Today I crossed off a pretty big item off my 30 by 30 list. I bought my very first brand-new car. No financial help from my family and I did a ridiculous amount of research all on my own. Luckily, I had some good moral support and a great shopping companion. After three hours and very little haggling, I left with my new wheels.
What I did not get to take with me was my old car. I bought my 1998 Mazda Protege in 2002, just a few months after I moved to Baltimore. My roommate at the time spotted the ad in the City Paper and I paid for it with $4000 cash (my grandparents helped significantly). It wasn't perfect and it had a little cosmetic damage, but it was all mine. Clean title, no payments, passed inspection.
That car saw me through some of the biggest transitions of my life. Adjusting to the East Coast, starting and completing graduate school, making new sets of friends both in Maryland and New Jersey, going through several relationships, health drama for my grandmother, various jobs and internships. For the past 6 1/2 years, often the only constant has been my car. It never had an official nickname, but sometimes I called the car Lambert after my MD plates which started with the letters LAM.
Anthropomorphism aside, you can understand the tinge of sadness I felt in harvesting all the detritus from my old car. The Google Maps printouts to destinations foreign and familiar, the receipts from umpteen repairs and oil changes, the ice scraper I thought I'd lost, the EZ Pass and so much more were neatly tucked into a Ziploc bag for easy transport into my new car. Yesterday before work, I took pictures of all the bumper stickers I've collected and used to decorate the Mazda and to help it stand out in a crowded parking lot. Some, like the University of Arizona sticker will be easy to replace, while others, like my Hungarian EU sticker might be a bit harder to source.
My friend blames my separation anxiety on all those cartoons we watched as kids. The Brave Little Toaster effect she called it. Snicker if you want, but you know you've felt badly at times when you throw away your old coffee grinder or post your ancient digital camera on Craigslist or toss a once-loved sweater in the Goodwill pile.
And who gets that attached to a coffee mill?! This was a car and that poignant sense of loss and guilt at destroying an inanimate object really got to me today. But as tough as it was to say goodbye, I know that every time I turn on my new car and the check engine light doesn't glow, I'll feel a little better. And every time I take it in for a free oil change, a bit of the guilt will dissolve. And every time I can open the trunk without having to turn the car off, I'll feel pretty damn good.