Man's Second Best Friend

I don't meant to bring anyone down, but I have one of those lousy decisions to make.

She's been with me for almost 14 years. She has been such a loyal girl, so full of pep in her day, so pretty.

The girl has gone about everywhere with me. We had adventures together. We vacationed together. Rain or shine, she was by my side.

Then age caught up with her, and it's become too expensive to keep her alive. I hate feeling that way, but I can't afford to keep her going.

It's time to say goodbye.

But, damn, she's been a good car.

I remember the day we brought my 1997 Volvo 850 home -- her shiny maroon coat, her soft plush seats, her multiple CD player. When I took her out, she ran smooth, fast and true.

I always felt safe with her.

For 10 years, she was rock solid. Then, the inevitable slide.

It was the little things at first.

Her seat warmer stopped warming. Yes, there are far greater problems in the world, but I couldn't think of any those winter nights in my chilly-seated Volvo.

Her multiple CD player, without a courtesy warning, stopped multiplying.

Her odometer stopped working somewhere in the first Bush administration. Who knows, the car might have 600,000 miles on her.

Her check engine light began to taunt me like a tell-tale heart.

And what they call those turn signal and windshield wiper things stopped working. And the trunk didn't want to close. And a funky mildew smell took up permanent residence.

Oh, and my kids learned to drive.

Suddenly, murky traffic-related events occurred, the facts of which remain elusive to this day. My Volvo took a beating in parking lots, on multiple Beltways, in friends' driveways. Literal chunks of the car went missing. I would hear her weep at night.

And, always, the relentlessly beating of the check engine light . . .

The bills piled up and somehow always rounded off to $500. Those are what I call the good old days. Then came bills rounded off to $1,000. I diligently speared all my car's expenses to a nail over my work bench until one night I burned them all.

That night I realized our relationship was strained beyond repair.

The last few months have been downright ugly.

My Volvo sounds like an air boat. If you ever had the pleasure of a scenic air boat ride, you know it culminates in a renewed appreciation for nature and temporary hearing loss. I'm hoping a muffler is still attached to my Volvo, but I'm afraid to look.

Last month, my car failed its emission test. Of course. Who was she trying to fool? I took the car to my mechanic, who said the repair would cost $1,000. Of course.


It's over.

Through no fault of her own, my Volvo grew old and cranky and unreliable. I can't blame her. I thank her.

She was my girl, who now looks up as if to say, please. Do it now. Please.

Let me go.