Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Car Is Haunted And/Or Upset With Me

I got my car years ago. Returning home from school one summer, I realized I would need to be able to get to my seasonal job across town somehow, and I had needlessly sold my dependable Subaru station wagon the year before, when I graduated high school. Now it's a ten-year-old Pontiac Sunfire that's held up well enough to still be running, even with its 150,000+ miles (I'm actually unsure about the mileage, precisely -- the light in the odometer stopped working long ago).

But lately it's been acting up. First, about a month ago, someone stole the front and rear license plates. Then, not a week later, I go to it one night and discover that the front passenger's side window is completely rolled down, and everything from my glovebox is on the seat. Nothing is missing -- not my CDs, radio nor outdated maps -- and nothing is broken. Both doors are locked. And there are leaves inside. It's as if someone was just playing a prank on me.

Personally, I think my car is angry. I take poor care of it, never wash it and hardly ever treat is as an object deserving of care. Someone broke in three years ago, and shards of the shattered glass still lie on the carpet and in the creases of the seats. The dashboard is covered with dog hair from when I lived back in Chicago. Over Thanksgiving I learned that I should be giving it an oil change every three months or 3,000 miles. It had been more than a year and a half, including a cross-country move, before I had had one last.

So, to please my car, I took her in for an oil change this week. And a tire rotation, too, because that was included in the $25.99 coupon I conveniently got in the mail from my local Midas affiliate. Afterwards, my car felt the same. No smoother running, no quicker get-go. Just a car. More a tool than a machine, really. And one unchanged by the slightest show of affection.

Every summer I intend to wash her, in the 1980s, Tom Cruise and cutoff jeans style. I never have. Kind of I feel bad that I treat it so callously. It is dinged and dented and running on old parts, still tired and cranky.

But I have not yet had any more encounters with my car's trickery. It has been smooth sailing, so to speak, and I intend to keep it that way. I assumed that when my car died, since it is worth so little and proves to be a hassle in the city as often as it is useful, that I would just abandon it. But now I feel guilty. I feel like it knows that I have no affection for it, and so is forcing itself on me. Like a Twilight Zone episode, but much more innocuous.

Except for the oil change, it hasn't affected my behavior. But maybe I'll not wait for a year and a half next time.

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