For thirteen years, starting in the mid-80s, I drove a tan-brown four-door, standard transmission 1983 Nissan Maxima named Martha. She had leather seats, an automatic sunroof and state-of-the-art voice prompts.
“Key is in the ignition,” she’d say.
“Thank you, Martha,” I’d reply to her polite reminder.
“Right door is open.”
“Jessica, David, shut your door again, all the way this time,” I called to my young children.
“Fuel level is low.”
“Oh, thank you very much, Martha.”
Both my husband and I drove Martha as the family car. But when he and his Mazda RX-7 zoomed out of our lives, Martha became mine. Good old reliable Martha took us everywhere my children and I needed to go.
As she aged, Martha became a one-woman car. I understood her quirks and eccentricities. Because of our long relationship, only I knew the special location of Martha’s second gear.
Bing! “Key is in the ignition.” Bing! “Key is in the ignition.” Bing! “Key is in the ignition.”
“Yes, Martha. I hear you,” I’d bark when tried and cranky. Although she creaked and rattled, Martha always responded with patience. Her voice never varied even on the day she blew a head gasket while I was driving Jessica home from an orthodontist appointment. We detoured to Martha’s favorite auto repair shop. As I pulled her into the shop bay, she sputtered, coughed and steamed.
“What ya got here, Ma’am, is a fixer-upper,” said Smitty her mechanic as he looked under Martha’s hood.
“Trolling for parts in junkyards doesn’t fit my life-style,” I replied, and sold Martha for $200 to Smitty whose teenaged son wanted a good fixer-upper.
As I cleaned out Martha’s glove compartment, armrest and trunk, Jessica chided, “You are not going to cry, Mom.”
“Goodbye, Martha, and thank you. You were a good ole gal,” I said with tears in my eyes and voice. She and I had logged 230,000 miles together.
If you took Martha’s mileage and divided by her model year, you’d get an approximate human age of 116 years old.
I doubt I have that much mileage or that many drivable years in me. At just over half Martha’s age when I sold her, I’ve already got quirks and eccentricities galore. But I’m a one-man woman married to a one-woman man.
I think we’ll keep one another, even as junkyard fixer-uppers.