Last month, I retired my old car and bought a new one.
A brand new gleaming white 2013 Honda with the scent of installed buttery, black leather. She’s quite pretty. She’s also technologically savvy –equipped with bluetooth capability, eco drive button, and a rear camera for those awkward reversals. This new baby is a huge upgrade from my former car, a glamorous makeover from its humble predecessor. I’m not used to it.
Letting go of my previous car, a 1999 black Honda Civic affectionately named CiCi, felt like the end of an era. If a person is approaching 30 (like moi), the last ten years of one’s life warrants being called an era. My car definitely showed its battle scars from a long life lived. My ’99 had two nearly identical scratches on either side of its front bumper from two separate parking incidents in the same damned garage, a visor that no longer stayed put and would occasionally bop the driver on the head, a faded Civic marking on the back from where the car label fell off, and a disintegrating parking sticker in the back windshield from an apartment complex back during my undergraduate college years. She was a beauty weathered by age and experience. She was certainly eye-catching to the various carjackers throughout the years who had unsuccessfully attempted to steal her (at least four times) and to the occasional admirers who randomly inquired if I would be willing to sell her.
She was my companion on many road trips and milestones throughout my teens and twenties. She was the first car I inherited when I got my driver’s license –a moment I reverently prepared for by burning five mixed CDs for my driving ambiance and by promptly calling my best friend. “Hey, what are you doing? Let’s go hang out at the mall. [dramatic pause] I’ll come pick you up.”
I took her with me to college, memorizing the windy stretches along the route to UC Davis and anticipating when I’d need to gun the accelerator during the steep upward hills. She was the first car I had when I met my then-boyfriend J, who would later become my husband. We drove it on our dates to Sacramento, to the fairground, and to stand in line at the popular buffet sushi spot –a treat for all college students on a scraping budget. As my birthday gift, J and a friend, had “borrowed” my car and installed it with a shiny, sleek mp3 car deck. I finally had an MP3 player of my own –no more measly 15 track songs on one CD! Now I could fit entire albums on one disc! In a pre-iPod world, this was mind-boggling. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. It would get stolen three months later. Only to have my second deck stolen about two years later. So far, the third one has been a charm. I’ve learned a few car-savvy lessons along the way: a brake lock works wonders.
She was the car I took when I drove to Los Angeles for the first time, taking along my two younger brothers who would see me off for graduate school. As a small car, she thrived on weaving in and out of Los Angeles traffic on the I-10, though she did start to break down a bit more often. Tired and old as she was, she still carried me home to the Bay Area where I started a new career and eventually got married. While I was busy transitioning from a teen to a young adult to a full-fledged adult, my car noisily struggled to keep up. At some point in the middle of last year, J began to mention the prospect of buying a new car. I pretended not to hear him –in denial of what was inevitable.
I suppose it’s bittersweet that the next car I owned would be one that I purchased together with my husband. I felt like I was betraying my ’99 CiCi as I started the process of car shopping and hunting around dealerships. As much as I could appreciate nice-looking cars, I never saw myself driving a luxurious one. I had never thought about driving any other car period. I assumed that I would always have the same car, and run it to the ground. I much preferred a practical car –a loyal car. And right then, I felt like the opposite of loyal.
“How about a Prius?” J suggested. “The Prius-C looks cute for you. Great mileage, and it’s compact.”
“A PRIUS?” I scoffed. “That dinosaur egg? It’s pretentious and annoying.”
“Fine. A Passat? A Corolla? A Civic Hybrid? A Honda Fit?” he countered. Too foreign-sounding. Too boring. Too expensive. Too boxy. I had different excuses to combat each car.
After several months of hemming and hawing on my end, he declared that by the middle of March, I will decide on my top three cars. End of story. He was no longer amused by my sentimentality (or stubbornness). When I shared with him my choices, he assured me that once I went and started test driving cars, I would feel better about the decision. That I might find something I liked. That I would be okay with moving on.
Of course, he was right.
During the last week of March, and after much haggling and expert game-playing on J’s end, I drove home in my new car. Later that weekend, we took the car out to test its legs on a mini-road trip to Napa. It was a fun and romantic trip, and I slowly realized that it would be the first of many trips that we would share in our new car. New trip, new memories. It will likely be the car that will carry our first family. The smell of leather is still fresh, the odometer is clocked at a clean slate, and the stories in the car are still untold and waiting to fill the space. It’s a road trip that I’m finally ready to take.