Saturday, June 5, 2010

Goodbye Stella

Confession: I drove my first car, Stella, for approximately one month. Then I drove her into a telephone pole on a dark December night in 2008. I have been paying off the loan I had for her ever since. Now, at last, I have enough to make the final payment, and now, at last, I will buy a new car.

My history as a driver has been stormy at best. And sporadic. It begins the spring of 2003, the spring I was fifteen and convinced my mom to let me join a driver's ed class. And it ends there for five long years. After graduating, my driving skills, like my permit, were stashed away somewhere until nearly forgotten or expired. I couldn't afford to buy a car, not to mention insurance, and neither could my mother. So there it was. I went to work, I went to school, and my first two years of college on the public bus, which, in the Northwest where few utilize public transportation, was an adventure in itself. I hated and loved it. And then, in the spring of 2008, the spring I was twenty, after a few refresher practice drives (which didn't prevent me from flunking parallel parking), I got my license. That year, soon after my twenty-first birthday, I bought Stella.

Stella was a 1981 two-door Oldsmobile Omega. Yes, she was a senior citizen. But she was lovely. And sweet, and full of history. And aside from a reluctance to wake up in the morning, she was a good old car in general.

I used to call her my new big sister. Just look what I did to her. My cousin Josh actually pounded down the hood for me. It was sticking up awfully before.

I should have known of course. That's what they all said. My sister Anna's first car was a 1981 Oldsmobile Omega. And she crashed the poor old thing into a telephone pole too. It is Kismet.

Well, Stella was showing signs of impending retirement, I must admit. Again and again, she refused to wake up in the morning, or even after work in the afternoon. And her brakes gave the both of us quite a scare several times. And it was her brakes in the end that was to be the undoing of us both. She was a little creaky, and that night as I drove west on Birch Bay-Lynden Road toward my cousin's house and a sleep-over, I didn't know just how tired she really was.
I didn't see the brake lights ahead of me until too late.

I stepped on the brakes too hard. They locked up and away I skidded into the other lane. I couldn't have that, so I swung a hard right and landed neatly and loudly in a shallow ditch against an obliging telephone pole. The truth is, it could have been much, much worse.
I could have taken out that car.
I could have taken out the pole.
The pole could have taken me out.
But instead, my dear old Stella took the damage, and subsequently died.
Bless her.

You were the best first car a girl could have Stella. I loved thee.


  1. One month was definitely enough bonding time, wouldn't you say? I have to ask though...Which was it 'twas her undoing: Bad brakes or a bad break?

  2. Hmmm... Well, at least you had Stella long enough to name her: I didn't even drive my first car (a 92-?- Mercury Sable) for a month. I got my license in early Nov 2006; the '06 Thanksgiving snowstorm cracked his or her (not sure which because the car was, as indicated, nameless) engine block. They told me it would cost $2300 to fix a $700 car; ergo, a speedy expedition to Z's Recyclery. And then, Along Came James.

    The Birch-Bay Lynden Road nearly devoured James as well. One day, coming home from College (heading East), I was also rather late in seeing the break lights. The car was making a left turn at a four-way stop, and somehow, by a wild swing that barely brought me onto the apron of the road going South, we passed by within a foot of the other car, which was waiting for oncoming traffic and consequently was a sitting duck. Whew!

    Talk about Kismet; both times I have attempted to cross the Cascades on Hwy 20, there have been snowstorms. At least the first time I actually got through, but that was going for something like a hundred miles at c. 25 mph - that gets old quickly!

    You were there that day when James and I determined that a guardrail on the Mt. Baker Hwy needed to be repositioned. A very similar TURN - no pun intended:) - of events occurred Christmas eve of that year on Hwy 9, when I fell asleep (one of those momentary nods that can change the world) in a sweeping downgrade popularly designated Suicide Corner - which has since been made into a very boring but very safe straight route - and kissed another guardrail (You see, James and I had become rather attached to those silver gliding slender things - which share more than one attribute with serpents: (1)their slithering over hill and dale; 2)their potential poisonousness; and (3)that fascinating, bewitching tendency - the force akin to gravitation with which they appear to seduce passing vehicles into making a nearer acquaintance. James came out of that encounter with a blown tire and a wobbling axle which he carried to his grave. We stayed away from guardrails after that.:)

    Then there was that glorious 16th of August, 2008, when our church men’s group had the car race at a private track belonging to one of the members of the church. He had a bunch of old stock cars (I wish I had a picture to post) and hosted groups as a side income. I alone rolled my car, whom I will call “Old 24” for the record (that was the number painted on his side). I was unhurt. In an attempt to reclaim dignity (haha) I asserted that, knowing that I was going to loose the race (true enough), I chose to go out gloriously by flipping the car over (not true). It did happen right in front of the grandstand, but entirely (humanly speaking) by accident.

    This year (this year in which I have already had THREE vehicles legally under my name) on March 18-?- I backed my sister’s Jeep into a Toyota Forerunner in Friday Harbor. I was used to driving a manual transmission; this was automatic, and I forgot. It was a hill. In a manual, if you fall back when you put the car in first, you just accelerate and go forward up the hill. I was not in first. I was in reverse! And accelerated quite ungracefully and all too rapidly into the obliging grill of the Toyota. I must confess that the philosophical resilience that supported me in all my previous adventures failed me here – because it was my sister’s Jeep (it needed MUCH repair) and because there was for the first time another car involved and because I was so ashamed of my ineptitude.

    I had not realized before I sat down and wrote this that I’ve had such an adventure at driving. All things considered (thanks Chesterton), I guess I have had a slightly greater number of "bad brakes or bad breaks" in my “history as a driver” than you, but we both may be thankful that we are alive and in one piece, relatively speaking.

    OK, I’ll quit reminiscing already yet. But one question, why do you still have Stella? Are you going to keep her always, like a friendly Teddy bear, or preserve her in some personal reliquary? :)

  3. Don't even think it Judah!! It's still in the driveway...awaiting brother Ben to take it away...I hope! :/

  4. I see. Good. lol. May you have BETTER fortune than my folks, who were PAYED $1000 cash for a 60's VW bus almost a YEAR ago and still are waiting for the guy to take it...and waiting..!

  5. Well, dear, I guess it must run in the family. My first car lasted only a weekend, you know. But its demise was not my fault - I must admit to still carrying the emotional scarring from watching in my rear-view mirror and seeing that huge flatbed truck bearing down upon my poor little car. I even pumped the brakes to hopefully stop the onslaught, but on it came! *sigh* It must have been a record for our insurance company, though, since I had just gone there to add it to our insurance THAT MORNING! We limped straight back not more than 4 hours later.