By Patricia Baer
For years my car was my home. Not literally, but given the amount of time I spent commuting, it sometimes felt as if I spent more time in the driver’s seat than in my apartment. My car was my companion. Maybe because of that, there is a television commercial currently airing that hits close to home. In it a woman describes the special relationship with her car she named “Brad.”
I have named my cars since I began driving. It started with Henry, an inexpensive, used four-door sedan. Henry was nothing flashy, but he reliably got me where I needed to go while working two jobs as I saved for college. I could always count on Henry.
Didi, on the other hand, was a deathtrap in a gold paint job. Didi was a Rio lacking any hint of acceleration power. Each attempt to merge into traffic was like playing a game of Russian roulette. It took months not to get that Duran Duran song stuck in my head whenever I looked for her in a parking lot. Her flash without substance personality got her christened after the band.
Several others have passed through my life, but my greatest love will always be George. George was a sea foam green Geo hatchback bought fresh off the truck with only a handful of miles on him. Purchased while I was still in college, George and I set out on many adventures together, including moving across the country and up the coast. Like the woman in the commercial with her Brad, we too saw jobs and boyfriends come and go. Through it all George was my constant. He was my lovable companion. He was my playful sidekick.
I was not aware of how deep my affection for George went until he got “sick.” With mileage in the six figures, his perky three-cylinder heart gave out while we were living in Maryland. I was working in theater at the time and living paycheck to paycheck. Faced with a $3,000 estimate for a new engine, I told myself his blue book value did not warrant the cost even if I had the money. I made the decision to donate him to charity with the hopes that what was left of him could be put to good use.
An unexpectedly deep grief struck me as I walked away from the parking lot where he was being retrieved. Through my sobbing I thought this must be what it feels like to put a beloved pet to sleep. Later I realized that I was mourning a chapter of my life closing more than the vehicle itself.
These days I get around with Professor Plum. He is a sturdy, reliable old man who is getting up there in miles. At 15, he, like me, has seen more adventurous times. We are a comfortable match. When the time comes, I will hate to see him go. For now, though, my bookish, dependable friend journeys on with me.