(Written on January 12, posted on January 16)
Today I drove my last mile in my 2001 Saab 9-3 SE. I hardly even thought about the fact that I won’t be in that car again. Just popped out of it at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, dropped the key in the floorboard, took my bag and coat and walked away. I didn’t even look back. No “thank you.” No final picture. It’s new owner will pick it up later today and will start making memories of her own in it.
Now before you set in to remind me that this is an inanimate object or how there are things in life that matter and then there are cars, know that I get that. But also know a few facts that may be driving such nostalgic sentiment.
- This is a car that has been in our family longer than any of my kids
- This car was our first car purchased as a married couple
- This was the car I drive my firstborn home in at about 10 MPH under the speed limit
- I left it just shy of 175,000 miles. I drove it roughly the last 125,000 miles of them
- It left me stranded three times – all three in epically high profile, high traffic locations – I am stronger for the mild embarrassment brought about by hearing your reference on a radio traffic report
- I spent 5 Charlotte summers in it without A/C – A/C is SOOO first world. I’m considering adding this to my resume.
I feel oddly defeated. I envisioned the Saab at a car shop and the mechanic telling me with head down, “I’m sorry, we’ve tried everything we can. I’m afraid there is nothing more we can do. I’ll leave you to have a few minutes alone with the Saaber Dobber.” I even gave serious consideration to dismantling the car and selling the valuable parts as a project for me and Will to do together. That is until we discovered there aren’t that many valuable parts in an old Saab. I envisioned it becoming Will’s car in three years. The perfect car because what friend of his would want to jump in his car when the choice of an air conditioned one awaited?
I feel nervous. I think about how easy that car made my life. No car washing. Very limited maintenance. No worries about door dings or distracted drivers hitting it. Leave the keys in it. The kids could not harm it. Basically just gas and the occasional oil change. Maybe a semi-annual vacuuming. Simple.
I’ll miss it. There, I said it. I’ll miss the simplicity of the numberless “clock.” Only the ‘AM’ or ‘PM’ showed on the display. The kids would ask for the time and would chime back with me “clearly it is morning” or “about PM”. I’ll miss the driver side “seater heater” that for no reason would randomly heat to a near pant-melting temperature for 20-30 seconds. I’ll miss seeing the check engine light daily and then when it wasn’t on one day wondering if it was the gas fill-up that did it. I’ll miss packing it full for camping trips and always being able to find a spot for one more thing – that car has some serious storage capacity. I’ll miss the quirky ignition in the center console.
Attachedness (yes, made that up) is interesting to me. I am not a hoarder so it doesn’t seem to be the idea of getting rid of something that makes me want to hold onto a car. It also wasn’t that this was ever a dream car – I took it over when Cindy needed kid transport space. I think it is the familiar mixed with the significantly reduced anxiety a car provides to me over time. While most worry about the maintenance and breakage factor, I like to focus more on the gifts an old car gives with time. Less cosmetic care. More utility. Even boldness in low-speed lane changes. At times fewer passengers. These “features” created more headspace for me. Can you really put a price on that? In short, attachedness brings me inner peace.
The Saab was a good car. Check that. It was a great car (regardless of what you may have heard on the contrary from my family). I’m not sure I’ll ever have another car for 15-16 years or 175k miles. Who am I kidding? Of course I will. This is just the time to start another streak! But let’s not share this new goal with my family. Definitely too soon.
You know what is better? Seeing this car will help a family more than it could have ever helped ours. Hoping this car is the exact thing to help get this family through a rough spot. Knowing this family will now have a great reason to pay it forward down the road.
Thanks Saaber Dobber. We had a good ride, didn’t we?