In Memoriam: Old Red (1991 - 2016)
Since I was young, I've had a bad habit of assigning feelings to inanimate objects, so losing my car of more than 16 years was tough last month. My father bought me what would later be called "Old Red" on November 27, 1999, and children born on that date are now learning to drive. Together, my 1992 Honda Accord and I endured through no fewer than four breakups, three U.S. presidents, two state license plates and one sobriety test...which I aced by the way.
Old Red had served me incredibly well over the years, but there were signs he was rolling through his final miles. On my birthday last November, I thought I was lucky when another driver gave me his leftover time at a gas-station car wash, but the water froze on Old Red that evening, causing me to rip off his front door handle. The point of no return financially came when his timing belt went for the second time as I left band practice on March 13.
Retrieving my belongings from Old Red before he was left to be junked was an embarrassingly emotional experience. This was partly because much of my past was still lingering around, particularly in the glovebox.
While I never drove and drank at exactly the same time – and my taste in beer has vastly improved since high school and college – these bottle caps were stuck in the back of my glovebox and brought back a lot of memories. When my father first discovered I was hiding beer in Old Red, he told me, "don't leave that beer in the trunk...it will go bad."
Speaking of my father, he is certainly the reason my car lasted as long as it did. During my years in Massachusetts, he maintained a meticulous inspection and checkup schedule for Old Red, and if an issue fell within his impressive vehicle knowledge, he would order the part and install it himself. He kept every invoice and receipt in the glovebox, a protocol I followed in Wyoming even as the maintenance became more – let's say – intermittent.
And don't think that my mother didn't leave her mark on my car. As a devout Catholic (and the most amazing mom and friend's mom ever), she would sneak these trinkets of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, into Old Red for my protection. I would have preferred that the first person on the scene of my accident call a paramedic instead of a priest, but who knows, maybe the medallion kept us safe.
When I was 18 (and looked like I was 12), I decided it would be a good idea to go to bartending school. No one would hire me afterward – except for this Indian restaurant, which tried to make me their bartender, host and waiter simultaneously. I quit in less than two weeks, but apparently decided to keep their business card in my car.
My good college friend somewhat jokingly bought me these sardines as a gift in the early years after our graduation. Not wanting them to go to waste, I put them in my glovebox in case of an apocalypse. Unfortunately, they expired before my car did, so I'll need other nutrients when we 'Make America Nonexistent Again.'
I don't remember how I acquired this self-help passage. Maybe a well-meaning friend or family member left it in my car, or maybe it is from the psychologist I saw for two weeks after a breakup and 9/11 gave me a wicked one-two punch. There's got to be a sweet spot between love and infatuation, right? Does the thought of "constant, unfelt touch" freak anyone else out?
Perhaps my best memories of Old Red are the three cross-country trips we took between North Andover, Massachusetts and Jackson, Wyoming. He quietly rode on the highways as I listened to my favorite albums and enjoyed some very necessary alone time. Everything that led me to the best six years of my life in Jackson Hole was a part of that car. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself as an excuse for crying as I said goodbye.