Once upon a time, O Reader, hybrid cars were new and wonderful, the best of both worlds, a stylish way to reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum and thereby prevent wars and save the planet. If there were issues with the manufacture and disposal of the hybrid batteries, or the way the extra battery weight chewed up tires and suspension systems, no one got very excited. The cars got in the range of 50 miles per gallon and had these nifty dashboard screens that allowed you to track your mileage.
The most immediate drawback was how expensive they were, even the bare-bones models. I accepted that I’d never be able to afford one. And sighed. And kept driving my battered old Mazda Protégé. But fate had other ideas. A friend and her partner needed to liquidate various assets in order to study with their guru in India for a year, so I bought her year-old red Prius, a 2004. It came loaded with all kinds of extras I never would have selected for myself, like a sound system that played both CDs and cassette tapes, a GPS, and Bluetooth. I plastered the back bumper with bumper stickers, thereby making it mine.
Thus began a long and (mostly) happy adventure. I played a lot of music in that car. The CD changer held 6 disks, which turned out to be exactly right for listening to the extended version of the music to all 3 The Hobbit movies, which contributed in a major way to my sanity during the last Presidential election and its aftermath. The GPS helped me get un-lost countless times, especially after I figured out the reason it kept taking me the looooong scenic route was that the “Allow Freeways” option was off. I never used the Bluetooth.
My relationship with the exterior of the car was less harmonious. Suffice it to say that if you so much as tapped the bumper covers, they dented. I left the dent in the hood made by a deer that jumped out in front of me but didn’t kill me, as a reminder. But the years and miles rolled by, with roads trips to college reunions, family vacations, and so forth. When my younger daughter asked to borrow it for a series of interviews for residencies in family medicine, I handed over the keys.
A few days later, I got a message from her, saying that a warning light of the terrifying variety had appeared, the car was parked in a safe place nearby, but that she couldn’t get it started. After conferring with our friendly local walking-distance mechanic, my husband and I made our way to the poor Prius, AAA card in hand. Exploiting our special relationship, I was able to start it and drive it to the nearest hybrid specialist.
The news was not good. The hybrid battery, which was now 13 years old and which we expected to fail any time, was fine. The culprit was most likely the computer, which was located behind the dashboard, which would take YikesThatManyDollars to just open up and look at, and YikesEvenMoreDollars to repair if indeed that was the problem. And then we’d still be facing the demise of the hybrid battery and the pressing need for new front tires before the winter’s storms.
We took a deep breath and called the folks who cart your car away for charity. Here I am at the garage, saying goodbye.
Now we were down to my husband’s van, a 2002 Mazda MPV that has carted dogs in their crates, loads of garden tools, plants, lumber, lots of people on its 7 seats, and such like over the years. The door locks are cranky, it does have a functioning radio and single-CD player, and it gets less than 20 mpg. Fortunately, we don’t drive it a lot, but now we would be putting more miles on it. I embarked upon a courtship phase by buying a bunch of Andrea Boccelli CDs at the local thrift store and playing them to woo the van. The van purred at me in response.
I called my daughter to let her know the outcome with the Prius. Without missing a beat, she said, “Mom, remember the car you bought for me [when I started San Jose State]? I was going to sell it in May [when I graduate from medical school in CT]. I’ll drive it home and give it to you.” She went on to say it wasn’t in perfect condition but the engine had always run well. I wasn’t listening too carefully at that point. The universe in the form of my loving, generous daughter was giving us a car.
Interestingly, it’s one thing for us to have bought the car, a Toyota Corolla (great gas mileage, yay!) for her. I expected to do stuff like that as a parent, especially when it was important to enable her to commute “over the hill” and finish her four-year degree. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude, though, when the generosity goes the other way. Guess I’d better start getting used to it.
I wonder what kind of music the Corolla likes?