Greg and I said goodbye to a dear friend last week, a sweet little car called the Low Rider.
She wasn’t glamorous by any stretch. My parents bought her during my freshman year of college. My brother was in high school, and this, this 1998 Toyota Camry, was not what any car-loving teenager wanted to drive. Could they have chosen anything more boring? A hearse, maybe?
The car had no pick-up. Oh, sure, it probably had 100-some-odd horsepower. But a horse is a powerful animal, and I don’t think it’s fair to associate it with this car. I think we were talking hamster power. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. New from Toyota: the 150 guinea-pig-power Camry.
But we made do. During my summer internships on the coasts, my parents lent the car to me. It became permanently mine during grad school.
Over the years, I started to see the beauty in the boring. Boring meant that the only maintenance the car ever required was an oil change. Boring meant that she started in the below-zero weather of Illinois and the 100-degree heat of Texas without complaint. That she carried me safely home from so many late nights at the newspaper.
The Low Rider joined me for my first summer really far from home — at an internship in Massachusetts. And then the following summer for an internship in Oregon. She carried Greg and I away from our reception on our wedding day. And carried our possessions to our first home. And carried still more possessions when we moved to Texas. And carried Eleanor the day we came home from the hospital. If it’s possible to love an object, I loved that car.
After 130,000 miles, the Low Rider and I parted ways. Greg and I had talked about getting a new car for a few years. I wanted tinted windows to shield Eleanor from the sun but didn’t want to spend money for them in the Low Rider. And I wanted better safety features.
I felt guilty test-driving new cars. And at the same time — wow, there have been some big improvements in cars during the past 12 years. I made my choice, a car with a lot of bells and whistles but no well-worn charm. I think her name is Millie, but I don’t know her yet. I hope she’ll be worthy of an ode someday.
I’m happy to say that the Low Rider has been passed on to some family members. We haven’t discussed visitation rights, but I have a feeling they’ll let me take her for a spin occasionally. I hope she’s as good to them as she was to me.