Requiem for the old family car

And what the car has in common with Gandalf.

I’m more than a week past Valentine’s Day, but I’m feeling compelled to make a public declaration of love: a sort of requiem for the old, and a serenade for the new.

Though I am thoroughly a bicycle man, I have to admit I am very happy with our new car. It is actually my wife’s new car, but she’s asked me to test it before she starts using it for her daily commutes. It was a requirement.

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Well, it is smooth in its driving, very smooth. The seats are supportive exactly where I need support. It is very quiet, swoosh, like a spaceship sailing from star to star. It is glacier white –its acceleration anything but glacial. However there is no need for speed. I like the gliding over the road, just gliding.

Our old sedan was grey and gave up the ghost after twenty-one years of loyal service. It, too, was my wife’s car. We bought it in 1999, the year I first came to Canada. It brought me to my first Canadian home, in Lantzville, B.C. And of course, my wife and I brought our newborn kids home in it. This was the only car they knew, until six weeks ago.

The old grey one took us to hikes deep in Elaho Valley, the beaches of Tofino, skiing at Cypress and to family in the Fraser valley. It took us to Bowen to look at houses after we decided to move here in 2002. Over time, it became our Bowen car, and that’s what really did it in. Short trips to the ferry are possibly the worst for any combustion engine but I wasn’t expecting it to be so bad. Aiming for 350,000 km, I was surprised when at 220,000 km, one of the cylinders gave up. It was time to say goodbye to our loyal grey companion.

And so Gandalf returned as the white one, except it has little in common with its grey predecessor. So much so that my daughter, who had no interest in getting a driver’s license, suddenly changed her mind. What was the magical force that made her do so?

It came to me this morning: I had to drive across island and decided to listen to a ’70s dance CD. It was sunny with a cold Squamish wind blowing. What would work? I skipped, skipped, stopped and moved: the low speed sound of the car was taken over by the swelling saw-tooth synthesizer chords. Then the sequenced baselines and a drum machine snare kick in with a high-head on top.

Oh yes! This was so fitting: Giorgio Moroder’s groundbreaking synthesizer creation that hit the world in 1977, which Brian Eno apparently declared “was the sound of the future.” It was perfect for our new car. Not only that, in that moment of musical bliss, I realized the future is now and I was driving it. All that while Donna Summer’s radiant gospel sang in acknowledgement: “It is so good, so good, so good, it is sooo good!”

We have a new car. It is electric, and “I feel love.”

My daughter approves of the new car, but not for the conscious climate reasons that made her parents decide electric. She just wants to drive around.


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