It started with an angry metallic buzz, like the sound of an ill-mannered cicada. Over time it got worse.
I wasn’t concerned because disturbing sounds are often engineered into critical components. The designers do this to draw your attention to failing parts. It’s their way of saying, “hey buddy, start saving because this one is going to cost you.”
So I started saving.
A week later something went clunk when I bounced over a speed-bump. Again I didn’t worry. I usually don’t mind clunks – but this one emanated from a region not associated with clunks.
Next came a wobble or was it a lurch? I will let you decide. Name the sensation you get while running on wet grass in a loose pair of shoes.
Whatever you call it, a flutter, a flounder, a wiggle, a waggle, a wobble or a weave, it is still not something you want to experience while taking a curve at 65 mph.
Finally all of these woes: buzz, clunk, flutter, flounder, wiggle, waggle, wobble and weave, united into one unholy harmony – the kind of tune that only VISA would enjoy.
This was going to set me back.
I figured the buzz would cost $500 at minimum. I pegged the clunk at a cool $1,000. A wobble or a weave tops $1,200 easy. After adding it all up, the bottom line was a sum too close to the trade-in value of my Civic to not simply trade it in.
Which is what I did. I got a new car.
My wife got excited. The receptionist at the car lot got excited. The sales rep got excited. Her manager got excited. The finance guy got excited. Everyone got excited but me because new things and especially new cars do not excite me.
Sure… New cars are clean, shiny and flawless. They are as fresh and full of promise as a clean sheet of paper. But I am suspicious of promises, especially new ones. In the past, other new things have promised me that life would always be fresh, clean, shiny and flawless – for all time.
Life is never so kind.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not stuck on old things. It is just that old things have a history to know them by whereas new things only offer promises.
Take my old Civic.
The front bumper wears a permanent snarl from the time I clipped a deer – but during those frantic moments that car took me safely into and out of a ditch.
The right rear quarter panel was crumpled when a drunk ran a stop-sign but again the Civic saved me.
Coffee stains the carpets and bagel crumbs fill the cracks in the seats like grout. A lot of me and my family remains in that car, but now its history belongs to someone else and they will live with our ghosts until time sets them free.
The Civic and I had a few last moment together.
The two cars, old and new, rested side by side in the parking lot while the sales rep and I exchanged keys. I thought of saying good-bye but with the rep as excited as she was, I thought better of it.
That Civic looked so sad, so worn, so tired, so abandoned.
I wanted to tell it not to worry. I wanted to reassure it that everything would be okay but I thought better of it. I know that car too well and I know it is just as untrusting of promises as I.