Charlie’s Retirement

My car and I have come far together. Charlotte, affectionately called Charlie, has been with me since high school. I’ve gotten used to her quirks and foibles — the way she runs out of gas before the gauge signals she’s low, the way she locks out anyone who tries to borrow her (proving, of course, her fondness for me), and the way she surprises me every month or so with a new repair bill. We have a history, Charlie and I.
Now the time has come to bid her farewell.
One rainy day a few weeks ago, I started home from visiting my sister in St. Paul. As Charlie and I crawled along in stop-and-go traffic, I noticed a wisp of smoke rising from the hood. Well, actually, more than a wisp — turns out the pounding rain had masked the sound of boiling antifreeze.
Parked on the side of the road with Charlie’s hood popped and pungent steam billowing into the rain, I fielded advice from the drivers inching by and questions from the tow service over the phone.
It took two hours for the tow to arrive.
The parts I replaced last month were insufficient, it seems, and I borrowed my generous sister’s car so I could make it home for my next workday. She agreed to drive my car once the repairs were finished, and we arranged a date one week later to switch back.
Before the week was up, I got a call from the parents.
My sister had apparently called them in concern after spending a day driving Charlie around St. Paul — no AC, broken window controls, a gas pedal that takes a few seconds to engage — and my parents had a proposition for me. Why don’t I take their minivan, and they’ll see if they can find a few long-term fixes for Charlie?
I agreed.
The minivan has character, but its personality is nowhere near as loud as Charlie’s — problems are limited to a broken clock/radio display and a weird noise when rounding corners. I haven’t feared for my life (or my pocketbook) once since I gave up Charlie. And, of course, the minivan doesn’t have a name yet — I’m open to suggestions!
Incidentally, after driving around Bemidji for a total of one day, Charlie found a new way to inconvenience my parents — the ignition key no longer starts the car. They have no idea why. (Charlie’s last practical joke?) In frustration, my cheap, penny-pinching, frugal-to-the-death parents went out and bought themselves a new car. This is so out of character for my parents that my siblings and I are still a little confused. Charlie, it seems, is doomed to remain parked in the driveway, collecting dust and dead leaves until she finds a new resting place.
“We’re trying to sell her!” my mom exclaimed brightly over the phone. “We have an ad out, but no takers yet!”
I am not surprised.
Rest in peace, Charlie. We had a good run of it. Happy retirement.

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