Jan 10, 2007

Goodbye, Car.

There's something about saying goodbye that's just so difficult for me. Today, we signed away our old car, selling it for a pittance because we were in a pinch and it gave up on us in the eleventh hour.

The story can be condensed (but since I like to tell a tall tale, probably won't): basically, the car's been "ours" (more precisely, "hers") from the showroom in 1995 to today. It's been through a lot, and it's seen better days, especially better than the last year or so. We bought a new car, not a luxury model or anything, mind you, but something that we could depend on for the longer road trips, and were managing for a couple of months with both vehicles and the idea that before the registration ran out on the old one, we'd find a way to get rid of it.

Being conscious folks, we thought we could actually donate it somewhere and get a tax break while helping a worthy cause. Of course, then finals happened, and we ended up in a rush to try to dispose of the car before the registration ran out, because who wants to pay for a new registration on a car you're going to get rid of imminently, and they definitely check vehicle registration in our neighborhood.

So I did some searching, and I found a place that claimed it could take the car in 24 hours. The site is called "Kars 4 Kids" and it seemed great. But then I started having doubts, and looked for information about where the money would be going. I had a very difficult time finding anything until I dug deeper, finally finding on their posted IRS filing that the organization name was J.O.Y. for Our Youth, an NJ group that used most of the money towards ministry services and programs for Jewish youth. There were still no details about what those programs were, or where the people were located, and when I called up the phone line, the person had no information either. A number of articles further enflamed my suspicion, and we decided to pass on it.

So we decided, two days before the registration was up, to try to sell it at a used car place that claimed to be hassle-free and fair. En route to the place, on a really busy street at rush hour, the car died. Luckily, we'd decided to drive both cars in the hope that we could leave the old one on the day of, so we weren't stuck high and dry. Even more luckily, we were next to a car dealership who were kind enough to give us a jump and hold the car in their lot for a day while we decided what to do. They offered a pittance to take the car off our hands, and we were in a pretty bad hole so we felt compelled to take the deal. So today, we signed over the title, pulled out the few personal effects we had left in the car, pulled the tags, and even pulled out an add-on disc changer, and said farewell to the car.

I felt more than a little choked up, even though I feel like the car was giving us the finger for abandoning it by shutting down 5 miles from the used car shop. Actually, I was of mixed mind about that too - was it flipping us off or was the shut-down the result of a broken heart? I found myself anthropomorphizing the car a lot more than I'd ever done with a vehicle, and I've only known it for about 5 1/2 years.

But that time stretches to equal the length of our relationship, and I guess, somehow, with all the moving and settling into different places, we don't have that many things left that have been with us from that time. So in some way, I've invested at least some emotional capital into this inanimate (and unanimated, at last parting) object/tool. I'm sure that some part of this is because I am generally loathe to view anything as disposable, often to the result of large amounts of "stuff" hanging out that others would have cleared away long ago. Not quite a packrat, I grow attached to things in a way that is not materialistic, but still, obviously, draws something from the material aspect of that thing I cannot let go of.

So with the car, it reminds me of our first date, of the many happy moments that comprise that early courtship (what an old-fashioned, yet appropriate word!), and even our lives together. The car had been through so much in Brooklyn, surviving the streets, the blizzards, and the illogical parking regulations. It had been towed a number of times, ticketed countless times, the subject of a few mad scrambles for registration in various offices, and made more airport runs than we care to remember. But it's taken us through so much, has been a refuge in the cold, a way to get to our parents, a safety net when all else failed, and a transporter in her different moves in different parts of the country.

Many good memories, many of which go with it to whatever final owner (or resting place) it will eventually find. I am glad to have gotten it off our hands, but I guess I can understand how folks can grow attached to their dogs and cats - I mean, look at how bent out of shape I'm feeling about this car! Yet in the end, it really is a question of safety, and knowing when a particular time has passed. And in a city like New York, the attachment to cars grows somewhat tenuous, what with the additional hassles of parking tickets, alternate side of the street parking (but not on Diwali, I guess), and the imminent threat that someone is going to want to strip your car for its airbags, stereo, or whatever else would sell.

So I'm a little bummed about losing the car, and saying goodbye remains difficult for me, perhaps because in some way, rather than let the memory remain in my brain and heart, some piece of it is bound to the item or person, and when that item or person is lost (or at least lost to me), I feel like the memories are no longer whole, and I cannot recreate them on my own. Those broken friendships, the loved ones who have passed, and even the places that I have left behind may all have that quality. And yet, we keep on keeping on. Here's to new memories.

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