Thursday, April 12, 2012

100,000 miles

One afternoon about ten years ago my youngest daughter Rachel and I drove around town watching as my car’s odometer approached the 100,000 mile mark. While we were riding around I kept telling her how monumental it was to have driven a hundred thousand miles in a one owner car. She wasn’t very impressed. She was sick of my old minivan and she knew I was sick of it so what was the big deal.

The right front passenger door didn’t work so when I’d pick up the kids at school I’d have to get out so one of them could climb over my seat to ride shotgun, they fought to ride in front. My oldest was picked up first and they must have discussed how embarrassing it was because after that they both chose to ride in the middle or way-back seat. This solved one very significant problem, no more arguments to ride up front.

Ten years before when I picked up my shiny new green minivan Rachel went with me, she was four and very impressed because we got to go into the dealership’s big garage and see it right after it was driven off the car hauler. We knew the maintenance manager at the dealership and because the model I bought was so new, it was quite a hit, all the mechanics gathered around. It was the only time I ever ordered exactly what I wanted. My friend, the maintenance manager, wanted to know why I had not ordered the deluxe edition with fabric backed bucket seats. (I ordered fabric with vinyl backs). When he slid open the back door, Rachel jumped in, sat down and firmly planted her two snowy feet up against the back of the passenger’s front seat.
“That’s why I wanted vinyl backs,” I told him. After that he always recommended vinyl backed when families sought recommendations.

A year later a ninety-two year old driver T-boned me at a light; it was repaired but it was never the same again. The awesome sound system faltered from time to time, the rear heater started to go and as the years raced by the beautiful shiny green paint lost its luster. I loved that van. Most of the time when I looked at it I saw new, but more often than not I saw it for what it was, tired and worn. But I was determined to get that van past 100,000 miles.

So there we were driving all over the place watching the numbers getting closer. When it got really close I pulled into our circular driveway. The neighbors must have thought I was crazy because I had to circle a few times until…it happened…100,000 miles.

Years ago we could watch the little number wheels in the dash change each numeral, and as the vehicle slowed, the dial would slow, and you could take in the special moment, the actual change. Not so in the newer cars. Can’t slow it down, it’s 99,999 and a split second later it a one and a bunch of zeros. Take your eye away, like to blink, for goodness sake, and you miss it. We missed it. But it happened.

Since that day I’ve had a couple of other vehicles. The one a drive now is a silver minivan which had belonged to my father before he passed away; great van, very much like my green wonder. A few years ago the odometer was extremely close to the 100,000 mile mark. I was prepared this time. I choose a route with very little traffic so I could slow down and watch the numbers flash from all nines to a one and all zeros. There was no one on the road…I slowed way down…I kept my eyes open until they watered…it was ready…there it was…I blinked. Yes, I did, right at the exact…but wait…maybe it was so quick I didn’t think I saw it but I did. Yes, I saw it I’m sure.

I told my husband about my mileage, he was not impressed; his pick-up is over a 160,000 miles. My mechanic friend was not impressed because his wife’s car is close to 180,000. So I called Rachel she works in a University in Massachusetts now.

“Remember when you and I drove all over town to get the green minivan to flip to a hundred grand and we got it to it in the driveway…well my silver van just went over 100,000 miles,’ I said.
“You blinked didn’t you?”
“No…sort of…but I’m sure I saw it this time,” I said.
I miss having one of my kids in the car riding around like we used to do, to just talk or watch the odometer. Some of the best conversations I have had with my kids were in the car. But that’s an essay for another day.

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