Cars are more than the sum of their parts. Intellectually, I know an automobile is an inanimate object lacking consciousness or any other human attribute; yet, this knowledge has not stopped me from naming cars and developing an emotional attachment to several of them over the years.
People who work at City Hall know that I’ve driven a 2004 Buick LeSabre for the past eight years and some have participated in the ridicule of the car, usually initiated by the city attorney. Despite this abuse, I really liked the Buick because it was paid for, was generally reliable, and it offered a comfortable ride. My daughter complained that it was an “old man’s” car, to which I responded “I am an old man.” Besides, my years as a city manager have taught me to tolerate an essentially unlimited amount of verbal abuse.
The Buick’s death this week came during a quick trip to Central Oregon where my wife and I were attending a memorial service for an old family friend. Somewhere near Sisters, I started hearing an unnerving noise that seemed to be coming from the engine. Loyal to the end, the Buick completed its final task by getting us to a car dealership in Bend before dying in the parking lot. We were left with some unpleasant choices, but eventually settled on buying a new car that would get us to the service, that was by then less than a couple of hours away. I believe we negotiated a fair deal for the new car that included $1,000 for the Buick, which I think was awarded out of pity.
My wife has decided she doesn’t like the new Ford Fusion, so I will be paying for the purchase in more ways than one. I plan to save some of the money I now have to spend on the car by riding my bike more in the year ahead. The Bicycle Commute Challenge starts September 1, and I hope to be able to ride every day this year. I’m hopeful that by driving the new car less my wife will drive it more and develop an attachment to it. This may sound irrational, but this is the first car I’ve ever owned that you can talk to and expect a response. If the car learns to talk about family history and grandchildren, it might even replace me in my wife’s affections. It does have a screen that will display pictures of the grandchildren on command.
Fortunately, the loss of the Buick corresponds to a growing bond with my bicycle. I purchased my Specialized about seven years ago from Marilyn Smith’s husband, Stan, and it has turned out to be a great commuter bike. It took me awhile to learn the importance of puncture resistant tubes; but since then, I have enjoyed many hours of reliable service. I’m looking forward to the upcoming BCA Challenge and hope other city employees will take advantage of the opportunity to bond with their bikes. They seem to be less fickle than cars.