A few days ago I bought a new car, a nice little Honda Civic hatchback with a few fancy bells and whistles: low mileage, intact body work, and no strange “popping” sound when you crank the wheel to the left.
All-in-all it’s a good car, and a boon to my personal equity. Furthermore, as an adult I don’t feel embarrassed driving it around town. And yet I feel like I’ve lost something forever.
You see, the new car (the one that runs smoothly) is replacing my old car (the one I love), a 1993 Toyota Corolla 4 X 4 station wagon. Three years ago I bought it from my mom for a bottle of wine and since then it has been my constant companion.
Here’s a list (by no means exhaustive) of things that are “wrong” with the old ’93:
Its left headlight has burnt out, large dents in the body allow dust to billow into the cabin, it’s rusting, the clutch is jerky, the locks don’t work, a litany of strange noises emerge from the undercarriage at unpredictable intervals, the ignition is sticky, the heater is on the fritz, and the melody of its unmuffled engine sings of my arrival from two and a half city blocks away (arguably an advantage).
And yet, if you need to taxi friends to the top of Haeckel Hill, there is no better vehicle for the job. My new car has only minimal clearance — I’ll have to drive gingerly — but the old ‘93 could navigate nearly any obstacle with a simple strategy: give ‘er more gas.
Now, the literalist in me knows this is nothing more than a story of a young man buying a new vehicle, but the literary critic in me can’t help but focus on a deeper metaphorical significance.
“Give ‘er more gas,” is not just a driving strategy, it’s a way of life — my way of life. Or at least it was.
For most of my twenties, life obstacles could be bested by lowering the pedal to the floor and giving more.
Have a term paper due tomorrow? Brew a pot of coffee and stay up all night. Not full enough? Order another pound of chicken wings. Lost? Find the nearest pub and regroup.
The strategy is long on bluster and short on long-term planning, with little regard for obstacles appearing on the periphery. But by-and-large it got me through my post high-school decade unscathed.
Now I’m 31 and I’ve noticed things changing. All-nighters leave me feeling worse than a jar of farts, chicken wings make me fat, and finding the nearest pub never improves my sense of direction.
A few weeks ago, I was picking my mom up from the airport and running a bit behind, so I broke into a jog, heading towards the terminal. I tripped and ended up leaving my DNA all over the pavement. My mother was horrified, and to this day I still have scabs on my arms. “Givin’ er more gas” was the wrong decision.
So here is my new life strategy: “Slow down and look both ways.”
But I’m not adopting this mantra without regrets. Part of me hates the idea of living a life where common sense trumps enthusiasm, cocktail parties trump keggers, and All-Bran trumps Fruit Loops.
Getting rid of the old ’93 and replacing it with the reliable Civic is just one more drop of water in the tide of responsibility that is rising up to drown me.
But it’s not over just yet. The Toyota still has a full load of 87 octane, so I’ve got one week to “give ‘er more gas.”
Haeckel Hill, anyone?
Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon