The first few years Jilda and I were married, neither of us made minimum wage so our first car was an old Plymouth Valiant. It must have been white when it was new, but by the time I got the title, it was the color of old piano keys.
Even though it didn’t have air conditioning, it was a decent car and the odometer clicked off the miles like a slot machine. The mileage gauge finally stopped a year before the old workhorse died, so I’m not sure how many miles it had on it.
A few years into our marriage, I landed a paying job with MaBell and we bought our first new vehicle.
It was a Datsun pickup and it was the first air-conditioned vehicle we ever owned.
On the drive home we both giggled at the new-car smells. The aroma was a blend of dye in the carpet, and the interior components. It took a while to realize that we couldn’t smell old cigarette smoke in the seats.
Something else that was different was the whisper of the engine, and the clicking sound we heard when I flipped a switch. These are memories that settled in a good place in your mind.
The first few months we noticed the odometer when it flipped over the first 100 miles, then the first 1000. Soon things began to change when we got the first ding in the door at the grocery store, and I found myself going a few weeks longer between washings. Before I knew it, I’d spilled coffee on the console, started tossing candy wrappers in the floorboard and pulling peanuts from the crack in the seat when I was fishing for my seatbelt. Things get older.
That’s not always a bad thing because with age, comes good things too. You feel a comfort in the confines of your car. You learn just how far you can go when the gas gauge starts bumping the E. You know if the old beast has enough pep to get around a Sunday driver on a short two-lane straight away.
Your favorite CDs are all within reach and you can manage to find your favorite radio station with the punch of a button without taking your eye off the road.
But the best part is no car payments. I think a car actually rides better when there’s no bank toting the note.
Both of the cars we now own have been paid off for a number of years. We've learned to live with the quirks and smells that seem to change with the seasons.
We add a little oil every now and then, and I'm amazed at how good my truck looks when I hand wash it.
Our vehicles are almost like old friends. Jilda's Volvo, Ingrid is a 1996 with almost 300,000 miles, and we decided at the first of the year that she must be replaced (the car I mean), probably by summer. It was a difficult conversation because like an old friend, it will be hard to let that car go.
We’re looking for a newer vehicle that will take us into the next phase of our lives.
Jilda will retire within the next few years and we plan to hit the road, playing music and seeing the real America, which is only visible from the highway. It’s something we’ve dreamed about for most of our lives, and we’re finally getting to the age where it will happen. Like old cars, there are some benefits of getting older.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email: email@example.com