Good-bye, car

Posted on November 17, 2009


In the first season of the TV show, Life, Charlie Crews drove a beautiful, expensive car. He had taken up Buddhism while in prison, which decries attachments to things. Charlie would occasionally catch himself enjoying his ride, and would repeat, “I’m not attached to this car.” Well, I was attached to mine.

In the winter of 1993, I’d been out of the Army for a year. I knew next to nothing about looking for work, managing my personal brand, or selling myself. All my advice came from family, who hadn’t looked for work in over 30 years. Times were tough. I couldn’t afford my Toyota pick-up, so with my family’s help, I traded it in for a used car. That car was a red 1987 Toyota Corolla FX-16 hatchback.

It was a very basic car. It had no air-conditioning. It had a manual transmission. The radio was AM/FM, without a tape player (CD players were just becoming common in cars when I bought it, and no one had heard of MP3s yet). One tail light kept filling with water when it rained and shorting out. There was a problem with the electrical system that made it think a door was ajar when none was, but the dome light would come on. Sometimes the dome light would come on randomly in the middle of the night and drain the battery. When the muffler died, it turned out the dealership had used whatever they had on hand and welded it to the frame. Eventually I discovered that more than half the electrical problems was caused by the battery being too small for the demand.

The next spring I started working at Wizards of the Coast, and my life got better. I met the woman I would marry. We got a dog, and he fell asleep in the backseat of that car on the way home from PAWS. I paid off that car. Friends and family bought cars, and I kept my Corolla. It ran just fine. Only in the last year or two did it start really falling apart. For about 20 years, it was cheap to own and operate, and it ran well. Every Toyota person I met got a gleam in their eyes when I told them about it. Apparently the FX-16 was very popular, once upon a time.

On Tuesday, I was coming home from picking up some part-time work. I was approaching an intersection. The cross street had stop signs, but we had no control. A block ahead was a controlled intersection. The road was wet from recent rain. There was a big pick-up truck several car-lengths ahead of me. Apparently, a few cars in front of the truck, there was a vehicle making a right turn. Everyone had to slow down or stop. The traffic light, a block ahead, was green. I didn’t notice the change in conditions. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. I slid into the back of the truck.

I haven’t heard anything official yet, but a 22-year-old compact car with over 198,000 miles on it that I couldn’t drive away from the scene will probably be totaled out. The claims person on the telephone told me to take all my things out of the car, because I would probably never see it again. Then the tow truck took it away.

I was attached to that car. It carried a lot of memories. I miss it. Good-bye, car. Good-bye, old friend.


Posted in: Self-Reference