March 27, 2013 by kmwelden
I’m feeling a little nostalgic for my old car today after yesterday’s post got me thinking all about my first experiences driving. So this is about the first car I ever had: my dear, dear babyescape. This is her, moments before I had to give her up:
I bought my first car– the one that I owned until approximately four months ago– when I was sixteen. I use “bought” kind of loosely. My dad paid for it, and I spent the next three and a half years making monthly car payments to him, with the exception of June (my birthday month), when I always received a card with a postscript of “No car payment this month!” written below. Regardless of how I came by it, it is always a source of pride to say that I bought my first car, because I had a real sense of ownership and responsibility over it. I imagine this was my parent’s plan all along (thing I’m learning as I get older #49384: Parents. Are. Sneaky.).
It was a 2001 red Ford Escape with 60,000 miles on it, and I bought her for $6000 from a girl I had played softball with in middle school. It had a Christian fish on the back that I removed when I was eighteen, but I was never quite able to get the whole thing to scrape off and the outline remained. This was something that old people never failed to take notice of when I was close to running them over in the CVS parking lot.
“It’s a shame that girl ain’t a Christian,” I imagined them clucking with disapproval. “She might pray for some better driving skills.”
Throughout the five years we spent together, I injured my beloved car too many times to count. There was one day where I hit two cars in her in the span of about three minutes. I drove her up to 75 mph, even though she started to shake at 72. I never properly let her warm up in the winter, and as a result, she would chug-chug-splffff and cut off until I gave her a proper good morning (she is like me that way: she hates the cold, and she likes to be coddled).
Despite any evidence to the contrary, she really was loved. She was almost like a dog from the pound you get conned into adopting. You can try to pretend that you find them annoying to deal with and kind of ugly, but they know you adopted them because you were the one that needed them, not the other way around. Because I needed my babyescape way more than she needed me.
By the time she was traded in, five years and over 100,000 miles together later, there was not a single reason she should have still been running after our life together. She was resilient and never complained and always seemed to be happy see me–like a puppy that doesn’t pee all over the floor– unless it was an oil leak, because that happened from time to time.
It’s that, or maybe she feels like an abused spouse, unable to escape from her abusive owner (ok, that pun was just irresistible. I’m sorry).
I will always believe the former, though, because I felt (and still feel) an inextricable bond to that red Ford Escape. She was with me at my lowest: the (embarrassing number of times) I sat at a beach access in Garden City blaring melodramatic mixtapes and wiping onion ring grease used to assuage my sadness all over her grey cloth seats. She was with me at my best: the music-turned-up days when spring is just turning into summer and the world seemed perfect and uncomplicated. I didn’t have a traditional “dog” (as some of you who know my spastic dog, Lola can attest), so I was lacking in the man’s-best-friend department. My car was the closest I had, and I loved her for it.
(Okay, this was obviously taken while I was sitting in the front seat of my car listening to the rain and crying or something lame.)
Even so, this year was my senior year of college, and my dad offered to buy me a new car for graduation. Logically, the Escape was on her last legs. She had nearly 200,000 miles on her, no right side mirror (which was definitely not my fault), dents on all sides (the fault varies here, but would skew more toward mine), and a shattered tail light (which definitely was). Still, I felt torn.
“You’re gonna have to start puttin’ high mileage oil in here,” the mechanic told me this summer when I took her to get her oil changed. “This car’s getting up there in mileage and…” I didn’t listen to the rest. I didn’t want to hear it, and I definitely didn’t want my car to hear it. She may not have known that she was getting old.
Eventually, the pragmatic side of me won out over the nostalgic side (Shut UP, right brain! No one even likes you.), and I became the owner of a 2013 Black Kia Soul this December. And don’t get me wrong, the technology of cruise control has been life-changing (LIFE. CHANGING.), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a part of me that is very sad. Old, beat-up things have character. I love things that have history. I love things that I have a history with.
So when I first got my new car, I felt a little wary of the shiny, cute little Kia, because we didn’t know anything about each other! We were strangers, forced into a super-intimate setting! How uncomfortable is that? But here we are, four months later. The first week I got her, I dinged a BMW in the grocery store parking lot (sorry, Mom). I spilled salsa on the passenger seat last weekend. No less than four loose paperbacks are floating around the trunk, and there are four empty cups from my kitchen in the cupholders. I’m about to need my first oil change, which marks 5000 miles together on the open road and the treacherously narrow streets of Charleston. Slowly but surely, we’re breaking each other in (and did I mention that cruise-control is really, reaaally cool?).