Once upon a time there was a baby-faced, poorly dressed high school boy who got his first car, and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
It was a black-ish plastic Kia that gave off the distinct impression that it had been assembled in a hurry out of whatever parts happened to be within reach. To a high school kid with a surplus of testosterone and a severe lack of judgment, getting a car for the first time is about a close as one can get to overdosing on freedom.
I drove that Kia for the final time today, having finally decided to upgrade to something with a significantly reduced likelihood of killing me.
In the years that followed the high school days, I drove that car places no respectable automobile should dare go. The fact that I coaxed a front-wheel drive sedan up the sides of mountains, across semi-dry riverbeds and through alleys the width of my bed will forever remain a point of pride for me. I took that car to places that will probably never have roads, and across landscapes designed by the insane. Had I been gifted with the foresight to film any of this I could have retired on the income from Kia’s marketing team.
While my friends’ cars always seemed to be breaking down or being replaced, the most I ever had to do generally involved duct tape and zip ties. I once changed the blackened air filter only to discover that the car seemed to thrive on dirt and had actually run better before the swap.
My car and my girlfriend always had a bit of a contentious relationship, no doubt as a result of competing for my affection. Given that my girlfriend reads these ramblings while the Kia, sadly, cannot, I should point out that I clearly love her more than my late car — even if she didn’t always understand or support my relationship with that plastic Korean death trap.
The Kia was, at times, my TARDIS and Starship Enterprise, and at others a flimsy rolling coffin, destined to become my tomb. Like all great things, over time she got old and gray — literally given that the idea of a carwash was a foreign concept to me.
In the final months the headlights had faded to a dull glow, the driver’s door refused to open from the inside and the engine gave off enough heat to raise the temperature of anything within a 10-foot radius. At one point I left the front bumper in a friend’s driveway as the car, in its infinite wisdom, decided we didn’t need the extra carry weight for the journey home.
That car somehow transcended the need for oil, instead subsisting on energy-dense gray sludge that science has yet to identify. By the end, the airbags didn’t function, the seat belts became flimsy and frayed, and the engine made a sound like a dying whale. When I saw her last the speedometer had topped 150,000 miles, a feat I believe entitles me to a 50 percent off coupon for a new Kia.
If this column comes across as a strange man publicly professing his love for a dangerous junker, then congratulations, you’re correct. I’ll never apologize for my devotion to my car, and I firmly believe that there exists no stronger bond than that between a man and his trusty (petroleum-fueled) steed.
So let me issue a warning. Parking Services, birds that like to crap near my garage, Subaru owner in Templewood 8 that dented the Kia: Stay well away from my new car. I fully intend to write a companion memorial piece when this new one fails in a decade or two, and I’ll be fairly unforgiving if someone speeds up that timeframe.
My request for a Viking funeral pyre at sea for the Kia was denied by everyone from DMV to the EPA, so let this column serve as the final ode to an amazing car. That little thing always got me to where I needed to go and beyond, without a single accident, speeding ticket or injury.
So Kia, rest in peace in that grand junkyard in the sky. And new Toyota, you’d better get used to camping gear and pine tree air fresheners, because we’ve got work to do.