Thursday, July 19, 2012

The death of a Trooper

Bang the drum slowly.
My beloved 1994 Isuzu Trooper died suddenly--once and for all--just a few days before the Fourth of July. I was hoping it was nothing serious, but, the prognosis was not good and my old-car repair budget is small. So I pulled the plug on the trusty, rusty machine.
I spent a last few minutes with the big green beast the other day, pulling a wild mix of stuff from the back storage area and glove compartment, including a decade's worth of registration forms, oil-change receipts, two sets of jumper cables, a tow chain, miscellaneous tools and musical equipment, and three big bags of old clothes I've been meaning to take to Goodwill since that time I cleaned out my closet back in my senior year of high school.
Then, without a look back, I walked away from the old car.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not getting all sentimental and sappy about a car. But, I've gotta admit, I'm gonna miss it. Throughout its life as our family vehicle, and even since it made the ignominious transition from the "good" car to "my" car, it has served us well, hauling us just about anywhere we wanted to go in all kinds of weather, and starting virtually every time I asked it to, right up until to the morning when it wouldn't start at all. Even then, I guess I should be grateful it decided to die at home, and not on some out-of-the-way country road or in the breakdown lane of a crowded interstate highway.
It's been nearly fifteen years and more than a quarter million miles since we bought the new-to-us SUV at the anxious urging of our younger son, who was then a sophomore in high school and a newly minted driver. Looking back, I realize he was desperate to get behind the wheel of something besides the baby blue mini-van that then represented the top end of our family fleet.
I can't say I blamed him. I was, too.
While the Trooper was generally a model of dependability and performance throughout most of its lengthy career, readers of this column may remember that it--like many of us--did develop some quirks during its golden years. Specifically, it began to shed certain functions that it, apparently, considered nonessential to efficient operation, including the radio, interior lights and the air conditioning except when traveling downhill. Most peculiar, though, was when the otherwise good-hearted vehicle got a little testy and developed a dangling left front door that had to be held shut with a complex combination of straps and bungee cords, lest it fly open and eject an unsuspecting driver into the oncoming traffic flow.
I'm probably going to have to look for another car eventually, but there's really no big hurry. Our Carolina son and wife are starting to wonder when we're going to return the grandchildren we borrowed over a week ago, so we'll be on the road for a while fairly soon. And even when we're around, we seem more and more able to share a car, thanks to schedules that are more flexible than they used to be.
"It'll be like when we were first married," she said, remembering the days when a one-car status was a financial necessity.
"I hope not," I muttered, as I recalled all the times she forgot to pick me up at work.
But I think the main reason I'm in no hurry to get out there and haunt the used-car lots is that there really aren't that many vehicles out there that I'm especially interested in owning. At least, not that I can afford.
So, I'll keep my eyes open.
Maybe I'll find another Trooper. Or maybe it's time for that red convertible. Or a baby-blue mini-van.
In the meantime, if you see me standing on the street in front of my house with a confused look on my face, don't worry too much.
It's going to take some time to remember it's gone.

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