My car the deathtrap: An ode to the Kia

ORANGE RHYMES WITH

A man’s car is like his baby.

Wait, no. That may be a bit misleading because I’m really not fond of babies. To clarify, my car is in no way a wrinkled, slobbering cry-monster that needs continuous attention. In fact, the more attention you give her, the more alarmed you may be by the dazzling array of warning lights on the dashboard.

The reason I’m rambling on about my little plastic car is that her honor has come under attack as of late. Though I’m more than happy to play taxi driver whenever the occasion arises — more often than not, I seem to be repaid in well-meaning pity and outright mocking. Everyone from my girlfriend to the homeless man I drove to a Chinese restaurant have found a way to make a joke at Kia’s expense, and I’m here to set the record straight.

A car is more than a means of transportation. It’s a (semi) reliable companion on long trips, a trusted caretaker of camping gear, and a safe place to sleep when your friend somehow manages to rip a hole in the tent. It’s not just a tool to get from place to place. It’s a crucial part of any good adventure. Without Kia, my grand excursions would consist of a meandering walk down to the McDonalds on Tudor and somehow that just isn’t an inspiring journey.

Han Solo had the Millennium Falcon, Kirk had the Enterprise, the Doctor had his TARDIS — behind every good story is a somewhat dependable method of transportation with a unique personality and a faulty engine. Granted, Kia is more similar to the flying Winnebago from Spaceballs than any of the previous examples, and instead of a co-pilot I just have a pile of trash and hiking gear stashed in my passenger seat — but my point still stands.

When it was raining sideways this summer and a friend and I saw a motorcycle catch about 6 feet of unintentional air on the highway, Kia kept us on the road with minimal fear-induced pants-wetting. When I decided to drive up the side of a mountain on a dirt road meant for the smallest of four-wheelers, Kia obliged with minimal objections. (Though her suspension has never quite recovered and she sometimes sings the song of her people if I go over 40 mph.)

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I’ve seen my car navigate around wrecks and obstacles with startling ease as if I were only an observer watching her work. I’ve seen Kia scoff at the low fuel light and continue to drive for hundreds of miles as if nothing were wrong. Hell, she can even do that thing you see in Jason Statham movies where one drives really fast in reverse, flip it around and continue driving forward as if nothing had happened.

So fine, mock my car. I get it, she’s made of plastic and zip ties, missing the majority of her plastic rims and gives off the impression that she would fold like a house of cards in the event of a wreck. In fact, my airbag light has been on for three years, so for all I know I don’t even have the required safety equipment. That, coupled with her tendency to spontaneously seal the driver’s side door and the occasional electrical failure, might make her look unsafe on paper.

That laundry list of defects might deter the average person, but I know better. Much like the weather, the national economy and the plot of “Lost,” the Kia tends to work better when no one understands why. So I’ll continue to trust my car, even to the day she consumes me a gigantic fireball that probably could have been prevented by some routine maintenance because that’s trust.

I don’t want a sleek Jetta with a ton of computerized functions and a rear-facing camera. That’s just a soulless machine with no purpose other than to function as a status symbol.

So weary travelers, girlfriend, friends that will inevitably need rides: I don’t want to hear one word about my car. There’s never been a more reliable figure in my life, even if she is made of plastic and prayers. So if I have to talk soothingly to get her to start or gently pat the stereo to get my CDs to play, just hold your tongue and try not to intrude on a personal moment. Besides, rides in the Kia invariably result in great stories to share with your fellow survivors.

Whatever you do, just don’t make her angry. She tends to stall when she’s angry.