Adieu, Claude

After several months of deliberation, I decided earlier this year that it was finally time to sell my car. And on Tuesday, following a week of typically nutjob Craigslist-facilitated interactions around this transaction (more on those in a moment), I watched the two sweet British guys who became the car's new owners drive it away.

It will sound odd or melodramatic or perhaps slightly crazy to say that, in that moment, my heart did something funny, but that's exactly what happened. I felt a sense of relief--this selling process had been, frankly, kind of a pain in the ass--and a wave of happiness as one of the guys said to me, "We'll send you a postcard when we make it to New York" (more on that in a minute, too). I also found myself in the crest of a wave of nostalgia, because this car--this slightly dinged and dented 1993 Toyota Corolla--had taken me so far.

It was my parents who'd found it originally, back in January of 1997, when I was in Boston. We were on the hunt for a car to replace the giant sky blue Buick I was then driving (word to the wise: Buick in Boston=bad idea), and the then-young Corolla was perfect. In honor of its significantly smaller size, we dubbed it Little Car, and somehow we wound up referring to it as "he."

So it was Little Car who accompanied me for my last few months in Boston, and he who allowed me to leave New England in mid-March and head west, first to Chicago to pick up Monique, and then down Route 66 to California. In Texas, after what felt like an endless stretch of road with nothing to offer by way of services, we drove into Claude, a little town where we gassed up and, at the local soda fountain (for real), got snacks and drinks to clear away the west Texas dryness. In gratitude, Little Car got his official name: Claude (pronounced the French way, just because).

Little Car took me up Highway 1 and into San Francisco 13 years ago this weekend. He went back and forth to Sonoma countless times in those early years, anytime a visitor came into town and anytime we could come up with a reasonable excuse for a day in wine country. In Little Car I went back and forth to Palo Alto, and then to Mountain View, sometimes alone, sometimes with Otis or Shayne or Daryl or Deb. On the days we didn't want to drive the whole way, we'd drive only to CalTrain, fueled by Peet's and speeding down (or attempting to speed down) 17th Street, entreating other drivers with Gooooooooooo!

It was in Little Car that my first Shanti client and I would take his two dogs out to Fort Funston each week, evidence of their fur and the sand they carried on their paws still popping up in various crevices in the car, numerous rounds of vacuuming and many years notwithstanding. With my current Shanti client, back and forth to the grocery store, to the food bank, to Mitchell's ice cream. A few weeks back, we drove Little Car to the top of Bernal Hill and marveled at the city below us.

Little Car transported a lot of beloved passengers, from boyfriends to family to friends. A select few even got to drive him; I would sit on the right side and marvel at the change in perspective.

When I traveled a lot for work and would drive to the airport, it was, of course, Little Car who'd be there waiting for me in the long-term parking lot when I returned. Seeing him there meant, simply, Home.

So it was that, when it came time to sell my sweet little vehicle, I hoped, a bit shmoopily, that he'd go to someone who'd be happy to have him. Posting the car to Craigslist got me a crazy number of replies, several of them claiming that they'd pay me whatever price I was asking in cash, no haggling, because they needed a car right away "to get to work/to school/to my band gigs." There were enough of these weird responses that I have to assume they're shorthand for something, though I don't know what.

On Monday, amid the flurry of calls I got (having grown tired of dealing with people by e-mail) was one from a guy in Pleasanton who told me his uncle would come to the city right away to pick up the car, full asking price guaranteed blah blah blah. Said "uncle" then called and brushed off my insistence that I was legally required to get the car smogged by telling me that I should save my money, because he was just going to export the car anyway.

As Export Dude made his way to the city, I got a call from Sweet British Boy #1, who arranged to come by with his friend and have a look. And then there they were, young and adorable and did I mention British. They told me they were in the States for about 3 more months and were looking for a car to take them around--to Yosemite later in the week, perhaps up to Vancouver at some point, maybe all the way to New York, from where they'd depart to go home.


After a test drive and a look under the "bonnet" and some very light negotiating, the three of us shook hands. I went to get the car smogged and, when I returned, found the "uncle" waiting. I told him I'd found another buyer, despite his protests now that he was not going to export the car, but was instead going to use it for himself. (Can anyone explain to me what's behind this type of scam, anyway?) After a while he gave up and went away.

Tuesday morning, I went out to meet with the Sweet British Boys and to hand over the keys. They met me on the street, all smiles, SBB #2 brandishing a Rand McNally road atlas. We walked to the garage, talked about their trip to Yosemite, American road laws, California drivers.

I backed the car out of the garage and pointed them in the direction they wanted to go. We all shook hands again. I wished them happy travels. They said they'd send photos from New York. Then I stood on the sidewalk and watched them drive to the light at Franklin Street, then turn left and drive away.

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