weary of car-pooling in our one vehicle. She would need to go home when I had the car somewhere else; I had to have it when she was on an errand. We felt like the frustrated cab driver who is supposed to take two passengers in different directions at the same time.
And so I came into the possession of the T-Bird, proud of the fact that I had found what I believed was a decent enough bargain on a vehicle that was at that point in its lifespan, primarily equipped to get its driver (me) from point A to point B.
I rather proudly drove it into our driveway, honked the horn, and waited for the fam to join me in exultation at the sight my new purchase. Instead, after running to see what the commotion was all about, they stopped cold in their tracks and began cautiously encircling the T-Bird like children on a field trip who have been told not to touch an ancient artifact for fear that it might self destruct.
No one wanted to go for a drive in my old car. “What if someone sees us?” they asked, almost in unison.
A few moments later it was just me and my old car. I patted the hood: “It’s OK, buddy,” I whispered, glancing around to make sure no one could hear me. “They just don’t know what you’ve got on the inside.”
Admittedly, my old car badly needed a facelift. The paint on its right front looked like flowing lava melting down the side of a mountain. And its faded paint gave it an old and worn out look.
My old car did have a chronic creaking problem, too. Sometimes---usually when I drove up when a group of people were standing around---it acted up, like the crowd had made it nervous, causing it to have a croaking fit. It creaked when I sat down in the driver’s seat, when I turned the wheel, or when I had a thought of any kind. People could hear me coming a block before I got there.
But my old car did give me some advantages. I never had to worry about where I parked; it didn’t much matter if someone dinged my door. And there’s something about driving an old car that evokes sympathy from some people. “Well, preacher,” a lady commented to me in the church parking lot as she stared at my old car, “I can tell you’re not in it for the money.” (“I’d be doing a lousy job if I were,” I thought to myself.)
Another lady studied my old car and asked, “Now, how many kids do you have in college?”  
Once a man followed me out of the grocery store, pontificating about the evil state of political affairs in our on-the-road-to-hell country, preaching to me about why his brand of religion was the best bet to save us from it all, when my old car came to my rescue. “You drive that?” he incredulously asked. “Doesn’t your church pay you?” he continued, slowly pushing his shopping cart away from me as if someone who drove an old car like mine wasn’t a worthy recipient of his wisdom.
I winked at my old car, patting it on its back hip in gratitude as I put my groceries in the trunk.
In a humanely absurd way, (how can you have feelings for a hunk of metal?) I felt sorry for my old car. When I offered to help my daughter come home from college for the summer, she asked if I would bring Lori’s car. “My friends might think we’re really poor if you come in yours,” she said in a hushed tone.
“My old car never gets to go anywhere exciting,” I thought to myself.
I sold my old car yesterday to someone who could rehabilitate it. It’s been close to intensive care as of late.
As I drove away in my new car, I realized my old car had done more than simply get me from point A to point B.
My old car had been my faithful companion to all points in between.