July 16, 2007
Our cars, ourselves
I spent last week in Taos, interning at a writers’ conference for which I spent a good amount of time driving a rental van. When I got back, Evil Bender picked me up in my car. It’s a 1991 Nissan Stanza, still in pretty good shape overall, but I noticed as EB approached that it was rattling something fierce. And then when I got in, I was reminded that the air conditioning really needs to be recharged, as it was turned all the way up and still doing rather little to combat the 90+ degree heat (which, if you ask me, is less of a concern for us humans than it is for our dogs). I commented on that fact, and EB pointed out that it might be a good idea for me to sell my car before putting any additional money into it. We’re moving to Kansas in less than two weeks now. I’m going to be working from home. Sharing a car would be fairly easy, and it would be more environmentally friendly than being a 2-car household. We could certainly use the money from the sale. Also, only taking one car (plus a U-Haul) means we don’t have to spend money either on a car trailer or on a plane ticket for one of EB’s siblings to come down here and help us drive up.
In short, the more I think about it, the more it seems like selling my car is the logical thing to do. But, oh, does it make my heart ache. I’ve had my car for seven years. My grandparents gave it to me the summer before my senior year of college, and I drove it up to Boston from Alabama with my mother and sister (an experience you couldn’t pay me enough to relive, of course, but I can look back on it and shake my head with a wry chuckle, at any rate). It was the first car I’ve driven that’s been mine. It saw me through some major life changes: graduation from college, a move to Connecticut, marriage, a move to New Mexico, beginning graduate school, divorce, and now preparing to move in with EB (rather a large leap of faith for me, but that’s another story). It took me to Montréal, to western New York, back to Alabama, to Texas, to California, and more. I’ve put almost 90,000 miles on it since I got it. It’s my car.
I know it’s just an inanimate object, that I need to just let it go. Still, it’s interesting to consider all the things cars represent in our society (not counting a large penis, since that clearly doesn’t apply to me). My car is a representation of my independence, of my freedom (in that I can just pick up and get the hell out of Dodge whenever I want to). It’s a space of my own, where I’m in control. Of course, sharing EB’s car will mean that I’ll still have much of that independence and freedom, but it’s just not the same. I didn’t buy that car, didn’t pick it out, haven’t quite bonded with it yet, certainly not in the ways I’ve bonded with my car over the last seven years.
The issue at hand reminds me of the movie Singles. In it Campbell Scott’s character is hard at work designing a commuter train for Seattle. It’ll have everything: good music, good coffee, good company. Unfortunately, no one he talks to about is willing to give up their car, not even his environmentalist love interest. Personally, I like being able to use public transportation, but not since I lived in Boston has it been feasible for me. Part of that is the way cities and towns are designed these days, but much of it comes back to the fact that we as a nation are so incredibly attached to our cars.
So, I’m going to give mine up. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.