I had to say goodbye to an old friend today. Even though she died a couple of weeks ago, she wasn’t put to rest until now. So as she was towed away to Volvo heaven, where she will always be filled with Premium and every light is green, I thought back on her fulfilling life. I affectionately called her “White Lightning” because of her color and blinding speed. I suppose her name wasn’t totally representative of her attributes, but I found that if I referred to her as “Slightly Off-White Slug” I had a difficult time picking up girls.
White Lightning and I have many fond memories, but our greatest moment occurred last summer. It was a sweltering day in Boston, and she and I were caught in a nasty traffic jam. The air conditioning didn’t work because, as the repair shop so courteously informed me, the AC Fluid that White Lightening required contained a chemical so toxic that it had been banned in the United States since the Nixon Administration. So I sat in the traffic jam angrily, desperate to get home so I could get out of the oven that was my car and instead sweat in the comfort of my own bedroom.
Then a miracle happened. I heard the siren of a police car or ambulance coming from behind me, so I inched White Lightning to the side of the road to let it pass. About a minute passed, and even though I could still hear the siren loud and clear, I could not see any emergency vehicle in my mirrors. I stuck my head out the window to get a better look, and was shocked to discover that the siren was actually coming from White Lightning. Some will say that in her old age she experienced a massive internal malfunction, causing the car alarm to go off while I was driving. But I know what really happened that day. My car and I shared one soul, and as I sat agonizingly stationary in the never-ending traffic line, White Lightning decided to take matters into her own hands.
I looked up and saw dozens of cars that, in the name of good citizenship, pulled over to the side of the road to let my “emergency vehicle” proceed on its mission. White Lightning and I took advantage of the sudden turn of events and sped forward, the mass of traffic parting like the Red Sea as I triumphantly maneuvered through town on my Ivory Chariot of Twisted Steel.
Thanks to White Lightning miraculously transforming into an “unmarked police car”, what would have otherwise been a 20-minute horror show of a commute turned into a 5-minute joy ride. I snickered as I saw the look on everyone’s face when they realized that I was not, in fact, a police officer, but a 21-year-old guy who desperately needed a shower.
After our glorious triumph, White Lightning’s health began to decline rapidly. First she sprouted a leak in her power steering fluid, forcing me to use all my strength just to turn the wheel. If I took a drive of twenty minutes or more, I couldn’t lift my arms for a week.
Then the radio antenna, feeling left out for being the only normally operating mechanism remaining in White Lightning, decided to stop getting reception of the regular radio stations and instead start picking up signals in languages that I’m pretty sure are not spoken in this hemisphere.
Mechanical issues really started to take its toll on White Lightning, and two weeks ago she finally succumbed and died smack in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in all of Boston. A police officer pushed us out of danger and into the parking lot of a nearby hotel, and as I gracefully deposited her into the bushes (her brakes had apparently stopped working as well) I knew that it was over.
While I was driven back to my house in a tow truck, White Lightning’s corpse hooked up to the back, the 6 o’clock traffic report came on the radio: “A breakdown at the intersection of I-90 and Storrow Drive has caused a major backup, avoid this area if you are able.”
I smiled. At least White Lightning’s death got the recognition that it deserved.