Bye Bye Baby

I can hardly stand to admit it, but it’s true: My good friend of nearly ten years is no more. Snuffed out, not in the prime of her life but definitely in the prime of mine. And the day after Christmas, no less.

Taken from me by a total stranger in a beat up Honda Civic, my dear friend with whom I’ve had so many adventures, and with whom I once hoped to have many, many more, is gone forever. I’m going to miss her, my beautiful, sweet, metallic powder blue 2004 Chrysler Pacifica.

How did this happen? I’ve asked myself that question over and over.  Even after asking the police officer who had the misfortune of responding when witnesses called to report an accident in the Walmart parking lot I can’t understand it. My car was empty. It was parked next to a cart corral. How the bloody hell could it have been totaled? By a Honda Civic???

And apparently mine wasn’t the only vehicle damaged. No. After ramming into the front of my car while attempting to park in the diagonal space in front of mine, the driver of the Honda knocked over a trashcan that was standing next to the cart corral, climbed up and over it, and onto my hood. From there she rolled onto the top of the cart corral, shoved it into the side of the mini-van that was parked one space over, then dropped back onto the ground and continued across the lane behind my car before slamming into the back of a brand new SUV on the other side.

Fortunately no one was injured. All three of the vehicles that were hit were empty, and although there were people in the parking lot nearby, they managed to get out of the way before the Honda came sailing across the road in front of them after having been alerted to the danger occurring in their midst by the sound of tires squealing against the pavement as it rammed into and subsequently climbed up onto the Pacifica. It was they who called the police having assumed—like the rest of us—that the driver had been drinking.

It didn’t help that she refused to get out of her car. Even after the cop arrived she would scarcely open her window to answer his questions. It wasn’t until I showed up with my limp and my cane that she leapt from her vehicle spewing apologies, seeking sympathy for her stuck accelerator, and insisting that she was insured.

I don’t know why she was willing to get out of the car when I arrived, or why she was willing to talk to me. Maybe I looked a little less imposing than the police officer or rightfully angry owners of the other two vehicles. Apparently it’s a lot harder to swallow minor damage when you’re facing a major deductible than it is to accept a total loss of your favorite car because they were far more pissed off than I was.

In any event, since the woman didn’t appear drunk or otherwise altered, the cop didn’t perform a field sobriety test. Nor did he ask her to blow into his breathalyzer. In the interest of safety, he did arrange for her car to be towed—as much to keep her from getting behind the wheel again as to have the faulty accelerator examined, I suspect.

Now call me cynical, but I’m not buying the stuck accelerator theory. After all, it doesn’t take a certified mechanic to understand that when an accelerator sticks, it sticks at or around the speed it was set at the time the driver takes his or her foot off of it. It does not—I repeat, does not—press itself to the floor as if trying to escape capture like Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise.

And while I don’t know how fast the Honda was going when the accelerator supposedly stuck and it collided with my Pacifica, it would have to have been travelling well above parking lot speed for it to have inflicted that much damage. Which means she is either lying or mistaken about the accelerator, or lying about how fast she was going when she attempted to enter the parking space in the first place.

So although it means nothing to anyone but me—since I’m covered and she’s at fault either way—I would like to offer an alternative theory of the crime. Rather than trying to brake in the face of a stuck accelerator, I believe that as she coasted into the parking space she mistook the gas pedal for the brake and when the car failed to slow down or stop, she panicked and slammed her foot down on the gas even harder.

It can happen to anyone. It’s even happened *gasp* to me. Back in 2011 when the Pacifica was in the shop for maintenance and I borrowed the Jarhead’s convertible to pick up groceries. One minute I was coasting toward the garage with my foot just over what I thought was the brake, and the next I was lurching toward the door to the house and about to roll down the basement stairs on the other side.

Thank goodness I realized my mistake before I hit the door. Otherwise both the garage and the Sebring would have needed rebuilding instead of just repair and repainting. And thank goodness my husband is a Jarhead and not a hothead. Because that Sebring was his retirement gift to himself, and that day happened to be his birthday.

And so, in a bizarre twist on the whole ‘pay it forward’ concept, I did not scream at this woman in the parking lot. Nor did I treat her with the contempt the other drivers thought she deserved. Instead and in spite of the fact that she had probably dealt my baby a fatal blow, I accepted her apologies and went on about my business.

Still, it shouldn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t even make sense that a dinky little Honda could end the life of an all-wheel drive SUV, but there it is. Because no matter how well you take care of your baby—no matter how much time, energy, and money you put in to keeping her beautiful, happy and healthy—you can’t stop her from depreciating. Nor can you stop the cost of auto repairs from a-ppreciating.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye.

Rest in Peace, my beautiful, reliable, metallic powder blue Pacifica. You were loyal; you were loved; and you will be missed.


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