Bella. She’s my 2002, Intensa Blue Pearl, 5-Speed, Lexus IS-300. Dream car since the eighth grade. Searched high and low for her throughout Southern California when my family decided that I needed a more reliable car to take with me to college. Bought her beat-up and modified beyond recognition and have been returning her to her original condition ever since. I’ve repainted her rims, replaced her floor mats, replaced her center caps, replaced her tires, replaced her battery, replaced her cold-air intake, changed her oil, Seafoamed her engine and crank case, and have hand-washed, clay-barred, waxed, and polished her regularly, and with only the best products, since she has been mine.
In college, I used to hose her down once a week without fail during the winter so as to keep the salt from corroding her undercarriage.
I once slept in my car, refusing to leave her to go home with my friends after leaving a bar too intoxicated to drive. And it was by no means a safe neighborhood.
And she has always had 91 octane gas, if not better. Always.
As you can see, I love her. She’s my beautiful beast, and until yesterday, nothing had changed.
I gave her a wash yesterday, and with sadness, it dawned on me that I no longer fervently loved to take care of her. Why? I asked myself. And as I write this, I am still figuring it out.
It is a combination of things. With my knowledge of urbanism continuing to expand, I have wholeheartedly begun to celebrate the pedestrian way of life. This is the feeling of growing excitement you have as you walk through any outdoor market or festival: the energy, activity, and laughter of others permeates the air and beckons you to share in it. “What’s that crowd over there? Someone performing? Let’s look!” “What’s that wonderful smell? Oh, he’s roasting chestnuts!” Even outdoor shopping centers, like the Block at Orange or Bella Terra can recreate that feeling, that connection with people. And sadly, Bella and her kind do not share in this sort of life.
The Metro as well, I think, has un-romanticized the private automobile for me. I use Bella very sparingly, partly to save gas but mostly because I have found that I don’t need her. The public bus and public train are so convenient for me, that I drive only two out of five weekdays, sometimes two out of all seven days a week.
I don’t think I love her any less, but rather, I see her in a different light. The romantic view of her as an icon, as part of my identity on the street, is gone. I now love her and appreciate her for what she is: a vehicle. My fiance and I have talked about selling one of our cars after we’re married, and I should’ve realized something in me had changed when I volunteered to let Bella go without much hesitation. It makes sense–she’s beautiful but…we wouldn’t need her. And at 17-18 mpg, she’d cost a small fortune more than his Corolla.
It is always a moment for pausing when you realize that your priorities in life have played musical chairs on you. When did this happen? When did I begin to actually consider letting someone else wash and detail her? When did I stop associating myself with the type of vehicle I drove?
I will still fill her up with premium gas. I will still turn off the AC as I go up a hill and will still warm up the car before I drive. But when I do hand over her keys…I think I’ll smile and be okay, and I’ll look forward to a more people-centric way of life.