The Camry

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February 1, 2014 by Roe

A touch of bad news that I’m sure is happening for a reason I can’t see yet: The Camry has reached her last days.

I first got my 2000 Toyota Camry summer going into my senior year of high school.  It was a gift from my parents. They traded in their 1999 Ford Windstar (Embarrassingly enough, that was the car I learned how to drive with) for this old model Camry. She was dated but drove excellently. Of course there was a little repair to complete down the road, but it got me through my last year of high school, all through college, and then some – at least up to now.

One of the repairs that had to happen within a month or two of having the car was the alarm system. The Camry came with a very worn remote locking/alarm mechanism attached to the keychain. Though this was useful up to a point, the alarm system must’ve become worn with age and the remote was probably on its last leg of battery. I’ll never forget the day the alarm went off…and wouldn’t stop. It was high school, early fall – either September or October – and I though I can’t remember why, I got out of school later than usual. It was 4 or 4:30. All the after school traffic had dispersed and it as pretty quiet as I began the walk to where my car was parked – uphill on a side street, considered primo parking with the overwhelming demand for parking spots around the high school. I fished for my keys, hit unlock on my remote, and bam – The alarm began blaring full blast. I pressed unlock again, lock, unlock again. No use, alarm still going off. In a normally quiet residential area, people started to stare as it looked like I was breaking in to my own car! I took the key and unlocked the door. It opened. I slid inside, put the key in the ignition, and attempted to start it. No use. The alarm must’ve had a mechanism in place preventing the engine from starting when going off. Feeling helpless, I remember calling my mom in a panic. Eventually it stopped and I was able to start the car and drive away, attempting to hide my embarrassment. A similar alarm fiasco happened another time after this at home and then I demanded the system be taken out. I laugh about it now.

The Camry has a lot of memories associated with her because she was my first car. I only got into minor two accidents with her – The first, I was slightly sideswiped by my grandmother’s landscaper one evening coming home from work. Not my fault. I was making a left and he impatiently tried to go around me as I turned. The damage was only superficial. What was interesting about that (besides him being a total ass) was that I didn’t know it was my grandmother’s landscaper. It wasn’t until he came into her house to get paid a week or two after the accident that he saw my high school senior picture proudly displayed on her dining room table that he recognized me. Naturally, my grandmother informed us all and now we’ll never forget.

The second accident was partly my fault. Early morning on a double-laned street, I attempted to change lanes from right to left, going around a school bus. The left lane was empty, the light was red, and the three cars in front of me had just done the same thing. While straightening out, the light turned green and a Mercedes-Benz zoomed out of nowhere blaring its horn going about 50 mph in a 25-35 mph zone threatening to crash into me. I freaked, cut the wheel too hard, and my headlight hit the metal bumper of the school bus. I was mortified. The headlight took awhile to replace though as the tsunami/earthquake natural disaster had recently struck Japan. Thankfully insurance paid for everything.

In the Camry I drove carpools to shows, came to the rescue and picked up drunk friends, and shed many a tear in the midst of a deep conversation. I ventured to the shore, chatted with friends before their full year abroad, and blasted my fair share of Saves The Day, Kevin Devine, Into It. Over It., Elliott Smith, et al with the windows down and my sunroof open especially after a long day of school or work.

What I really loved about the Camry was the cassette player. About a year ago, I found out it couldn’t really play cassettes. It was pretty shot. But for a few good years I was able to use a cassette adapter to plug in my iPod and phone. It expanded so many listening possibilities. But like everything else I guess, it started to crap out within in the past two years making an annoying clicking noise, stopping, and spitting out the cassette. It was good while it lasted though.

What sealed the Camry’s fate was a rusty exhaust pipe and catalytic converter. The cost of replacement is almost what the car is worth. It’s not a problem I can ignore. It’s necessary equipment for the car to run. We’ve decided to sell it and maybe down the line buy or lease a new car, maybe one for my mom and I to share. Nothing’s definite though. Today I’m heading over to the garage to clean all my things out of it. I accept that it’s gone but I’m not used to the fact that I’ll have to rely on rides from others for a time. When I go to food shopping, the library, or the bank I’ll have to walk. I’m not used to that idea.

I was saying to my mom a few mornings ago as she was driving me to the train how the older I get and the more independent I try to be, the more I end up having to rely on others. It frustrates me. Because I  always thought in your twenties you were supposed to be someone and be yourself and make things happen to advance your life and “career” (whatever that means anymore). It’s like there’s a large rubber band around my waist and every time I run forward, I get snapped back. But sometimes we fight so hard that at times like these we must lay down the sword and accept what’s to come. What happened with my car was out of my hands and I cannot change it. I can only move on from this and hold on to the 5-6 years of memories that the Camry gave me. It’s the end of an era, but hopefully this will pave the road for better things ahead.

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Driving behind hip hop royalty on my commute this morning.

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