We had broken up for good just an hour before
Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, aaah
Every relationship comes to an end.
Sometimes it’s due to incompatibility. Or lack of inertia. Or smart people making stupid choices. Even the strongest relationships eventually reach their mortal ends at the hands of death.
But sometimes, relationships end because of a bad clutch.
My 1997 VW Jetta and I have been together for nearly fourteen years. That’s longer than my marriage, which lasted eight years, plus another four in the preamble to matrimony, making the entire length of the relationship with my first and only wife an even dozen years.
By the way, I’m still friends with my ex. I’m friends with nearly all of my exes. I’m even friends with some of my ex-wife’s exes. I know some people find that weird but unless someone completely fucked you over or is a complete douche bag, why purposely cut someone out of your life who you love?
Life is too short for grudges, people.
But when it comes to my Jetta, I’m not sure we’re going to be Skyping or messaging each other on Facebook. Not because I have any ill-feelings toward my VW or because it’s a douche bag, but because it’s a car and it lacks a DSL connection and opposable thumbs.
First of all, let me explain that my Jetta has over 200,000 miles, a leaky air conditioner that constantly causes the windows to fog up, and a driver’s side door lock that no longer sets or disarms the alarm so I have to lock and unlock the car from the passenger’s side. It has also had one or the other of the front wheel bearings replaced at least twice over the past six years, most recently four months ago.
In other words, my car had some inherent problems and I knew it was just a matter of time before those problems became difficult for me to ignore. Like alcoholism or a lack of good dental hygiene. Eventually you realize the partying and the halitosis are symptoms of a deeper-rooted issue.
But when your clutch goes out, just gives up and the pedal goes right to the floorboards, you start to lose trust in your partner. And trust is an important part of the car/driver relationship when you drive a manual transmission in San Francisco and you think about what could have happened had your clutch gone out while you were driving up a hill.
In addition to the mechanical problems and sixteen years of wear and tear, the trade-in value for my Jetta is a whopping $250. And since fixing the clutch best-case scenario would cost $300, getting the car fixed to trade in doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I could try to sell it on Craigslist and make some money out of the deal, but that just feels wrong. Kind of like prostitution. And I don’t want to be a car pimp.
Instead, I’m donating my Jetta to Car Donation Services, with the proceeds going to Pets Unlimited, my local animal shelter where I volunteer once a week socializing cats. This way my car, which ferried my cats to the vet and transported my poodle on countless fun rides, can hopefully help to make a small difference for other cats and dogs.
In the meantime, I brought home another car and parked it in the currently vacant space next to my Jetta, which is waiting for Car Donation Services to tow it away. It’s like bringing your new girlfriend home to live with you while your ex-girlfriend sleeps on the couch while looking for a new place to live.
Still, it’s hard for me to let go. I’m kind of a sentimental guy, even when it comes to inanimate objects, so I got very sentimental cleaning out my Jetta and transferring all of the relevant items into the Mazda3. After all, we’ve been through a lot together.
A divorce. A move to San Francisco. Three trips to Burning Man. Multiple trips to San Diego and Los Angeles for book signings. Trips to Napa and Tahoe and Carmel. Driving one of my cats to the peninsula for eye surgery and another of my cats back and forth for chemotherapy. Transporting both cats to their final resting place. And all of the drives to the beach in Santa Cruz with my since-departed standard black poodle, Camille, in the backseat, her head hung out the open window and a grin on her face. Sometimes I still see her in the side view mirror.
In spite of its flaws, my Jetta was a good partner and had a lot to offer along with its own little quirks. Hell, it not only supported my writing career by getting me to all of my signings, but it even sported a bumper sticker promoting my first novel. Now that’s dedication.
But when it comes to the small things, I’ll miss the sunroof. I’ll miss the single beep whenever I set the alarm. I’ll miss the Euro police siren warning that would remind me to buckle up. I’ll miss the Alpine single CD stereo that was installed when we bought the car. I’ll miss the trunk that I always told everyone was big enough to hold three dead bodies. Not that I ever tested out the theory but it was nice to know it was there just in case things ever got out of hand.
It’s never easy to admit that your relationship doesn’t work anymore and you have to let go. And while I know it’s time to move on, I still feel bad about the way things ended. I wish it could have been different. Ended on our own terms. But then, it’s never easy to say goodbye.
(*Author’s note: Lyrics at the beginning of this post © The Greg Kihn Band)