Sunday, May 29, 2011

Guilt and Nostalgia

I think I've mentally prepared myself -- to the point of actually being excited -- about buying a new car.

Aside from the mechanical issues (a questionable oil problem, a "Check Coolant" light that's been on since I left Springfield Missouri on June 16th, 2005 -- driving Northeast from Southern California to my then-new job and unknown future in Cleveland, shocks and struts that are probably nearly 100,000 miles past their use-by date, a cassette deck (yes, cassette -- used for iPod playback) that's no longer functional [it stopped working one frigid night in the Cleveland Play House parking lot, I can only assume that a belt snapped], some frightening noises at high(er) speeds and in all honesty probably being time for a new set of front tires -- and I'm not sure how much life the breaks have left) I just think 12-13 years for a car that was bought new is probably a good run.

Yes, my 1998 Mercury tracer, purchased with 64 miles, now with 181,352 miles, has been a reasonably good car -- there was the serpentine belt about a year ago, a couple batteries, an alternator, a set of breaks (yes, only one), tie rod ends and more tires and oil changes than I care to remember -- and I'm conflicted as to what to do with it. It only left me truly stranded once (twice if you include the serpentine belt, but I think I could have driven it to safety if I had to)

On one hand, the most logical approach is probably trade it in -- even though the trade in value is (literally) "no value" -- because, practically, what use do I have for a second car and the hassles of insuring and registering it?

On the other hand, I feel a bit guilty turning my back on my first car -- a car that's been as loyal as an object can be (I wonder of Disney/Pixar films like Cars and the Toy Story trilogy have ruined me in this way). I may have promised it that it would see the Atlantic Ocean before I traded it in (or I might have just implied it). Since it's been from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border, from the Pacific Ocean to Cleveland I had often thought about a weekend trip to New England to cross a few of those states off my list -- and get the car to the Eastern border of our country -- before I moved on to a new car.

But honestly -- running through the list of issues mentally -- I'm afraid I might be pushing my luck, and being stranded along the way doesn't excite me, but I don't want to spend any money just for that purpose.

Who knows I'd be so conflicted about an inanimate object?

Cleaning it out today just in case I do decide to go the trade in route, I found all kinds of memories, particularly between the back seats -- long forgotten fur from my childhood Golden Retriever, Goldy (creative name, right?), who passed away just before I moved to Cleveland -- business cards from people encountered along the way. A gas receipt from a 2005 road trip to Seattle (gas was $1.73 just before Christmas at the Seatac airport Shell). Some ticket stubs. It occurred to me that objects are more important to me than photos in remembering an event. As I looked over each document I remembered the associated events. Sigh.

Maybe that's part of the reason I'm feeling so conflicted about the car -- it's my first car. It figures prominently in so many of my memories, from driving it from the dealer to the home I grew up in, to transporting my first (and only) pet, high school, moving to Cleveland, road trips along the way...A horrendous downpour on I-94 in Michigan while I drove to Grand Rapids for work, etc., etc.

I test drive the 2011 Honda Accord Coupe tomorrow, and if everything goes well I'll be buying that car tomorrow to lock in the rate, and taking delivery when I get back from Kansas City. But I still can't convince myself what to do with the Tracer. Maybe I hold on to it for a few months and then sell/donate it? But do I want to deal with that hassle?


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