I drive a 1988 Chrysler New Yorker. It is more of a boat-on-wheels than it is a car. Its length exceeds the proportions of a rationally conceived car. With the turning-radius of a Mac truck and a trunk that can easily accommodate two human bodies, the New Yorker defies the assumption that a car is synonymous with being compact. Recently, I’ve been buttering up my father to the prospect of purchasing a newer used vehicle. Last summer alone the New Yorker broke down or had something seriously wrong with it three times over the course of six weeks. While I would like to drive something with a little more reliability and, perhaps, a working radio, I have become a little sentimental about my ride.
My car never had a name because I think personifying cars is stupid, but I have received many suggestions such as Agatha or Franny. Basically, any name that went out of style after 1950 is considered an acceptable title for my New Yorker. And rightly so. The car was a gift from my aging grandmother for my sixteenth birthday. She was becoming too elderly to drive and thought she would do this favor for my parents. While I’m sure the digital speedometer, self-lowering trunk, and headlight covers that flip up were top-notch in the late 1980s, all these features became vintage quirks that have led to never-ending explanations to my passengers.
“Yep, the speedometer sure is cool.” “Please quit slamming the trunk. It will close by itself. No, I don’t know why it does that.” “That noise was the thwack of the headlight covers.” “The motor is broken.”
While I find my car to be a complete nuisance, I have acquired a rather large sum of “props” points for driving such a car. In high school, they told me I was a pimp; in college, I receive reactions like, “Oh my god! This is your car?” After pointing out that since I have the key and drove it here that it is, quite obviously, my car, I am told that it is completely awesome.
Yes, it’s completely awesome that I spend as much money on oil as I do on gas. It’s completely awesome that I waste a gallon of fuel trying to drive up the hills of Seattle. It’s completely awesome that I can’t parallel park anywhere that doesn’t give me fifteen feet of space and the power steering frequently goes out.
Of course, my passengers don’t recognize any of these things. They do often request music, at which point I snap that the New Yorker hates me and therefore won’t play any music.
The one redeeming quality of my car is its leather interior. The driver’s seat is more comfortable than the couch in my living room. The seats, unfortunately, are maroon and therefore only offer more evidence of my pimp status.
Even though I have all of these grievances about my car, I will miss it if my dad decides to sell it. I have fond memories of driving to school early in the morning and, during the era when the tape deck still worked, blasting the Sex Pistols as I drove into the parking lot as a gesture of my rebellion, in spite of my punctuality. On the weekends, I learned that the ol’ car could in fact get up to 80 miles per hour as I sped home to make curfew.
On a more serious note, the grandmother who gave me her car has since passed away. There was always a substantial barrier of years and language between us, and I have a strange idea that the New Yorker is my connection to her. I can’t help thinking that she, at least at some moment, had the same vantage point as I’ve had. Also, the radio presets are still stuck on her stations because I couldn’t figure out how to change them. Whenever I attempted to adjust them I would imagine her thick Dutch accent saying, “No, you should leave that one. It’s the good Calvinist program.”
Although I do have some sappy notions regarding my car, I don’t think I’ll have too much problem setting aside these feelings for a better-working vehicle. It might be a nice change of pace to drive something that gets more than nineteen miles to the gallon and has a functional radio. But, just for old times’ sake, I might program one of the tuner buttons to the local hymnal station.