Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Car

It got him to work but wouldn’t start without a jump each of the next three times he needed to get from point A to point B to point HOME. It’s a blessed relief that tomorrow is Michael’s day off; we had a little time to sort this out.

I’m a little embarrassed about the car Michael drives to work. He’s this super-educated (I’m sure they exist but I don’t think I know anyone else with three degrees from M.I.T.), more-than-decent income earning guy but we’ve got bills to pay and lots of mouths to feed and a new car for him simply isn’t in the budget right now. We don’t have car payments and that will stay the case for as long as we can swing it. To avoid that path Michael drives the red 1988 Honda Accord I received on my 18th birthday 21½ years ago. Now that’s a good man.

It might not be such a big deal if he had a different commute somewhere completely different. What he has is a 26 mile drive out to the 200 East area of Hanford (Tank Farms) in the desert heat in a little car with black interior and no air conditioning. It can really only be considered a mobile torture chamber (and maybe a garbage can on wheels) but he presses on with it.

I remember that birthday 21½ years ago. I was told I needed to get something out of the upper barn and when I slid open the large wooden door, there it was. This beautiful, bright red hatchback. Wow. I had no idea what that was about; couldn’t be for me. My parents had made many comments over the years about the futility of buying cars for teenagers. The perennial teen dream of a birthday gift on wheels was never mine. The thought quite literally never occurred to me.

And then my dad handed me the keys. I never really knew why it happened (maybe an attempt to help me establish a good credit rating?) but it was most definitely a surprise. Another part of the surprise was that my little car had a standard transmission. I’d never driven a standard so my dad, being the kind of guy that he is, took the time to write out everything I could possibly need to know about the process. I still have the college-ruled sheet, each side completely filled with cramped writing and drawings. I don’t think I read one word of it.

I am grateful it was a standard now; I don’t know if I’d have learned to drive one otherwise. It didn’t come easy though. The first day I smashed my brother’s bike straight into the house. Uh oh. Eventually I got the hang of it and it got me through those four years of college in Walla Walla.

Tonight the good folks at Les Schwab brought the little red car back to life with a new battery but who knows what’ll blow next. My dear little car is on its 5th U.S. president, any number of speeding tickets (none of them Michael's . . .), and has almost 160,000 miles on its speedometer (for its years, that not so bad). And the 34 miles per gallon it gets keeps us holding out hope that it will last a few more years. It’s a Honda so who knows? It just might.
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