Final Departure

Today, Tuesday March 12th 2013, at 16:00 hours (4pm) local time, marked the end of an era. For me.

I had spent a considerable portion of the day psyching myself up to drive my dear old Hyundai Elantra to its final destination, after ten years of faithful (if increasingly frustrating) service.

One Last Look
One last look.

It’s a ’95 which I bought in February ’03, at which point it had only one gentle owner and 98,000 kilometres behind it, and since then together we’ve covered a decade and 150,000 clicks more.

The thing is, we have two cars, but rather limited parking space, and in all honesty there’s only really need for one. My better half’s Toyota Corolla is both younger and in better shape, even if my Elantra still looks and feels way too good for the scrap heap. Way too good!

And, of course, the bottom line is money matters. After a certain number of years, unless you have the know-how and the enthusiasm to do your own fixing, maintaining an old car is a largely thankless game of throwing good money after bad, and stubbornly pushing off the inevitable. It’s just as well to quit while you’re still ahead. Plus, of course, I received my thirty pieces of silver for the scrap value.

Still, I’m one of those who grow attached to things, my cars included, and one can’t help but feel a sting of guilt for sending an old friend to his doom.

There was every level of doubt involved. Driving there, every kilometre added to my sense of guilt and made me feel more and more like a ruthless executioner. The car ran as smooth as a kitten, kicked like a horse, roared like a tiger, on what was to be its last ride ever.

I tried reasoning with myself to ease the weight of the metaphorical bricks on my shoulders. “The car is 18 years old, I’ve had it for ten,” I tried. “Every year I’ve had it, the maintenance costs have increased exponentially,” which is close enough to be true without necessarily being strictly mathematically correct. “What if I fix it up and keep it for just another couple of years?” suggested a dangerous thought. “It deserves a better end than this!” said the part of my subconscious which thrives on giving me guilt trips.

In the end, the car itself got the final word. As I pulled into the scrapyard and found a place to park it, smoke billowed forth from underneath the hood. A quick examination revealed that the steering servo oil reservoir was depleted, and the smoke was the servo’s way of complaining about its discomfort, which appeared considerable. Apparently a minor leak, something simple and cheap to fix, had escalated over the last few kilometres into something which would be quite expensive indeed. With the merest puff of relief, my doubts were gone, my guilt had lifted. It was right, it was good, and there was no turning back.

At 16:00 hours today, precisely, I signed the papers where I relinquished ownership of my dear vehicle to the scrapyard warden. We shook hands and I stepped out of the office, took a moment to look one last time at my faithful companion over the last decade, patted it gently on the roof as a final goodbye, turned around and walked away.

Thanks for the years, and thanks for the mileage. It has been a trip 🙂


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