Preparing for the Death of My Car

22 Feb

Geo Prism

Two weeks ago I acquired a new used car–a green 2009 Toyota Corolla with 15,000 miles on it. While that has been the subject of much rejoicing, I find that I am grieving the pending loss of my gray 2002 Geo Prism. It has not been my best-looking or sexiest car–that would be my red Buick Skyhawk with its turbo-charged engine from the eighties.  Despite the fact that it’s so old, I find I’m attached to it, almost as though it were a person.

My choices for its demise both involve making it a donor vehicle: donating it to a local Syracuse radio station or putting it on Craigslist. Either way it will probably be broken down into its various components–brand new tires, new brakes, new struts, and new wipers. I have no idea if the last three are worth anything, but, except for the wipers, they have all been required during the last two inspections.

I have had two stickers on my back bumper for years: one, a “Who is your Mama?” sticker from Mama Goose, where two of my nieces worked, and the other an Obama sticker from when I campaigned for him. Unfortunately, his name is no longer visible; the sticker has been worn down by the elements, just as Congress has worn the real Obama down with their threats to repeal his Obamacare and their refusals to protect immigrants.

The back bumper also has a small dent, made recently when I was backed down a one-lane bridge in Forrest Home by an insouciant beige SUV, who met me in the middle of the bridge and refused to cooperate. Somebody had to move, so I decided it had to be me. My emotions were heightened and I managed to hit the front of the car that was waiting behind me when I backed up. Naturally the SUV didn’t wait for the cop like I had to.

The gray car and I have had many adventures together. In 2010, when I was working for the government as a Census Enumerator, I traveled all over Spencer, Danby, Newfield, and Enfield with the aid of my car and maps, not all of which were accurate. One day in Spencer I decided that according to the map, I needed to drive at right angles from where I was to get to the next house. I took a gravel road to the left of a farmhouse that showed up as a dotted line on the map. I was somewhat doubtful, but the beginning of the turnoff was in good shape. Initially the car and I were fine, but once we reached the woods the road started to deteriorate and fold into multiple gullies. At one point my tires were on land but a deep gully was four feet below me and the midpoint of the lower car. The two of us barely made it out of there and I wasted an hour.

Another day when I was working for the Census, the car and I stopped at a home far out in the country. I found it only after driving around and around in circles. As I stepped out of the car, I noticed a pair of large dogs and choked up. Unfortunately, in my excitement, I had put the car in neutral rather than park. It slid over my right foot. I became panicky and tried to get back in the car to shift the gear. Luckily, the homeowner observed what was going on and came out to stop the car and slow me down. I almost lost my baby over an incline.  I did lose my sandals.

I was usually alone in my car. That’s probably why it came close to achieving personhood in my mind. We were often companions. We endured many trips, some especially hairy during the winter, when I drove from Minneapolis to my job in Menomonie, Wisconsin and back. I experienced some trips on black ice, where the other cars and I moved hesitantly down the interstate. One night when I returned home and was driving through St. Paul, I realized that I was fighting through the drifts on the snow-covered highway. There was not enough money for all the snowplowing that needed to be done in the state budget, and they had decided to send the snowplows out late. It was almost as though the car had a mind of its own as we turned right and onto the nearest exit. I found out later that the cars that had been ahead of me were there for four to five hours after I left. The side streets had been plowed better than the interstate.

When a driver first encounters St. Paul going from the interstate in Wisconsin to the Minnesota interstate, the speed limit goes down from 65-55. It is a little hard to remember because a little later the speed limit goes right back up.  One day I was driving through St. Paul when I passed a cop and, at first, slowed down, but then passed him.  He then pulled me over.  He went to the passenger side, as Midwestern cops have started to do, and opened the passenger door.  “Why,” he said, “would you pass a cop, realize what you were doing, slow down, but then pass me again?”  “I don’t know,” I said.  What do you say to a policeman about a dumb driving decision?  Next, he picked up a chocolate-covered malt ball on the passenger seat and said, “Is this a drug?”  Menomonie had opened up a chocolate shop two years before. “No, ” I said, “it’s a chocolate malt ball.”  Finally, he gave me a speeding ticket.  I thought he would never get to it.

There are many other tales I could relate about my gray Geo Prism.  Suffice to say, that they are endless, considering that the car has $158,000 miles on it and had $33,000 when I acquired it, so it had a previous life to its union with me.  I will miss it.  Enough said.

4 Responses to “Preparing for the Death of My Car”

  1. DH February 22, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    You aren’t admitting to the John Edwards bumper sticker….

    • I think I put the Obama sticker over the Edwards sticker. What has happened to Edwards? Actually I should ask Richard what to do with an ailing Geo Prism. A number of people have said that I should simply donate it, but I would like money for the tires. In New York, to pass inspection you have to have decent tires, so I had just replaced them a couple months ago.

  2. claireaperez February 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I think this is something we can all relate to…it is an end of a certain period in our lives.

  3. February 22, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    Thanks for commenting. It does feel like an end, in an odd way. It covers most of my years at Stout, although I started Stout with a green Geo.

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