The downside to traveling is that it throws my entire workout routine off-kilter. I am by no means a workout spaz. I don’t spend hours everyday in a gym sculpting the smallest muscles in my arms. But I do love getting in the gym five times a week and building enough perspiration to make my eyes itch, justification for then going home and doing nothing but reading a book or watching Netflix. I may or may not throw a Jack’s pizza in the oven, even though every time this leads to smoke wafting through the kitchen, a result of my Air B&B host’s reluctance to clean out the charcoaled residue that has attached itself to the bottom.
So you can imagine my frustration when I walked out to my car three weeks ago and found the driver’s side inoperable, much like the Packers offense since Aaron Rodgers went down. “Oh, God,” I muttered to myself as I tried to quickly asses the situation. It wasn’t like I had a measly door ding. There was a hole in one of the doors, further compounding the awful visual my eyes had already been dealt.
It took nearly all of what little strength I had to begin with just to pry the door open and see if I could still drive the car. After much effort, it opened, and then it was taxing just to yank the steering wheel enough just to get the key to turn over.
Through all this, my biggest frustration was not the car being damaged. Moreover, it was that my entire schedule had been altered. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sneak into the gym that for weeks wrongly assumed I was my roommate Sam.
“Just use it. They barely even check when you walk in,” Sam insisted as he handed me his keycard that he hadn’t used in over a year. Yes, I am a big believer in the fake it until you make it philosophy.
Instead, I was going to spend my afternoon on the phone with the police and my insurance company. And this was one of my last days in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a place I journeyed to back in July to begin one of what would later turn into two marvelous opportunities to further build my writing portfolio. Having never been in a car accident, I had little idea how this would all play out.
You ever get that feeling that things will always work themselves out in the end? That the feelings of uncertainty you go through where you feel extremely vulnerable are only temporary? For years, I’ve felt this way. It didn’t matter if it was something as minute as spending too much money at the bar, wondering if I’d be able to make it until the next Friday, when direct deposit always dropped another couple hundred dollars in my account. Or when I failed an exam that might jeopardize passing an anthropology course. Even when I racked up debt while doing a lot of traveling over the last year, I always knew that I was going to do something to pull myself out of whatever predicament I was in. I had that much confidence in my abilities.
But when my car was later deemed totaled, for the first time in a long time, I felt utterly helpless. This wasn’t just any car. This was my first car.
Well, not exactly my first car. My first car was a white pickup truck that was so old it didn’t even have a name. Toyota made the car, but they didn’t give it a name. Seriously. It wasn’t Toyota Tacoma or Toyota Tundra. The records indicate it was just Toyota Truck, made in some year before 1990. It had two actual seats, and then three makeshift seats in the back that my dad demanded I not put people into.
This video almost perfectly details my thoughts regarding the “truck,” minus the yellow, of course.
“Do not take that car to the casino,” my dad always warned me during the summer of 2010. All my friends and I had just turned eighteen, and it was nearly everyday we made the trek from Maple Grove to Mystic Lake Casino. I didn’t know if my dad was more worried about my newfound gambling habit or the truck’s reliability.
“Shut up. My dad’s calling!” I yelled one time, me and four other of my friends packed like sardines into this eyesore of a vehicle.
“Where are you?” my dad asked.
“You know, around.”
“You better not be going to the casino.”
I and everyone else tried to hold in our laughter during this conversation that was on speakerphone. “Definitely not going to the casino,” I tried to assure my father. I said this as we were rumbling down Highway 169, halfway there, and my car barely reaching sixty miles per hour.
“Go faster!” the group would always yell at me, as if the no-name Toyota had the capability to quickly accelerate.
But like I said, that was definitely not my first car, even though it was. No, my first car was a 2005 Nissan Altima. It was much sexier, could go above sixty miles per hour with relative ease, and could house more than me and one other person.
I consider this car my first for more than just vanity. Like some of my best friends, this car had seen the best and worst of me. It was there whenever I needed a place of solitude. Countless times I’d hop in and just drive, never trying to run away from my problems, but rather just forget they existed.
I took this car everywhere, to places and life events like St. Cloud, and even to Denver, Colorado one spring. It was no coincidence that when I got this car, my success with women skyrocketed. Well, maybe it was partially coincidental, but it definitely didn’t hurt my chances when I pulled up to take a woman out to dinner in a respectable, middle-class car instead of a white truck that was not properly named.
A week after the unfortunate battering of my Nissan, I learned it and I would never make another memory again. It was off to the junkyard, now just literally a piece of trash that could not bring any more joy. For now, I am going to have to find a new steering wheel to kiss when I’m giddy with excitement. I’ll be using some other car to pack all my things into when I’m ready to leave one place and go somewhere else. I don’t even want to mention anything about the backseat. The reality is that this segment of my life is forever over.
I’ve gotten real good this last year at telling people that it’s never goodbye, only see you later. It’s my coping mechanism, a way of eluding emotional trauma I’d rather not experience. In this case, it is goodbye, and there will be no future reunion. I’ve been fortunate not to have anyone real close to me pass away. I’m not naïve enough to think that day will never come, and that all the good fortune I’ve had will soon run dry. For now, I seek another portal to take me through life.
Want more Quentin Super? His first book, The Long Road North, is available in Barnes & Noble stores, plus online!
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