Trusty Steed

For the suburban cowboy, his car is his trusty steed, and getting a car in Plano, TX was a right of passage. Almost a year ago, after a decade of faithful service, my trusty stead, a ’98 BMW Z3 named Lola, breathed her final breath and died on the 101 just north of Whipple Road.

I towed Lola into Holland Car Care – the best German auto shop I’ve ever worked with. They said they couldn’t do much for her. She was worth $6,000, and it would take perhaps $5,000 to repair her. I said my goodbyes, and ended-up taking my dad’s car, which I drove all the way from Houston back to San Francisco last Christmas Day. The trip actually took a grueling 3 days to complete. You drive a whole day, and don’t even get out of Texas – that’s how much bigger things are in Texas. I spent the night at a motel in El Paso, working on Nina’s b-school application essays.


Once I had Dad’s car, I just left Lola at home, and with the workload at Kno, and then job hunting, and then learning the ropes at BookRenter, I never quite got around to figuring out how to sell a Z3 that doesn’t run, or even what she might be worth. So prone she sat, for almost a year, until finally my dad decided he wanted to revive her, and damn the expense. It seemed ludicrous, to spend that kind of money repairing her. But then we were both suckers for a red convertible.


On the morning of November 16th, while pulling-out of a parallel parking spot in Aisha’s Mitsubishi Lancer, I got in an accident. The windows were foggy and I didn’t see the car coming in the side view mirror. The Infiniti G35 must have been going way over the speed limit judging by the damage that was done to both cars. Both cars were totaled. I don’t know how such a small mistake could have such big repercussions. But there it is: the biggest disruptions come when something we take entirely for granted stops working for just a second. The glass would have defogged in another 2 minutes. The glass on my own car might not have fogged-over quite-so-much. But on that morning, I rolled down the window, defogged the side view mirror, rolled-up the window, and started driving without waiting for the window-itself to defrost.


That really ruined my morning. I spent the next few hours calling AAA, figuring out what to do with the car until Geico could come out, calling Geico, calling Aisha, calling AAA again to get the car towed to a body-shop who would hold the car for free while Geico processed things, and called Geico again and again to figure out whether my collision coverage would cover Aisha’s car which only had liability. My deep fear was that her liability coverage would make the G35 whole again, but Aisha herself would be left without a car and without the car’s worth if totaled. Finally, as the tow truck driver was hoisting her Lancer onto the flatbed, I decided to take the opportunity to finally get the Z3 fixed. So that morning, Aisha’s car left on one tow-truck toward its deathbed, and my Z3 left on another tow-truck toward the operating table.


That was two weeks ago. Two weeks of calls with Geico to make sure my collision coverage would pay for her car, and for us to ascertain that her car was indeed totaled. Two weeks of feeling guilty about making her life harder, and destroying her. Even though she’s getting a check, I can’t help thinking that the money is nice but she’ll never truly be whole again. Because we love our first cars – our trusty steeds – in a way that is unique – and they are irreplaceable.


This morning, I saw an accident at Whipple Road. And just as I was passing it, I got a call from Holland Car Care, saying they had brought my Lola back to life. Around the same time, Aisha was getting a call saying that were officially totaling her car and cutting her a check. And that she needed to come down, claim any personal items left in the car, and sign some paperwork.


She took the train up from Mountain View to San Mateo where I picked her up, and then drove-over to Holland Car Care. She dropped me off so that I could drive Lola home tonight. I took the keys, and sat down behind that wheel that felt so familiar and yet unfamiliar. The angle of the key into the ignition was different and I missed it. The seats were too low. This was no longer “my” trusty steed. Then I smelled the same leathery smell that I remembered. And I remembered driving down Willow Bend Road in Plano Texas at night with the convertible top down. I remembered driving down passed Deion Sanders’ house, with Seema Gupta in the passenger seat, and standing up while driving, like a genuine suburban cowboy about to lasso a steer. (Note: Seema is not the steer in this metaphor).


After dropping me at Holland Car Care, Aisha headed off to Mountain View Auto Body, and signed her Lancer over to Geico. Then she gave her car one final kiss goodbye.

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