I’ve been driving a black 1996 Honda Civic for the last 11 years. I’m obviously not bragging (because I don’t think anyone brags about owning a 19 year old Honda Civic), but it’s worth noting that this car has traveled with me across the ocean and three states. Yes, my passenger side window stopped working at some point and the horn button on the steering wheel popped off from the wear and tear of heartbreak, love, and even grief, but it was my car.
The air conditioner stopped working about two weeks ago and I would often arrive at my destination drenched in my own sweat. I had already invested a big chunk of money to do other repairs, so I knew it was probably time to let it go. At first, this was a very exciting prospect. I imagined myself zipping around in a car with working AC and spent the better part of last week daydreaming about driving up the coast while listening to the perfect mix, and cutting the wind with my hand out the window.
I ended up purchasing a car last Saturday and spent the last 45 minutes this morning cleaning out the Honda. There is now a cardboard box of my belongings stuffed into a corner of my living room, my memories stacked in a lopsided pile. Faded receipts were mixed together with old love letters and an excessive amount of Chipotle napkins for someone who rarely eats there, my glove compartment was stuffed with my adventures. Without the context of being in my car, these items look like trash to most people. Only my partner would recognize the tiny bumblebee pin from the first time we went to Comic Con, only my family would recognize the drawing my youngest sister mailed to me when we were penpals, and only my friends would recognize the bright orange dinosaur I mounted to my dashboard with velcro. In the end I tried my best to strip away the parts of myself long forgotten in my car, but I just couldn’t remove where the paint had chipped away on us both.
While sitting in the plastic wrapped waiting room at CarMax to sell the Honda this afternoon, it occurred to me how strange it was that my memories could be assigned a monetary amount. I asked the worker if he wanted to see my repair records, but he waved his hand at me to specify that was unnecessary. “The appraisers don’t need that stuff for older vehicles.” Although he was polite, he seemed generally unphased by all of this. Thinking it would impress me, he said that CarMax buys up to 200 cars a day and that mine would be auctioned off.
I was a little irritated he found it unnecessary to know my car’s complete history in order to assign its worth. I wanted to tell him about the Hawaii Firefighter sticker on my back window meant to honor my family of firefighters. I wanted to tell him about the countless Sunday mornings back in Hawaii where I’d drive my partner to work and then go to my grandma’s house for breakfast to watch Bonanza with her. Instead, we waited together in silence as I sipped tap water from a styrofoam cup.
So, how do we assign value to our memories? According to CarMax, mine were worth $300. While signing over the title, another worker asked if my car had a name so we could send it off. I shrugged, “No. Car?” She asked why it didn’t have a name and I lied and told her I didn’t know.
I know I’m weird about names, but they can be powerful identifiers. They give context, depth, and history to seemingly ordinary objects. The truth is that I figured the less meaning I assigned, the easier it would be to let it go at some point. I learned unexpectedly in the CarMax waiting room that I was wrong, as I sat there sniffling to myself I would never see my Car again (note: I think people assumed my Car had been repossessed based on the pitiful faces I was making, and also, I’m an ugly crier).
This week’s playlist runs 29 minutes, which is approximately the length of my roundabout drive to CarMax. It’s normally a 15 minute drive, but that day we traveled together much like we did in my 20s. I coasted through the Burbank neighborhoods with one hand on the wheel, taking side streets and drawing imaginary square outlines of the city with no desire to rush.
Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.
Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.