Nine years ago (give or take a couple months), I bought a brand-new car. It was a ’99 three-door Saturn, affectionately dubbed Zippy the Wonder Saturn. That was all the way back in Amarillo, Texas. Zippy had a rough summer that year, being driven off roads and around Texas. But Zippy survived, and went on to move with me to Dallas, where he managed to get me around another year in Texas without getting smushed by any crazy Texan drivers.
I drove Zippy with me back to Seattle, loaded down with belongings. Zippy still has mosquitoes in his overhead light from a stop in Kansas. Once back in the Northwest, Zippy had a run in with a deer – but being the Wonder Saturn, the damage was merely cosmetic, and he was back to normal and back on the road in a week (minus deer hair embedded in the plastic body). Zippy sat in traffic on the 520 floating bridge, and took me around the Eastside while I worked a series of jobs in the dot-com aftermath.
When I moved to UBC, Zippy went with me. He carried prank squads around campus when we painted the cairn, and still has a few drips of purple paint on the back bumper. Zippy took us back to Washington State for burritos and doughnuts, and became a car second only to the Canoemobile in ACF 12 participation. He took me to Bowen Island when I worked there at my first job out of college. I drove Zippy all over Vancouver, even though it was a city where I didn’t need a car: my little well-travelled Saturn was still a part of my life.
And then, after three happy years in Vancouver, one morning in May, 2004, I loaded up Zippy and left for Los Angeles. By which time, Zippy was getting a bit elderly and shabby, having lost a chunk of his front door to a bus back in Vancouver. But even a new city, a city of new and expensive cars, I hung onto Zippy. After all, he still ran. He sometimes needed repairs, and he started to stall with anything less than mid-grade gasoline, but he ran fine. Being a Saturn, with plastic panels for a body, he doesn’t dent easily, but he does get scratched. Still, as gas got more and more expensive, Zippy’s 27mpg was a good reason to keep my by-now battered Saturn with me. And as I got used to the States a second time, I was more and more reluctant to buy into the car industry. Somewhere around 2005, I started to see cars as being worse for America than they are good for it, and I didn’t want to be a part of that by buying a new necessary evil until my existing one fell apart.
And then I found out I was pregnant. A child seat is difficult to put into a three-door Saturn coupe. Baby seats don’t belong in cars of Zippy’s class, which is to say, “little and cute”. So it was time to look into a replacement for Zippy, a bigger car that would see me through my baby’s childhood. I narrowed it down to two cars under $20K: a 2004 CR-V, or a 2008 Mazda5. And after test driving the new car, and being offered a really good finance rate (YES! My credit is back up to the point where I get the GOOD finance rates!), I decided on the Mazda.
So out in our driveway tonight there is a shiny black Mazda5 “microvan” – something the size of a station wagon that is a cross between a very small minivan, and a very big hatchback. It has three rows of two seats, but has a smaller footprint than Paul’s Accord. The back two rows of seats fold down, and even folding the very back seats down gives me lots of storage for the baby’s stuff. It gets 21MPG city, 27 highway. It has sliding doors on either side, for easy access to the Critter in its car seat. It has an in jack for my MP3 player. It is a Family Car, and it is very very practical. I will also have it for a long time, since I just paid for a ten year warranty on it. And I’m sure that it will accumulate as many memories as Zippy did. It is, after all, the car I will use to drive my small, but growing, family around for the next several years.
Still, in my heart, nothing will ever replace Zippy. Zippy deserves a five minute montage of images. But the one that sticks most in my mind is the day I bought him, when I drove, dizzy with car ownership, across the plains of the Panhandle. Zippy and I have both come a long way since then. We have come across the continent and back south again, crossed the Canadian border countless times, lived in four major cities (and one small one). Zippy has carried my friends and my lovers – even my enemies. And he has multiple times carried everything I own as I went from one life to another in a new city. Zippy has been part of me for eight years, the car I drove almost every day, the constant in a life that shifted more times than it should have since I was that twenty year old in Texas.
And now, I have to say goodbye to that brave little Saturn, and find a charity to donate him to (he is worth more as a tax writeoff than as a trade-in). It is time to retire Zippy and move on to my new microvan. It’s hard to let go of my baby Saturn, but it’s time. Say goodbye to Zippy, the Wonder Saturn from the Texas Panhandle, y’all. And now, help me come up with a name for my new Mazda.