For All the Miles
Before work today a man came to pick up my Pontiac. He was running late (weather/traffic/people can't drive); I was already exhausted from a new spate of insomnia; and a very full day of work lay ahead. As he backed up the flatbed, I took off the license plate and made sure I had pulled out my last registration card. I signed over the title and --oh right--you need the keys.
And he said "Great, I'll load it, you get to work, I'm sorry for being so late."
Suddenly I didn't want to go. My car was leaving me and I was just going to go to work like a normal day?
I bought the car in 2004 as I was headed into my final semester of graduate school. My first car had finally given up the ghost and I needed to drive both for school and all over Long Island for work. I'd done research online, found a car I wanted, arranged with the Incredibly Patient Mother to go make a purchase, arrived at the dealer at the beginning of the day and... neither the car nor the SalesDude I'd been emailing with were there. The manager of the dealership listened to the description of the car and immediately knew that the car wasn't on the lot. SalesDude was "coming in later that day" and they didn't have anything else really they could show me but if I wanted to wait 2-3 hours, they could get the car there (from the other side of Indianapolis). I remember looking at my mother briefly, back at the sales manager, and announcing "That's not acceptable." And so we left. I'm still curious as to what kind of conversation SalesDude came into when he finally bothered to show up for work and a nearly guaranteed sale had already walked off the lot.
Several other dealerships later (all of which seemed to be vying for a Worst Customer Service award), I walked onto another used dealer lot and flatly stated my requirements. Budget, car age/ approximate mileage, sedan, not a Dodge Neon, and not red.* The dealer was unfazed and presented me with the Pontiac for a test drive. Twenty-four hours, a new set of brakes, and a co-signed car loan later and I was on the road back to New York. I remember calling a couple of friends to keep me company/sane while I made my way across Pennsylvania.
It was the second Grand Am in my group of friends: the Blonde had the Pumpkin and I now had the Gecko. We were the most identifiable cars in any parking lot.
I only did the drive to NY once. When I moved to Chicago the first time, I drove the Gecko to New Jersey and got a truck hitch. But we made the run between LaCrosse and Chicago almost monthly for three years. It only refused to start once due to the cold--and frankly, no one should have been outside that day.
Of late I've been less confident driving it. It needs new brakes, again, and a lot of other work that was beyond what I could do with it. My mechanic had stronger words about it. So I started car hunting and, happily, made a very easy acquisition.*** Of course, this meant the Gecko was no longer needed even for Target runs.
A coworker also recently got a new car and pointed me towards a church that has a vehicle ministry--doing repairs, repurposing homing or breaking down donated cars, teaching car repair. They would come and take the Gecko and--if possible--give it a little more life and a new home.
And so my car was driven onto a flatbed and it's unlikely I'll see it again. The level of grief I'm experiencing for an inanimate object seems oddly high, but I spent a lot of hours in that car and 95% of the time it just turned on and took me wherever I needed to go. I owned it for 12 years and it was something of a physical extension. With Pontiac now out of business, it's unlikely I'll ever be able to own one again.
Now it's off on an adventure without me and I will miss my bright green car. Such it is I bid adieu to my Gecko. Thanks for all of the miles.
*I have a strong dislike of red cars
**Thank you again to the IPM, not sure how else they expect early 20s adults to get car loans.
***It's far easier to get a car loan in my 30s