Monday, August 1, 2011

When is it time to let go of an old friend?

We spent every waking moment together, shared intimate secrets. She protected me from storms and coyotes. We picked up hitchhikers and old friends. And now, she won’t start for the second time in as many weeks. Maybe it’s her way of rebelling against becoming a commuter car. I understand her frustration. I hate being a commuter. Regardless of Little Red’s rationale, I was beginning to have a conversation with myself: At one point do I say goodbye? When does the car become more trouble than it’s worth? How many parts can you replace before the machine becomes mutant? Is it suffering?

It’s a funny feeling to watch your car be towed away. It suddenly becomes other; it appears as it is, as an object. All sentimentality gets thrown out the window. Or does it? In the past year, I’ve replaced the starter, a strut, the fans, the radiator, and the thermostat. Most recently, I had all the rubber hosing replaced because biodiesel mercilessly had eaten away at the car’s veins. I knew I should have replaced those rubber tubes with synthetic materials like Viton, but sometimes, shoulds don’t become dids.

“No more biodiesel!” my mechanic, Mike, said.

I smiled coyly. I wouldn’t give up biodiesel or my car for the world.

One week later and my car was back at the shop.

“Now, it won’t even turn over. Seems like the alternator,” I said sadly.

“That’s about the only thing we haven’t replaced on this thing,” Mike replied.

I left the shop and went to work, expecting a repair with a big price tag later that day. But an hour later, I got an unexpected call. The alternator was fine…but the wire connecting it to the battery had been chewed through.

“Did you know you have a rat living in your car?” Mike asked.

I thought it had moved out, or if not, that we had at least worked out a friendly don't-ask-don’t-tell policy. But noooo, it had to chew threw my alternator wire. What was next—the brake lines? How was I to maintain my pacifist stance under such duress?

I set out determined to buy mousetraps, but when I got to the big box store containing the traps, I was put off by the sheer number of mouse torture devices. You could catch them with glue traps, snap traps, maze traps, shock seemed like some Middle Ages Million Ways to Die episode. I carefully read the instructions, looking for the most "humane" method, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't do it. Not only could I not let go of a friend, I also could not rid myself of an enemy.

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Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
- Oscar Wilde


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