Tuesday, May 26, 2009

End of an Era



This weekend, I drove my failing, ailing, broken-down 1995, 200,000 mile silver-blue hand-me-down Mercury Grand Marquis upstate to retire her.

I loved that car. Her gigantitude. Her seats like two parallel couches. Her V8 engine, her 0-60 in 1.5 seconds pick up. The way she smelled--snacks and Febreze. The way I got flagged for a gypsy cab on the Brooklyn streets. The way I was mistaken for a cop. How she taught me to parallel park like a savant (ever parked a Grand Marquis between two Mini Coopers with an inch to spare on either end? Without touching bumpers, not even once? No, I didn't think so. But I have). The terrible gas mileage. The rear-wheel-drive bad traction. The road trips, blazing down the highway, engine purring. The local trips, blazing up 4th Avenue smoking out the window. She gravitated naturally to 75 mph, that was her sweet spot, where she was at her very best. I really was cool in that car. Whoever expected to see a young lady behind the wheel of an old lady's Florida-retirement-complex-behemoth?

It all began to go downhill a few years ago, around the time of the first breakdown. She stopped running in traffic on the Long Island Expressway. And then proceeded to break down every few months from then on. In a car wash (yes, in a car wash). On the highway. On the local roads. Six breakdowns in two years.

I tended to her, spent thousands of dollars trying to save her. But she just won't make it any longer. In a couple of weeks, I'll join the drab masses in a new compact silver Toyota. She'll get good gas mileage, and she won't break down. But in this new car, I'll be somehow a little less Leah...

Goodbye, Grand Marquis, you were one grand lady.


*Photo: "Frosty Mercury" by Boozysmurf, Flickr Creative Commons

23 comments:

MJ said...

You can make the new car more Leah by hanging a big ole pair of Bumper Nuts on it.

Megan said...

I thought NY'ers retired south?

I've never had a car for that long a time. A Toyota compact is certainly a BIG (er, small?) change!

So long, Marquis!

just bob said...

I felt time same about my old Ford Probe.

Brian Miller said...

cars carry more than people, the memories of those that have joined us for the ride.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Leah,

I only had that feeling about a car once; my 1973 Plymouth Duster. My very own car paid for by The U. I was twenty-three and that car took me on road trips from Detroit to LA.

Our love affair ended when she was stolen by those who valued her parts. I never again held an idyllic attachment for a car.

I've owned my current vehicle (RX 300) since 2002 and it continues to respond to the signal of my ignition key after 120,000 miles. I tell myself, "this is my last car" but that is more hope-filled optimism rather than a rigid affirmation.

I believe Toyota makes a great car that will meet the particular need of any driver. I hope you enjoy your new car as enthusiastically as you did your Mercury.

MJ is right...you need a memento from your Marquis in the new ride, perhaps you can retrieve a keepsake or photo, that will serve as a reminder of those great times you enjoyed.

U

nick said...

Sounds like that car was really you. How sad that old age finally caught up with her. But I'm sure you'll find ways of customising and Leahising (try pronouncing that) your humble Toyota so it too absorbs your personality.

kylie said...

it's sad to farewell a car, as brian said, they carry memories.....
i love the parking story. on a good day i can parallel park just like that. on a bad dayit doesnt work at all!

Ronda Laveen said...

((Sigh))...sometimes ya just gotta pull the plug. You gave her a good life, long and full. You gave her a respectful "so long, farewell."
I know what you mean about being a "little less Leah," I've never gotten used to the cookie cutter car genre. I will light a candle for Lady Grand. (sniff).

Mr. Shife said...

Sounds like the Grand Marquis treated you pretty well. The new one will pale in comparison but hope it at least embodies some of the spirit of the retired car since you will still be behind the wheel.

Emerson Marks said...

Blimey, that reminds of an unsolved mystery with my last motor.

Leah, living where you live you must be on first name terms with the Sesame Street click, right?

Karen ^..^ said...

Awww, you will ROCK the Toyota, no doubt about it!!

But I can definitely relate. That's how I felt about my 85 Oldsmobile. The poor man's Cadillac.

I called it my "Oldsmobubble".

People JETTED out of my way in that thing. Now I have a little tiny Chevy Cavalier. Which is also nearing retirement.

Baino said...

I'm driving a 1992 Honda Accord. Not bad on petrol but I dread the day the old girl just gives up the ghost!Yeh, nick something out of the car and stick it in the Toyo. I have a Corolla as well and it's not bad. No character but she goes, she goes, she goes . ..

