Toby is dead. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not even tragic, it’s just a little sad. Toby was my car. The car I learned to drive in, the car I shared with my three brothers, and the car that was gifted to me as a college graduation present. It seems silly to get so attached to an inanimate object, but I confess, I am silly and I am attached. But Toby (Tobias Pontiac) was old, and like an old person who loses the ability to hold in flatulence, Toby was emitting toxic gases in the form of wispy looking smoke from his air vents (among other issues). My love for him could not change the fact that he was a danger to those around him and the money needed to fix him would be better used as a down payment on a “new” used car. So Dean and I began our search for a new vehicle and surprisingly, found a suitable transportation vessel within two weeks of beginning our search.
I was excited about the prospect of a “new” car, but part of me was sad to lose Toby. I know he isn’t alive, I know he doesn’t have feelings, and maybe it was a mistake to name him because it makes him seem alive, but it’s too late to change all of that. The fact is, I will miss my car. But why exactly?
As I cleaned out all of my belongings from Toby’s bowels (yes, sticking your hand under those seats is, what I imagine, would be like sticking your hand into the bowels of an old dog, one which usually results in a handful of hair, pennies, and some unidentifiable object circa 2002) I couldn’t help but wonder “why is this so difficult?” My rational brain reminded me that Toby doesn’t work like he once did. I’ve been pouring more money into him than he is worth. In the past year he has broken down so many times that I swear my father-in-law, the man who graciously fixes Toby’s malfunctions, was about to drive him off a cliff just so he could be rid of the stupid car. At that very moment I shoved my hand into the driver’s side visor and pulled out an old teacher ID from 2001, just a year after Toby’s birth.
It was Toby’s first owner, and although I have never met the lady, I felt connected to her. It was then that I realized I was letting go of the physical object that connected me to so many people and memories.
I was in Toby’s passenger seat when I saw my first “mooning” at the ripe age of 16. My older brother was driving, and while at a two way stop, one of his friends darted out from the car behind us and stuck his bare butt right on the glass of my window. My startled and horrified reaction must have given these boys the impression that I found their butts amusing, because they continued to moon us almost every day for the remainder of the semester.
The day I met my future sister-in-law is forever engrained in my brain, because it was that day that my crush, now husband, Dean shoved me jokingly into Toby’s trunk as I put my backpack inside. He then asked me if I could give his little sister a ride home.
It was Toby’s brakes that cut out as I drove home from my older brother’s wedding rehearsal. My youngest brother and I screamed at the top of our lungs as we trundled through a sparsely wooded, grassy area at 20 mph (it seemed so much faster at the time) before reaching the safety of a gravel parking lot, where I then remembered my emergency brake. After realizing we were alive and fine, we both looked at each other and yelled “That was awesome!” in perfect unison.
It was Toby that I accidently set on fire, when I spilled oil inside the hood while he was still hot. It was in the parking lot of Safeway, and it was terribly embarrassing.
Poor Toby was the brunt of so many youth group pranks. He has been filled with balloons, filled and covered with toilet paper, completely covered in whipped cream and marshmallows, and smeared with mud after a crud war.
Toby has been stolen and parked in the most remote corner of the church parking lot, to facilitate a very cold and wet walk in the rain for me. He has had many phrases written on him in window paint before he trucked a carload of teens to conferences, retreats, and more.
It was with Toby that I had my first car accident- I backed into a parked undercover cop car. It was with Toby that I was rear-ended by the grumpiest and saddest of old men, Len. And it was next to Toby that Len and I prayed together (not exactly sure how that happened, but it did).
It was in the safety of Toby’s steel frame that I heard my call to Africa. It was Toby’s speakers that I blared and sang along to when I was diagnosed with anxiety/depression, and it was in Toby that I sobbed the countless times I found out I wasn’t pregnant.
I was driving Toby when I parallel parked in the city for the first time.
Yes, I took a picture, I was so proud. And the not- so-proud moment when I was in high school and drunkenly backed Toby into a pine tree and blamed it on my younger brother. Sorry Tom!
I was with Toby when he turned 200,000 miles! Except I couldn’t take a picture until he reached 200,011 (aren’t you proud of my refusal to take pictures while driving?).
I could go on and on about Toby stories, but the point is this, it’s not so much about Toby being a dearly loved car as it is about him being a physical object that represents my growth as a person. I overcame fears in his presence. I allowed my crazy, silly, singing, self to come out inside his doors. I experienced shame and heartbreak, joy and victory. So whether it is silly or not, I will miss my car, but I am excited for a new chapter of growth and exploration.
I know, I know, I named her. I thought about not naming her so I don’t get too attached, but as I was considering this over my morning coffee, I realized that name or no name I get attached to inanimate objects. Take my coffee mugs for example, I have favorites, but I don’t always drink out of my favorite mugs because I feel bad for the other mugs –the rejects deserve a chance too. Lulu is not a reject though, she is great, and although I will miss Toby, I think Lulu and I will make a great team.