Saying Goodbye

On a sultry summer afternoon, I said goodbye to my first car.

It was a light gray 1990 Ford Taurus, and I took possession of it in 2003. At that point, the Taurus was already in its advanced age (110,000 miles!). I responded to a Usenet classified ad posted by a Chinese graduate student who was going back to his country after graduation. I just got my first real job at that time. When I saw the $500 offer, I decided to go for it.

Well, it was a piece of junk. But I loved it, used it, and abused it for almost three years. It had a tape deck so I could use all of my old mixed tapes there. It was perfect for running errands around town but not capable of long hauls. I didn’t mind. It also worked as a community service vehicle. Three of my friends learned driving and got their licenses using this car.

By IFCAR, Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2826631. I couldn’t find a picture of my old car, but it looked very similar.

I still remembered the day when I drove the car from the parking lot near the Graduate Student Housing Complex to my apartment. It was a short ride, but I was excited to drive my first car.

But it didn’t have a bumper — when I got the car from the Chinese student, the front bumper was missing. I was hoping he would knock off a few hundred from the asking price. But he didn’t. So the next day, I drove to the junkyard and got a bumper for $20. That was just the beginning of the extra expenses I had to bear as the new owner. A few months later, I had to change the brake pads. Another day, the engine heated up with smoke coming out of it while I was driving. There were small things here and there almost every other month. I found a Russian mechanic who got to know this car well.

After getting sick of the frequent visits to the Russian, I decided to look for a new car. Not in the classifieds section to find a foreign graduate student, but I went to a place that sells Japanese vehicles.

The straw that broke the Taurus’s back is when one day while I was visiting a friend — in that very housing complex where I first saw the car — it just stopped on its tracks. I made it home with the help of my friend, and a week later, I bought my new shiny Toyota Scion with 5.5% financing. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a tape deck but came with an iPod connector. I have 200 mixed tapes and no iPod.

I tried not to think about the Taurus too much as I was enjoying my new car. It stood motionless in the parking lot. And eventually, the University parking department sent me a notice as that particular lot was intended for the residents of the complex.

So I called the junkyard, where I got the bumper three years ago. I described the car and told them about the location. They would come and pick it up in a few days and send me a $125 check. With all the driving I did and the community service it provided, I thought this was a good deal.

I even got a vanity license plate! (it was cheaper if you add a number). “Khepa” (খেপা) in colloquial Bangla means crazy but had deeper meaning regarding the perplexity of the world around us.

The day before they would pick up the car and take it to demolish it into bits and pieces, I stopped by the parking lot to say few parting words. I took off the license plate, which I still have. I found some candy wrappers inside the car, which I threw out. I also found a Christmas Reggae tape, which I bought from a garage sale. Then I closed the doors, gave it a gentle pat on the hood, and I walked towards my new car, and drove away without looking back.

Data Architect@Distributed System of Scientific Collections (https://dissco.eu). PhD in Sociology. Bachelor's in Math and CS from the University of Illinois.

Data Architect@Distributed System of Scientific Collections (https://dissco.eu). PhD in Sociology. Bachelor's in Math and CS from the University of Illinois.