That day came about three weeks ago when I took a new job that required a considerable amount of traveling. I knew my old 1996 Pontiac Bonneville wouldn't be able to handle the strain, and since fuel efficiency suddenly became my primary concern, I knew it was time to retire my beloved vehicle.
The Bonneville was only three years old when I bought it, and it had slightly more than 60,000 miles. It cost more than all of my previous cars combined. Originally, my goal was to drive that car for 10 years. Once I exceeded that goal, I wanted to drive it more than 200,000 miles. I achieved that goal last summer. Then, I wanted to drive the Bonneville until my daughter, Evien, turned nine because I bought it when my daughter, Hillary, was nine. Evien had her ninth birthday last week, and Hillary is a 23-year-old college graduate student.
In 1999, I owned a little red Dodge Daytona with a blown head gasket and worn universal joints. I never really liked that car much. It was small, rattled, and needed constant maintenance. While I was waiting for the Daytona to die, my dad and I visited every used car lot from Grand Haven to Apple Avenue in Muskegon. I test drove Fords, Chevys, Chryslers, and even an Oldsmobile, but I was never quite satisfied.
Then one day I spotted a Pontiac on a small lot in Fruitport. The white beauty had a spoiler and honeycomb rims with a tiny gold pinstripe down the side. It had a 3600 V6 engine and a cassette player. Hillary was with me the first time I took the Bonneville for a ride. She sat in the back seat while I played with the power window buttons.
The window sticker got caught in the draft and flapped wildly outside the back window. Hillary reached up to pull the noisy paper back inside the car at the same time I pushed the button to raise the window. Hillary let out a loud scream when her fingers got pinched. She had big tears on her cheeks when I pulled the car back into the car lot. I love Hillary, but I bought the car anyway.
I've owned that car for 14 years. I picked my children up from elementary school, middle school, and high school in that car, and I drove it to my daughter's graduation from college. I owned that car when I got married for the second time, I brought my baby girls home from the hospital in that car and a few years later, I picked them up from elementary school. I've even taken my granddaughter on play dates at the Spring Lake Library and downtown Grand Haven in that car.
I drove that car to softball games, basketball games, and track meets all over Muskegon County, Whitehall, Fremont, Hesperia, and Coopersville to watch my daughters compete. I drove that car to Muskegon Community College for years until I finally earned an Associate's degree. Then I drove it to Grand Valley State University through sunshine, rain, hail, sleet, and snow until I earned my Bachelor's degree. I've changed jobs three times in that car's tenure.
For years, family and friends have been telling me I need to get a new car, but I haven't been able to part with my beautiful Bonneville. My relationship with that car lasted longer than my first marriage.
Late one night, a few summers ago, I plowed into a bright orange barrel in a road construction zone that left permanent scars on the Bonneville's passenger-side front fender, and rust has begun to form around the rear wheel wells.
The rubber strip has come loose from the interior doors, so a steady stream of water drips in whenever it rains. The driver's side window adjustment came loose a few years ago and dangles by wires beside my left knee. The air conditioner hasn't worked for about 10 years, and the heater core is shot so it doesn't have heat, either. Also, the carpet in the backseat is inexplicably damp all the time, therefore the car smells like mildew.
Well, life's circumstances prevailed and I bought a new car. I bought a brand new Toyota Corolla. The new car is gold with a moon roof, fog lights, air conditioning, heat, and a CD player. I like the new car, but I don't think I'll ever love it. I don't know how I can. We have no history together. Driving the Corolla everyday is like commuting to work with a stranger. We don't know what to say to each other.
After signing all the paperwork for the new car, the Toyota dealer asked me if I'd like to trade in the Bonneville. I just couldn't do it. The car was worth so much more to me than the paltry sum he was willing to give. So I kept the Pontiac, but my wife has begun dropping subtle hints that the Bonneville has to go.
I know she's right. It's silly to keep paying insurance on a car that just sits in the driveway like a rusting suit of armor for a fallen soldier. I need to get over my emotional attachment to an inanimate hunk of steel and rubber, and to embrace the new vehicle. I think I'll call the Toyota dealer and see if he'll still let me trade-in the Bonneville. But if I had my way, I'd park the Pontiac in the front yard and use it as a 3,500-pound lawn ornament.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist