Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Good Car (Taking Inventory)

Today's story is about the end of one of the best relationships I've ever had. The fact that this relationship involved an inanimate object that doesn't speak is probably telling, but still: it was a good relationship for me nonetheless.

At any rate, my trusty nine-year old Saturn has been retired, the poor thing. And I am quite sad about this turn of events. True, I don't want to think about the stupid car payment I'm about to commit to, which will seriously wreak havoc on my yarn buying. Or buying much of anything else, for that matter. But the Saturn was a great car, and I would have bought another one had they not stopped making them. I did not treat her particularly well, but she was pretty great to me up until the last year, when it became clear she needed more attention than simple oil changes (not to mention getting sideswiped on the streets of Providence). Attention that I really could not afford to pay for, plus when you spend $500 on repairs and triple the value of the car....well. Decisions must be made.

I bought this car the last year I lived in Memphis, and other than my graduate school degree it is the last vestige of my time there. I also used the car to drive all over the state of Maine - four years of community development work from Sanford to Van Buren, Norway to Eastport. We were a team, that Saturn and me; she carted my crap around in her trunk and she listened to me sing very loudly to the Dixie Chicks all the way from Tennessee to Maine. She was there all those weekends I drove to NYC, and put up with my attempts to parallel park her on those narrow side streets in Queens. And she never complained when I (yet again) spilled Diet Pepsi on her carpet.

Tonight I had to empty the car of everything. You'd be surprised - probably shocked - at the stuff that was in there. I was shocked, and it's my freaking car. It was especially shocking because a few years ago my dad, in a fit of embarrassment over the state of his daughter's car, cleaned the whole thing out while it was parked in his driveway those months I lived in NYC. However, apparently in my subsequent moves Things Accumulated.

In some ways, I kind of wish I had filmed the clean out because it has the makings of a genius performance art piece: nine years of my life to sift through. It reminds me of that Adrienne Rich poem when she talks about "diving into the wreck" -- the wreck that is the car, or the wreck that was my life, take your pick. It was a tinge morbid, too, because it occurred to me that our stuff is what is left of us, and someday someone (my sister?) will have to sort through all my worldly possessions, in all likelihood throwing most of them out. It simultaneously makes me want to pare down everything and start hoarding everything. I HAVE STUFF THEREFORE I AM.

So as I stared into nine years of my past, this is a sampling of what surfaced:

*one trash bag full of...well, trash
*three sets of fingernail clippers, which I guarantee were hastily bought on the way to a guitar lesson
*A copy of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" and the first Twilight book (the combination of which led me think about the Tea Partiers as vampires, which wasn't that much of a stretch)
*One round springform cake pan, three wine glasses, and one porcelain teacup
*A black jacket I forgot I owned
*A green blanket, queen sized, that I had thought was in my blanket chest
*A pair of black shoes that, three weeks ago, I tore apart two closets looking for
*An entire box of knitting and quilting patterns and books
*One bamboo double-pointed needle, size 3
*My original Tennessee registration from 2002
*My temporary Maine license from 2003
*30+ cds (including my "Spanish for Dummies" CDs that I bought before I moved to NYC)
*Various Sharpie pens in various stages of drying out
*Two big wall calendars from 2007 and 2008

There was more, but it was swept into boxes and bags and will have to be sorted through at some point. Ugh.

After all this, there was a mix-up at the new car dealership and I threw a hissy fit and came home car-less. I am choosing to believe it was an honest mistake because frankly, these boys just don't seem bright enough to be running a scheme of that sort of complexity. But at the moment my old friend is parked in their lot, devoid of my stuff and her plates, and I'll be walking to the train tomorrow without thumping her trunk as I walk by. And now, she is destined for an auction and I cannot bear to think about it. On the plus side? Now I don't have to listen to my dad lecture me about buying a new car, and I will actually have a vehicle that my sister will let her kids ride in. #winning

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