farewell, ol’ friend

Farewell Ol’ Friend

by Ed Collins/April, 2001

“This may sound like a, uh, silly question,” Guy said, “but does your van have a name?”

“No,” I said.

I can’t believe he asked that. This feels more and more like an adoption.

In the rear-view mirror, I can see Lisa and her dog. She’s absolutely beaming.

“Sold,” said Guy. We had driven half-way around the block.

Somehow I’m not moved.

Back at our house, we gather in the driveway. $2000 cash is counted out in hundreds and fifties. I fold it in two and stuff it in my front pocket.

I sign the pink slip and hand it to him.

I feel nothing.

Back on the street, I assemble Lisa, Guy and the dog in front of the van. Judy takes our picture.

“I hope it’s as reliable for you as it’s been for us,” I say.

Lisa looks like she might cry. A quiver in my voice is all it’ll take.

Then she giggles like a school girl.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since I bought a new “replacement” van. I tried to sell the old van shortly thereafter but my $3500 asking price proved excessive. Seemed reasonable to me. After all, in 1985 I spent $3100 just to have the “conversion” done. That’s a built-in oak cabinet, bed, carpeting and headliner, extra gas tank, stereo system, and the most comfortable captain’s chairs I’ve ever sat in––they’re so good that sitting in them makes you feel important, even behind the wheel of a 16-year-old slightly rusted van. As far as mechanics go, the engine seems strong enough, the brakes are good, tires are good, and oil leaks are minimal.

Recently, whenever I drove the old van people asked the same question:

“Why haven’t you gotten rid of this?”

“Hmm, sentimental reasons, I guess.”

Before our test drive, Guy wants to “have a look at the engine,” he said. I opened the hood. He pulls the dip stick out half way, as if to analyze something, then changes his mind, pushes it back in. Not knowing what to ask, I guess, he asks nothing. “I don’t know much about cars,” he volunteers.

“That might be more than me,” I say.

He’s buying this for Lisa, I’m guessing. She’s got a thing for vans, maybe. Maybe they’re going to do some traveling. She wants a comfortable place for her dog. I don’t know. Guy says he’s in the antique business. Maybe he’ll use it to haul stuff around. Heck, maybe they’re going to live in it.

Lisa is cute, dark and small. She’s got a couple of tatoos on her left arm and a few body piercings, including one through her left nostril. When I look at her I have to try not to stare at stuff. She’s a sixties throwback. Maybe she can read a car’s aura or something. Yeah, that must be it.

Is she getting this from me? Or the van? Or both of us? Can she sense the adventures my van has lived? The alpine lakes, remote Montana two-lane blacktops, Louisiana bayous, Pacific Northwest logging trails, secluded Baja campgrounds. Is she getting some kind of reading on all the people it has served?  All the good times it’s provided? The tennis road trips. The summer camp trips. The Ensenada fishing trips.

Could there such a thing a thing as car “karma”?

I look at Lisa and she turns away. I want to tell her not to fret––that I’m OK with this, that I’m emotionally ready for this day.

“I do feel that it’s passing into good hands,” I say.

As I chitchat with Guy, Lisa stands off by herself. Each time I look at her she avoids my eyes. I’m thinking she’d like to hear a few van stories.

Finally, I say goodbye and good luck. As I walk up the driveway, I hear the van’s engine start. I stop at the top of the driveway. For a minute or so, it sits there, idling.

Oh, for crying out loud, go already.

A few seconds later, it does.

I’m standing right next to my new van.

Finally, it says. barcloaf1-1