Thursday, June 18, 2009

My car, the archaeological dig

Today, I waved goodbye to the car I've had since March 2, 2001. The best car I've ever had. The car I'd had longer than all three of my previous cars combined, the car that needed under $2,000 in repairs over the course of the 8+ years I drove her. My Victoria. I cried all the way home, and then some.

She practically fell into my lap. I knew I wanted a Lumina - my mom had one and loved it, as did a few of her coworkers. My credit union preapproved me for a loan, provided the car fell into their acceptable range of model years. I was on a mission. I saw an ad in the paper, "Two Luminas New to Our Stock!" I called, and the price was right. Away we went to the small-town dealer.

I remember the test drive like it was yesterday. Prior to Victoria coming into my life, I'd had a few clunkers, and driving her for the first time, I felt like I'd entered The Promised Land. Black! Shiny! Classy! Holy crap, I'm a grownup! Driving down a back country highway, I looked over at the passenger side of the dash, saw the woodgrain trim and thought "I canNOT believe this is going to be my car!" I don't know what it was about the trim, but it wasn't anything that had been part of the "decor" of my previous vehicles. A couple of hours (and a trip back to the credit union for the check) later, she was mine.

Despite the fact that I'd lived with my then-boyfriend (now husband) for almost 3 years, this car was what finally made me feel like a grownup. I joked that driving a black sedan almost made me feel like I'd joined the mafia, but in reality, I finally just felt. Like. An adult. Victoria allowed me to get a real! decently paying! job in the Golden City at the End of the Highway, rather than toiling away for under $18K a year as a secretary at what was supposedly one of the highest-paying employers in the town (highest-paying doesn't mean crap at $8.45 an hour). A round trip to Madison - the west side, no less - just would not have possible in my previous vehicle. So I was driving a grownup car, making a grown-up wage at a grown-up job. Sure, there would be hardships in my future, but I was Going Somewhere.

When I cleaned her out for the final time this afternoon, I was reminded of just how much Living I'd done in that car. My cars sometimes double as mobile storage devices. If something's okay in the car, and I have no need for it to be in the house, it tends to stay in the car. In the glove compartment were a postcard I bought when we road-tripped to NY 3 weeks after 9/11, some silver rings I used to wear when I was in my "ring on as many fingers as I can" phase and a smushed penny from Navy Pier that I got when I went to visit a friend to whom I haven't spoken in 6 years. In the seat pockets behind the front seat, along with an atlas, were a couple of long-forgotten DVDs I'd won in some contest when I worked for the cable company. In the trunk was a leftover box of stuff from when I cleaned out my desk the day I left the cable company, AND a leftover bag of stuff from when I cleaned out my desk when I left the insurance company. Also in the trunk, I found some training materials from the company I work for now, but the materials were from the first time I worked there. I also found a silver plastic tray I'd used for food presentation during a bridal shower for a friend whose divorce was finalized 10 days ago.

And of course, the floral bead that's hung from the rearview mirror in every car I've owned.

All this history, and I sit here wondering why my eyes are puffy, my nose is red and I have a splitting headache, 9 hours after I saw her for the last time.

Thanks for the memories, Victoria. You were the best car I could have ever asked for.

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