Mike129 said...

200,000 miles is very good for that car, so she has served you well. Now it's time to let go.

Seats like two parallel couches are great for, uh, parkin'. But you are too innocent to know about such things. ;)

Candie Bracci said...

Ah yeah they have their lifetime too!

savannah said...

*sigh* i know that feeling, sugar! it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the silver bullet, our '86 vw vanagon...*sigh* xoxox

Leah said...

MJ--I just saw a pair of those hanging off the rear bumper of an old guy's truck. Thank god now I know where to get some for myself!

Megan--the car came to me with 80,000 miles on it--I put 120,000 over the last few years. Isn't that nuts? I cringe when I think of the gas money...

Bob--cars really can have a place in our hearts...

Leah said...

Brian--that is so true. After I read what you wrote here, I began to think about the people who came along for the ride in that car. I thought about one of the last times I took my dad for a ride--out to his last birthday party, in Long Island at my aunt's house. We stopped on the way at his favorite Italian bakery in Brooklyn for some chocolate nut cookies that he loved. He and I and my sister had a wonderful time on that drive, laughing and joking and reminiscing, even though he was sick. I was just glad that my car was so comfortable for him to ride in. He died a couple of months later...

Leah said...

U! so nice to see you here, out and about!

Thank you for the link to the photo. It's great. Maybe I'll take a pic of my car and frame it! That would be funny, but comforting somehow...

I guess I can't really complain about getting a new car, I'm sure I'll enjoy the heck out of it. I'm just not very good with change...

nick--"Leahising"--I like that! I'll have to put some thought into it.

Kylie--you know, I would definitely have you pegged as a good parallel parker. Some people can't do it at all, but you strike me as the sort who can! Even if you have the occasional bad parking day, I do too.

Ronda--thank you for the candle! You know what I mean I'm sure, being a car person yourself. And I agree about the cookie cutter cars. It's truly amazing how like each other the different classes are, even across manufacturers.

Mr. Shife--thanks for reminding me that it will still be me driving it! I guess we all bring our own special driving style to the car! For better or worse...

Emerson--Since childhood, I've hoped and prayed I'd happen into the street where Oscar the Grouch might pop out of a garbage can and growl at me. Sesame Street is a fictional street in Brooklyn, but I believe the show is actually filmed in Queens (another one of our five "boroughs" aka small cities within the city).

Leah said...

Karen--"Oldsmobubble" hee hee! People got out of my way when I was driving the Grand Ma too...the sheer size, I guess...

Baino--that's a good idea, taking something from the Grand Ma. Maybe the metal logo would be good, I'll pry it off. Thanks!

Mike!--you're right, it's a lot of mileage. I'll always wonder, though, could I have eked out another 100,000? hm.

As for my innocence, thank you for thinking of it. But when the Grand Marquis is a' rockin', well, you know the rest of that...

just kidding.

Candie--you're very right, cars have their time, and you can really feel it when they start to age and break down...

savannah--in a funny way, it makes me feel better to know that other people mourn their old cars! xo

mago said...

V8? The largest motor I ever had was a 1200 ccm ... Opel or what? Even if I could afford to own one, I would have no idea what sort of car. And I do not have special memories of the cars I owned, it's just, well - cars.

subtorp77 said...

I do miss my old '76 LTD. Wotta tank! And such a smooth ride. And never parked it between to Minis( why do that when I could just park right over them? ). Mere speed-bumps! But you're right Leah; I don't miss the poor mileage!

Suzanne said...

You know your killin' me. And the comments. Oh good God!!! Oh good God. Yes. Said it twice. No, not a typo.

I grew up in a Pontiac stationwagon. Yuuuuuuuuuuuuup. Not pretty. But got us from place to place and I always appreciated that. My grandmother on the other hand was pretty well off and traded in her Pontiac ever year for the newest model. Wacky. But I guess if you can do it, you do.

I understand the love of a car. When the BMW was totaled, you know I cried. What a loss. When the Mercedes hits the bucket, you know it won't be easy. They become like children or something.

Love you darling and as always, terrific post.

XO

subtorp77 said...

@Suzanne; not the Bimmer! Reminds me of my cousin's "certified" Lexus. He babied that thing! Wouldn't even put a flag sticker on the window(!)...I called my auntie up one day( just checkin' in, y'know ), to find out that he'd hit a deer on the NY Thru-way. I asked her how long he cried....about an hour.