Personal Note #3: An Obituary for Olive

Rest in peace you dramatic, messy thing.

A close up of a small, stuffed green dinosaur with orange horns and blue spots. His name is Michael Ceratops the official car dinosaur. The background is the gray interior of my car.

When I was a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to have my driver license and the freedom that came with it. I don’t remember if it was actually true or just something I was told, but I was apparently too unwell to get my license at the same time my friends did. There were the cool kids who had cars and then, well, the rest of us. I was ashamed I still had to take two buses and a light rail home every day my first year of college. I bonded with a few other folks from my school who were also left to the mercy of unreliable public transportation, but being disabled and spending the majority of my afternoons traveling got old quick.

Around my 20th birthday, I finally received that coveted piece of plastic and my mother bought me a used PT Cruiser which I named Blooregard Q. Kazoo. I liked the car well enough despite its glaring blue color, awkward shape, and constant breakdowns. Three years later and thousands of dollars pumped into the car, Bloo had some major problems which were going to cost more money than the car was worth to repair.

I explained to my mother I wanted to sell it and use the sales plus my own money to buy a more reliable used car. Like any normal parent, she replied, “if you buy a car that breaks down then I’m not helping you at all.” Considering I already had a car that always broke down that she didn’t help me with, I decided to take the chance.

Soon after I found myself in a hardware store parking lot. One of my best friends, a mechanic, came with me to meet the seller. He was a friendly middle-aged man who spent most of our meeting trying to figure out which Arab language my birth name came from instead of talking about the car. My friend checked the car inside and out and asked all the appropriate questions. The man warned us to never go into debt because it’s against all religions, which we thought was a strange thing to say when trying to sell your car, but a deal was struck. I named my new car Olive in honor of one of my favorite television shows called Fringe. Also, the car was green. I wasn’t that creative, okay?

The day after I bought Olive I sat in my driveway feeling proud of my ability to act like a normal adult for once. I put the key in the ignition, ready for take off, but the car wouldn’t start. I called my friend in a frenzy thinking my mother was correct: I couldn’t do anything right. I made a bad decision. And now I was screwed out of my money and my old car.

“Some cars have weird mechanisms, they lock if the steering while is turned too far to one side. Just turn the wheel and it should unlock,” my friend told me, probably stifling laughter on the other end of the phone.

He was right. The car was fine. Take that, mom.

The car was reliable and low maintenance which was exactly what I hoped for. I personalized it with Blink-182 and a Green Day stickers on the back windows, as well as a tiny green dinosaur hanging from the rearview mirror I lovingly dubbed Michael Ceratops.

Olive became a huge part of my life. I slept in my car several nights in grocery store parking lots when it wasn’t safe to go home. We drove down an unlit Californian mountain road every night on the way home from my job in the hills, often taking detours to avoid my family life. I occasionally skipped school to drive to the beach on days I decided it was just too damn nice to be stuck in a classroom. Olive even protected me during a five car pile up — when all the other cars involved save for the sports car that caused the crash were also Honda Civics. I was almost certain that was a glitch in the Matrix.

When I decided to leave home, I shipped Olive to the Midwest from California. I drove her to every terrible job and through every terrifying storm. My life was tumultuous my first few years here, but Olive was my literal ride or die. My car was one of the few things I had left when I broke up with my abusive partner and became homeless. I sold most of my valuable belongings just to survive, but I kept my car because the independence, security, and reliability of having a car was pertinent to my survival.

Despite the torn and sagging interior, the leaking windshield, and the mediocre air conditioner, my car and I carried on together. I accidentally drove Olive into the brick siding of my partner’s grandma’s house because I was distraught over an abusive family member’s hate ridden e-mail, but Olive still kept going. I was convinced that as long as Olive kept running, I would be okay. If she ever stopped, then I’d be doomed. I don’t know why my brain convinced me of this but I held on to this belief for years.

I considered all of this on Tuesday as I sat in the middle of a side road with my emergency lights on. Earlier I’d noticed my car was accelerating oddly and was told to check the transmission fluids. The fluids were low so I replenished them, then tried to take my car around the block to see if it worked, but Olive couldn’t move. My partner tried to push my car out of the way of traffic but it simply wouldn’t budge.

Some people seemed to think I was doing this on purpose because I apparently give off the vibe of wanting to create chaos (Spoiler alert: I don’t). But after futile attempts to get my car out of the way, all I could do was wait for a tow and try not to cry. I succeeded at one of those things. It was only once my car was lifted onto the tow truck two hours later that I noticed all my transmission fluid had gushed out onto the street. The scene, at least to me, felt like a gory death of an old friend.

My partner and I planned for when my car might reach its end, but we weren’t prepared emotionally or financially to have it happen this week. After the utter exhaustion of being stranded and the ensuing rage and panic I felt after finding out my car truly was dead, I now find myself in a melancholy state with a side of grief.

I feel a bit silly being so upset that my car is gone, but as one friend reminded me, sometimes my brain likes to gaslight itself. Not only am I now missing doctor appointments and have no transportation, but the drama of Olive’s death was stressful and frightening. It was only the day after her death that I also realized my car is the last belonging I have from my old life in California. Once my car is gone, I won’t have anything else from my past left besides my memories … and I don’t know how to feel about that. My past wasn’t great; I’ve spent the last few years trying to forget large chunks of it. But it’s still, you know, my life.

At the end of the day, Olive is just a car, but it seems almost heartless that our decade together will be ended by sending it to a scrap yard in exchange for a measly check.

My darling car wasn’t great. The interior was falling apart and looked awful. The paint was chipping. The locks didn’t always work. There was a large gash on the passenger’s side and I was sure any day the handles would snap off. It broke down repeatedly towards the end and we kept paying for it to get fixed in hopes that it would make it to the point where we could afford to replace it. My car was a barely surviving clump of metal and green plastic.

But it was my barely surviving clump of metal and green plastic.

Here’s to Olive, my inanimate partner in crime for the past ten years. You really brought the drama until you met your demise. I don’t condone it, but I certainly respect it. I’ll miss you.

Do you have any stories about a less than stellar car that you loved? Let me know in the comments. I love a good memory.

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Ellie Marie

Ellie Marie

Speculative fiction & non-fiction. Disabled shenaniganizer. Lover of 50s/60s vintage. IG: @elliemthewriter