Her once-proud clear coat was covered with a thick film of grayish grime that paints every car from November to March in the land of 1 million snowbanks. It was a frame now beaten and bruised by a decade of use facilitated by sub-zero winters that started early and lasted too long.
The love affair I had with this once perky SUV had faded. Its giddy-up had diminished to a “hurry up,” followed by a desperate plea of “don’t give up.” She knew my true affection had shifted to the “other” vehicle that had taken up residence just two feet to her right. It was bigger. Newer. Smelled better. And had that arrogant glow associated with the “preferred” car. She had been reduced to the commuting car. It was the circle of life for a vehicle. Eventually, she’d find herself at a dealership where a shrewd sales manager would plop his butt into her once perfect cockpit and proceed to rattle off a half dozen reasons why she would likely be relegated to the auto auction, not even deserving of a space on his lot.
But she wasn’t headed for the graveyard yet. Today, I still needed her. As I pushed the ignition button, she moaned like a dying horse as her heart was coaxed into beating once again. It was the 10th straight day where the temperature had not risen above 0 and she was not amused.
She protested as she’s done before, by scrambling the car radio. Every pre-set station had been erased, presumably because there was barely enough battery power to maintain the memory. I was more convinced she was using another tactic to prevent me from venturing out in what could only be described as another dystopian day in the northland.
She tries to thwart my departure yet again when an amber warning light illuminates the dashboard. Could be any one of 100 different issues, but a quick scroll through the troubleshooting options on the dash monitor suggests she’s in sabotage mode again. Three of the four tires do not have sufficient air pressure for the car to be driven safely. “I keep you in a protected garage and this is the thanks I get,” I thought to myself. “Lucky you are paid off, my dear.”
With a huff of breath that lingers before my face, I vacate the cabin to grab a portable air compressor from the garage storage shelf. My ankles feel foreign as if borrowed from a centenarian with poor circulation. Each step across the concrete floor suggests a snap of my rigid bones is possible. But they do not. So I fill the tires, defeating my devious car again.
The commute to work usually lasts no more than 15 minutes. But when there is any type of snow on the landscape, especially fresh snow or ice, drive time doubles.
At one point this past winter, it rained during the day, and then it all froze at night. Mother Nature then camouflaged it with a dusting of snow, almost as if she were embarrassed by her handiwork. I had just managed to back out of my garage when the car, brakes fully deployed, skidded 40 feet down the driveway. Thankfully, not a soul was afoot or in their cars as I sledded into the street, stopping just short of my neighbor’s yard. With each squibbing anti-lock of the brakes against the ice, my car seemed to be giggling. She’s a devilish one and not adverse to putting my life in danger to get her way.
But I’m in charge, so I scold her under my breath, then tell her it was partially my fault for not being more aware of the ice. She giggles again, I think.
This ride-in is uneventful. She seems to take notice of all the other commuter vehicles on the roadway, some with dents, others with rusting age spots on their hips. All of them share the same salty grime that covered her body. Her final retaliation was refusing to allow the heater to pump anything but cold air out of the vents, a desperate act by a desperate vehicle. I’ve grown accustomed to her pranks.
But journey now completed I crawl into my familiar parking spot at work. She exerts one last act of defiance by exhaling a ghoulish whine, finally sharing the warmth of her engine with the heating vents of the cabin, now that it was no longer needed. Oh, the games she plays.
I release her service by hitting the kill switch. She falls silent as her fans stop spinning, her dash goes blank and a puff of white smoke drifts out of her tailpipes. One day she won’t be resurrected by me. We both know it.
Until then I’m a slave to her shenanigans and the death grip of winters ahead.
Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota.