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.
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.
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.