When I returned home from work a few weeks ago, I broke into a wide grin at the happy sight of a familiar Mazda Protégé in the parking lot. She’s a scientific wonder affectionately known as The Maz; 24 years old, baby blue (in places), boasting all of her 406,000 kilometers with every inch of her peeling, rusting, dented and pockmarked body. She’d just spent nearly a month at the shop before coming home to us, her engine once again purring like a kitten. “It’s not worth it,” the auto shop had told my husband, Jon. “Why don’t you just go buy a used Corolla instead?” O ye of little faith.
That’s the first major repair she’s had in twelve years. We figured if we put $700 under the hood and she ran another year, it would be worth every cent. We ended up paying significantly less than that, yet Jon swears there are all sorts of new parts inside that weren’t on the bill. There are only two possible explanations: 1. Nephites, or 2. The shop turned the repair into some sort of team building exercise. Synergy!
Some old cars are cool. Not so The Maz! We don’t drive her because she’s old enough to be awesomely vintage (she’s not), or because it’s funny and cultish, like driving an El Camino or wood-paneled AMC Eagle. We drive her because my husband bought her, and she still runs, and otherwise we would have to go buy something else.
I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d up and died years ago, but she keeps going with very little coaxing. Just in the time we’ve had her she’s lived in Rexburg, Idaho, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson, and Phoenix, all with no air conditioning. But hey, you can’t argue with 40 miles to the gallon, even if it is just because she only weighs like 500 pounds and you’d die instantly in a fender bender. Plus, if we can keep all her bits and pieces together til next year she’ll be considered a Historic Vehicle and is no longer subject to emissions testing. There’s even an elite Historic Vehicle license plate option! I must have it. ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR!
But maybe Jon and I are taking the “don’t go into debt for anything other than education and a house” advice a little too far, for she is not a pretty sight. My grandpa once gifted us one of his treasured coupons for a free car wash and shoved us out the door. When we returned, he sat at the window puzzling and puzzling over why the car looked the exact same as it had before we left. That was almost 10 years ago, and time has not been kind to her. Cosmetically, she’s begun deteriorating at what seems to be an exponential rate. My pride got the best of me last winter when I refused to continue driving her to work even though our other car costs at least twice as much for my commute. Someone left a note under a wiper blade last summer; at first I thought it must be a visual pollution complaint from a neighbor, but it was actually a guy named Anthony expressing his interest in buying her. Jon and I doubled over in laughter, but then I started thinking about the life circumstances that might lead Anthony to that desperate act and it made me sad.
Yet despite her shortcomings – her age, lack of air conditioning in 115 degree weather, the fact that all of her insides are essentially fused together by heat and rust and time so that tinkering with one piece almost always leads to the subsequent disintegration of many other pieces – we’re quite fond of her. The day Jon went to pick her up was a bit nerve-racking. The auto shop had just finished remodeling their administrative office and hadn’t kept in touch very well during the process; we weren’t exactly sure if Jon was going to be driving her home in triumphant glory, or calling a scrap metal company. The question was answered for me in spectacular fashion when I received the following text:
“She lives, she lives who once was dead!”