My first car was a 1991 maroon Toyota Corolla station wagon, seven years old with 170,000 miles. It had been my mother's mail route car. It had a bumper sticker on it that said, "If you've got a mailbox, we'll find it." It was a good car, but all that through-wind-and-rain-and-sleet stuff can be hard on a machine. About two weeks before my sixteenth birthday, my dad swerved to avoid a car that was pulling out in front of him and took out some mailboxes, which left a big dent in the back door. I fixed it by never using that door.
The next spring, I played Peppermint Patty in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." We made cartoony flowers for the set out of colored foam and pipe cleaners. After the show ended, I stole a foam flower and hung it from the rear-view mirror of the car. Thus she was christened the Pattywagon.
She took me to school and back, to youth group and back, and on all those little afternoon jaunts that were my first taste of freedom at sixteen years old and 97 cents a gallon. Compared to the mail route, Patty's second life was easy street, but by the time I was about to graduate from high school, she had come to be too unreliable for my college-bound needs, my upcoming second life. My parents had been saving for my education, but when I got scholarships to pay for it, they offered to either take me on an overseas trip or buy me a car. I picked the car. We went up to Toyota of Boone and picked out a teal Corolla with gray interior. It had power nothing, but my parents did let me add on a CD player. They got a $1000 rebate for being loyal Toyota customers.
The Pattywagon entered her third life at a rural car auction, where she went for $300 (nine years old, 190,000 miles). The new owner was a young couple who needed a beater car for the wife to tool around in. I still have the flower.
The first time I drove Gypsy, my replacement Corolla, was to my high school baccalaureate. My friend Wesley, who was really into cars, after sticking his face into the trunk and inhaling deeply, announced that she was less than a month old. Which was cool, I guess, or maybe just really weird. The point was, she was new.
In my own way, I drove her through wind and rain and sleet. There were also at least three blizzards. My college roommate Nick, a mechanic, used to tell me that I should put a Celica engine in her, but I guess we have different ideas of cars. He wants them to go fast, but I just want them to go. Just get me there, it's your job. Cars are all, by nature, very hard workers.
She did not come to be named Gypsy until I'd had her for six years and was well into my third life. By then, she had taken me up and down the mountains, killed a deer, and been my companion on weekly trips to the arms of my long-distance boyfriend, at $3 a gallon. The interior handle on one of the back doors broke, and I fixed it by never using that door. There were dents, there were scratches, there was a hole in the ceiling fabric and a barbecue sauce stain in the seat. She died sitting in traffic, after eight years and 160,000 miles.
I bought a new red Honda Fit. She has seen one blizzard and at various times has transported a sarcophagus, a table, and a bass amplifier cabinet. She is, as yet, unnamed. These things take time.
I called in a favor from Nick, who now worked in a junkyard and had access to parts. He fixed Gypsy for the price of dinner. I sold Gypsy to Josh for $1000, though we never transferred the title. He drove her back and forth to the restaurant, back and forth to band practice. Once, I don't even know how, he managed to transport the sarcophagus in her.
Sunday night, I picked Josh up from a random church parking lot, where he had coaxed Gypsy in to get her out of traffic. She wasn't very interested in accelerating anymore. AAA towed her to a garage, where they told me it would be $1100 just to get her running again. Then, once I had saved up a little more money, I could fix all the other problems that they weren't even telling me about. Also, she needed new tires. Eleven years old, 187,000 miles. We decided to let her go.
Until Josh buys another car, we are sharing the Fit. It's inconvenient and a hassle, but it's fine, because the Fit is a very hard worker.
I sent an email to my mechanic, asking about the best resources for buying a new old car. He answered, but wanted to know what was going to happen to Gypsy. We were planning on donating her, but he immediately offered $200 for her without asking what was wrong with her. He wanted to fix her and drive her around. It seemed appropriate that the person who had revived Gypsy into her second life would own her in her third. Maybe he'd put a Celica engine in her, though there ain't nothing wrong with the engine that she has.
For the past few days, Josh has spent his off-duty hours looking at the cars on CraigsList; he IMs some to me at work. Some of these ads are not serious leads - ancient Army jeeps, a 1974 Jaguar that is only $800 but doesn't run (but is beautiful). And then intermixed with all these ridiculous cars he would buy if he had the money and the space are a series of old Japanese sedans and wagons, looking to enter into their second or third (or fourth) lives. I wonder what he will name it.