Is it weird to write a love letter to a car? Oh well.
Dear Lola the Corolla,
4 1/2 years ago, you came into my life freely, without expectation or guile. You were a surprise, a gift, an apology for all the years I had not been able to drive.
4 1/2 years, a lifetime of memories, experiences, and “firsts” in my early 20’s.
And yesterday, you retired. Not to a junk yard, thankfully. You probably have at least 100k left in your hearty soul. But my mom really needed you, so I gave you back to her. A surprise, a gift, an apology for all the years I hadn’t been able to take care of her.
I remember the day I drove you for the first time. It was a bitterly cold January day, but I didn’t care. I was warmed from head to toe by the freedom of the open road. Granted, that “open road” was actually the Prince George highway full of snow, ice and hidden craters. But as far as I was concerned, anything was possible now. Although you were almost 20 years old, you were immaculate. Your pure gold outsides were as clean as your insides; your standard shifter as smooth as Sinatra and your brakes as abrupt as Snape. I tried my hardest to keep you that way. But you see, I have no depth perception and I’m clumsy, awkward. I’m sorry. As a Thank You, I want to share some of my favourite memories.
My mom visited us again, and she decided that we should go for a drive to downtown PG. I was eager to show her how I’d learned to drive Lola with ease. But in a moment that could only be described as movie-perfect, I took a right turn down a street that neither one of us was aware was a one-way street.
When we saw 3 lanes of traffic rapidly heading toward us, we figured it out pretty quickly.
When I saw that a cop car with flashing lights was at the very front of one of those lanes of traffic, I knew I was about to get my first ticket. Damn.
He waved me into a parking lot; I started trembling and overheating. He was an older gentleman; he probably could have done time as a mall Santa with his white hair and near-jolly spirit.
“Clearly, you weren’t going the right way, eh?”
“No, sir. I didn’t even see a sign for a one-way street! I’m so sorry.” He looked at my license, saw that I was a learner, and traveling appropriately with an adult. He did a slow circle around my car (the worst!) and came back to my window.
“Are you aware that your L is missing?” (For those not Canadian, new drivers start out with a Learner’s, and it’s a red magnet that goes on the back of your car with a big L on it. When you graduate to Novice, you get a big green N magnet. Kids these days call them Losers and Nerds.)
In shock, I stepped out of Lola, ran to the back and sure enough! No Loser.
Tears started to clog my throat. “I HAD it this morning, I promise! Look, you can see the dust outline where it was!” I outlined the empty square with my hands for emphasis.
I *think* my cop was trying to hide a grin. “Well, at least let me see your companion’s driver’s license.” I sighed with relief. She was my mom, she would be able to set this whole thing straight somehow.
Mom riffled through her things for a moment. “Huh. I must have forgotten my wallet back at the house.”
My heart sank. Three strikes; I would definitely be out.
“I see.” The officer started writing furiously in his notepad. Minutes passed. I kept my head down, waiting for the verdict.
“Well, your ticket would probably be around $450. But today, you get to go home.”
My head snapped up in disbelief. “What?”
“Your mother can drive you home, just don’t get pulled over again. Get another L and watch out for those one-way streets. See you later.”
He leaned down into my window sternly. “Get outta here.”
Feeling like a prisoner on death row just given parole, I thanked him over and over. As we were leaving the parking lot, another car turned erroneously down the one-way street, and my cop just waved them on into my old “parking spot.”
To this day, we have never gotten a ticket.
I discovered how much cargo Lola could carry when my church had a Young Adults weekend retreat, and I was everyone’s “Friend With A Car.”
Lola seats 5 full-grown people almost comfortably. So once we loaded the trunk with 5 sleeping bags, 5 pillows, and 5 suitcases, we piled in. Oh, did I forget to mention that one of my friends was responsible for the food for everyone for the entire weekend? Let me rephrase: we loaded 5 sleeping bags, pillows and suitcases in the trunk, stuffed food in any cracks available, got in the car, and arranged food carefully around each one of us in a delicious pyramid, from head to toe.
When we drove up Connaught Hill, my friend with the *full license* had the pedal pressed to the floor and we went a slow but steady 50km/hr all the way up. I pretended we were the Flintstones and tried to make the car go faster by shuffling my feet because I’m a nerd.
Two days later, Lola brought everyone and everything home safely without so much as a hiccup.
Valentine’s Day 2012
At 8:30pm, instead of being out with someone special, I was working in the coffee shop up at the University. During my break, I checked Facebook and saw that my friend Kim had been in a horrible car accident just outside of Jasper, Alberta, nearly 5 hours away. Her car had been totalled but she was okay.
I started texting her. She had no money left and she was stranded in a bar. Jasper was a big enough tourist place to be expensive, but too small to have a Greyhound bus that didn’t arrive at an outside stop at 4am and then drive away at 4:03am.
The coffee shop was pretty dead (I mean, it was Valentine’s Day) so I texted my boss and asked if I could close up early for an emergency. She said yes, so I began to move like lightning. I had no idea what I was going to actually do, but I couldn’t leave Kim there. Even if she did have money for a bus, it wouldn’t come for another 7 hours and Jasper might as well be the Arctic at this time of year.
When I got home, I announced to my roommates that I would be taking an unexpected road trip. When they found out what had happened and what I was thinking, they all protested. It was after 9pm now; I wouldn’t get to Jasper until after 2am.
There’s a two hour stretch of highway that is literally abandoned wilderness. No gas stations, no houses, no cell service, nothing. Like, if you wanted to dump a body that would never be found, the road between McBride and Jasper is your safest bet. And I would be there in the middle of the night.
But they saw that I was determined to help Kim, so my roommate Alissa offered to go with me. We could take turns driving, and at the very least, not die alone. We would text our other roommates as often as we could, and pray like hell we weren’t making a huge mistake.
Thankfully, we found Kim, took her to the impound, helped her empty what was left of her car (I still feel sick in my stomach when I picture that car in my mind. It was NOT OKAY.), found the only gas station that was open to get some microwave food and energy drinks, and were back on the road at 3:30am. We made it home by 8am, crashed for a few hours, Kim got picked up by family, Alissa and I high-fived our success and went to work for 8 hours. Our good friend was alive, and so were we.
Best. Valentine’s Day. Ever.
Well, now, I say goodbye. Lola, you were the best car a newly legal immigrant with barely a license or experience could have needed. 80,000k in 4 1/2 years; there was nothing you couldn’t do.
And now, you get to rest. Occasionally cruise the open road. Be even more appreciated by someone with actual depth perception. I’ll see you again.
The only car I could be happy with after Lola, is one that is her sister by make & model, just 10 years newer and a little bit safer.
Meet Gandalf Moonshadow.