Yesterday evening my car was taken away to be scrapped. It had started to cut out while driving, had problems starting, the central locking was playing up, the exhaust needed changing and it was 16 years old (That's 80 in car years). As my insurance ran out on Monday night, I decided it was time to get rid of it while I could still get a decent amount of money for it.
I passed my driving test in September 1980 (seventeen and a half years old) and have had my own transport ever since. I've been a commercial driver, a chauffeur, towed boats from London to Scotland and driven to every major city in Britain and most of the smaller ones. For my wedding I drove from London to Bavaria, then back two weeks later, both ways with a trailer for my then wife's stuff that she wanted to bring to Britain.
A rough estimate of the distance driven in those 32 years comes to just under 1 million miles.
As you can imagine, it's a bit of a wrench and has led to me feeling a little trapped. I can no longer just drive somewhere, I have to plan my journey ahead of time, and has also left feeling a little empty as if part of my life has been wrenched away from me.
BUT, it was my choice to do it now rather than leave it longer and have the decision made for me. I've been thinking about how I can get the usual stuff done and have restarted shopping online for groceries which are then delivered. The charity shop where I work is a ten minute walk away, which will give me some exercise, and I can do a lot of things without a car.
I don't need one to write or publish, I can do that from home, I have a phone and an internet connection, so I'm not isolated, and my writer's group meets in a hotel ten minutes walk away.
In short, while it's a wrench and an unwanted change, it's not one that's been forced on me or one I can't manage. It'll take some getting used to, though compared all the other changes I've had to make over the past few years not a major one.
Changes come to everyone's life, change is part of life. It's how we handle the big and the small changes that help others define us and also teach us about ourselves. I'm curious how this event, not huge but still a major one in the context of my life, changes me and my view of the world around me. What will I see now I don't have to concentrate on the road ahead? Will people come and visit me now I can't visit them?
I've already had an offer of a lift to get to the play from the director, and my mother will drop her car off for me to use on a Friday so I can continue reading at Greenside School (I'm now on her insurance). I suspect that most people will just adapt and accept it, my kids have.
For now, I'm a little worried about how I'll cope without my own transport, but I'm also looking forward to finding out what I can do...and how much money I'll save.
All of which reminds me of a short story I wrote some years ago called Frank, in which the lead character is a car at the end of its life.
Frank was sat at the airport waiting. He'd not been waiting for a long time, but an eternally long time. So far, he'd been here for nine hours, just sitting in the car park: waiting. His tyres were aching, his engine was cold, and the longer this went on, the worse it would be when the driver started his engine.
For the last five years he'd been passed from one criminal to another or locked up in police compounds and had barely been driven more than a thousand miles in that time. On this rare trip outside a garage or compound he was being driven by a killer. The intended target wasn't anyone big, just some CIA intern on the run. But that was humans for you.
He cast his mind back to his first owner, a dull looking woman in her thirties. She'd turned up in her shell suit at the garage, said a few words to the salesman and drove him away to her house. The house must have been fairly new as the garage was almost empty.
For a few years she'd driven him between work and home and occasionally took him on holiday with her when she went to Norfolk with her boyfriend. That all stopped when the two of them married and she'd had that awful child. Frank could never understand why she doted on that two-legged monstrosity. He was either throwing up on his carpet, or emptying a packet of cheese and onion crisps down his back seat.
As that thing got older and bigger he started to test out his father's Swiss army knife on Frank's seat covers. And what did she do? Sold Frank to a garage in part-exchange for a new estate car. Why couldn't she sell the kid instead? That little tyrant was ruining her life and she couldn't see it.
You can read the rest of that story in the short story collection I published last year.
On that note, I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Friday for some more fun.