Last Wednesday evening T called to tell me that our car was on fire. He was getting ready to call for a tow and needed me to pick him up.
My immediate response to this news was rage which then softened into something between sadness and anxiety. As an avowed walker and devoted user of mass transit it feels strange to admit it but, I love my car.
The car was our first major purchase as a married couple. The day it arrived from Germany we picked it up and drove through the night from NC to surprise my parents with a visit. The diesel engine means that it can travel ridiculous distances on one tank of gas. When the “shit goes down” we can run it on fry-o-lator grease and flip the seats down to sleep in the back. If you aren't convinced yet, I should also tell you that the financing was set up by a six-fingered man...with a manicure.
I think its purchase may be the only decision that T and I have ever agreed on 100%. Our little silver station wagon embodies us at our best.
I hate our other car. Faced with a shortening cervix that curtailed the walking portion of my commute and a job change that required T to drive, we were forced to buy a second vehicle. In a fit of optimism we went with the mini-van figuring that we'd need something that could easily fit 2 babies and a dog. The guy who sold it to us was young and slick and had no evidence of polydactyly. It felt wrong from the minute we bought it.
There are people who will tell you that you can jinx yourself with a surfeit of optimism. There are people who believe that pessimism and negativity attract bad things into your life. All of these people are assholes.
The mini-van didn't kill my daughter. It didn't generate a toxic haze of doubt that poisoned her and it didn't draw the attention of the Fates and inspire them to put me back in my place. As cars go, it even performs most tasks quite admirably but I hate it all the same.
Most parents loathe their mini-van, a.k.a. swagger wagon, because it hammered the final nail into the coffin for their hipness. I celebrate Groundhog's Day with a haiku contest every year--I was never in danger of being hip. To me, it is the vehicle of a family that has arrived at the desired destination. It feeds the illusion that we have everything we want. The cargo room, the extra row of seating, the plethora of cup holders—they're all just reminders of the plenty that I'd gladly sacrifice for just one more day with R. I wonder if I look like I'm getting my swagger on when I roll up to Big Box Retail in my shiny van with my spritely daughter in tow.
The station wagon is the path we chose. The van is the path that was forced on us.
Buying a car that can double as EarthshipOC in some Mad Max-esque future seems so naïve now but I like having a physical reminder that I once made decisions with the unwavering belief that my opinion mattered. When I drive it I feel young and capable.
The van makes me feel like a failure. I never drive it unless I absolutely have to. Anyone who sits in the captain's chair behind the driver is automatically transformed into “not R.” I never tell these unfortunate passengers that they're sitting in my dead daughter's seat. I feel like an ass for even thinking it. Sometimes I'm tempted to pull to the side of the road and pitch R's seat into the woods so that I don't have to deal with all of the cognitive dissonance anymore.
Luckily the mechanic was able to make the necessary repair and the wagon is back in action but, for those couple days when we thought we might have to replace it, I was really a little beside myself. Guess I'm not as alright as I think I am.