My apologies, but this has nothing to do with Dude. We’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming later this week.
They say you never forget your first love.
My first love drove into my life in September 2004, about a month and half before I got my driver’s license.
She was a 1994 Toyota Corolla. 110,000 miles. Faded red. Three hubcaps. Some rusty spots. Small dents pockmarked her body.
I never got around to naming her. I simply called her “my baby.”
She was perfect.
I bought her with my own money. I paid her insurance, her gas, and any maintenance she needed. I can count on one hand the number of times my parents floated money my way to help with her upkeep, despite the best efforts of the guys at my garage who ribbed my dad, “Come on, Dad! Help her out!” on more than one occasion.
I have so many fond memories of that car. Back in high school, a friend and I drove up to Allentown for the annual DCI show. When we got in the car after the show, I suggested we put down the windows and enjoy the warm summer night. I pressed the button for my driver side window, and the window promptly dropped down into the door with a thud. It completely disappeared. When I pressed the button to raise it back up, nothing happened. I laughed it off and said I would take it to the garage the next day.
Fast forward an hour later. We were lost in a dark and seedy part of Bethlehem, PA. We didn’t have smart phones. We didn’t have a GPS. We were arguing over what to do next while sitting at a traffic light when we heard a not too distant pop! pop! pop!
“Ummm… WERE THOSE GUN SHOTS?” my friend demanded around the same time I screeched, “I’M NOT DYING TONIGHT, DAMNIT.” I punched the gas, stopped at well-lit gas station, and asked a grizzly-looking gentleman with a mullet for directions. By the time we finally arrived home, two hours later than we should have, it had become known as the Night We Almost Died.
Then there was the time I was home from Maryland for a weekend and got pulled over by a cop even though I hadn’t done anything wrong. Perplexed, I asked him what the problem was once he swaggered up to my car. It turns out he wanted to get a closer look at my inspection stickers because he was absolutely convinced there was no way my car had passed inspection (which it had.. just a few days before). He thought the tags were fakes and demanded to see the receipt for the inspection from my garage (which I didn’t have on me, and probably wouldn’t have given to him anyway).
For this and other reasons, my friends mercilessly mocked my baby.
While hanging out at an old boyfriend’s house in college, his roommate (who I was also friends with) arrived home. He smiled a mischievous smile and politely asked, “Where’s your helmet?”
“Errr what do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“Well, I saw your go-kart parked out front, so I was just wondering where your helmet was,” he delivered his punchline, smiling broadly.
“How long have you’ve been waiting to use that one?” I responded dryly.
“Since about Tuesday.”
From then on, the Mario Kart references were nonstop. After college, anytime I returned to Maryland, I would be asked if I hit any bananas or invincibility stars on the way down.
They could mock all they wanted. I smugly watched as their cars needed expensive repair after expensive repair.
My baby needed a brake adjustment here. A new alternator there. A new battery. But never anything that broke the bank.
I’d been unable to unlock the car from the driver’s side since November 2008. I hadn’t been able to unroll the passenger side window since July 2012. Once I moved into the city, other drivers used my car as target practice during their parallel parking attempts. The bumps and scratches increased significantly. The car had its idiosyncrasies and wasn’t anything pretty to look at, but it ran well and was reliable.
Every year when I took her in for inspection, I held my breath. “This is going to be the year,” I thought. “She’s going to need work and the costs will outweigh the benefits.”
Sadly, this year was that year. There comes a point when it just doesn’t make sense to put a certain amount of money into an almost 20 year old car, even if that car is a trusty Toyota that will probably never fully die.
I made the difficult decision to part with my baby. In a true testament to her worthiness, it took me exactly 48 hours to sell her. I called my garage, which has been so good to me over the years, and told the assistant manager that I was ready to sell her. He said he was fairly certain one of the guys would want her. The next day, someone called me. The day after that, my dad took my baby over for him to test drive. Within a few hours, he called me with an offer. He’s going to fix the car up and give it to his girlfriend to use as her first car. THE LEGACY CONTINUES!
I was 16 when I bought my car.. at the age when I thought I knew more about life than I actually did. At the time, my mom told me, “You’re going to be so emotional when you have to give up your first car.”
I scoffed. I wasn’t sentimental about objects. It’s just a car.
Nine years later, I stood in my parents’ garage, impatiently waiting for the rain to stop so Mom could take a photo of me hugging my car goodbye. I took shots of it from multiple angles. I didn’t cry, but I was sad. That car got me through formative years: my last two years of high school, all of college, and my first job out of college. My life changed a lot, but my trusty Toyota never did.
Farewell, my friend. I may now own a 2012 Ford Focus whose doors all unlock with a click of a button and whose windows glide down with ease, but “My Baby II” will never replace you in my heart.