Last Sunday I drove the rattletrap for the last time.
It was only a matter of time. Regular readers of this blog will recall the myriad of posts about its voracious appetite for engine coolant (to be regaled with one such tale, click here). It had no air conditioning to speak of, and the heat only kicked in if the vehicle ran for more than forty consecutive minutes. The door covering the gas cap clung to the side with a lone rusted hinge, flapping like a flag at highway speeds but try as we might, we couldn't pry it off of that last tenacious hinge. The thing was so run-down that I could probably leave it unlocked with the keys on the front seat in downtown Edmonton and nobody would bother to steal it. Somewhere in the back it had a chronic rattle -- hence the name. My mother hated driving it mostly for that reason, but I found that if you turned White Heart and Daniel Amos up loud enough, that usually fixed the problem.
It started out as a family minivan in September 2001, after my mother totaled our green Spirit. After carting around three, then four, then five, then six children, it entered retirement in early 2010 when the family grew too big to fit in its grey bucket seats and a larger van joined the vehicular ranks.
Retirement was temporary though... six months later I totaled my car, and my parents decided to dust off the minivan, rename it 'The Little Van,' and give me one of the keys. I had learnt to drive on this van... my dad would take to me to town and then tell me 'turn at those lights,' 'turn here,' and so on until we somehow magically wound up at Tim Horton's.
And so I become the proud driver of the Little Van, although I privately and affectionately christened it 'The Rattletrap.' It was in the rattletrap that I took the left turn that almost killed me for the first time since that accident, and it was the rattletrap that acted as taxi for my younger friends at church until they got their licenses. I was at the wheel when the odometer hit 200,000 kilometres, and I was also at the wheel this spring when it rolled over 300,000 (as I write, it sits at 307,329).
The rattletrap became a bit of a haven for me. The house is absolutely not soundproof at all, so the only time I felt comfortable enough to sing (something I enjoy but in which I am absolutely not confident in my 'abilities') was alone, in the rattletrap, listening to Petra, White Heart, Prodigal, and in the past year and a half, Daniel Amos. I memorised a ridiculous amount of song lyrics on my one-hour-each-direction commute to dance class and/or dance team every week. The rattletrap had a phenomenal sound system, and believe me, I took full advantage of it. It sounded better than every CD player in our house (trust me... we've got a few), and I grew to love driving. Because driving meant music, and I could pay (almost) undivided attention to the glorious music if the only other thing I had to focus on was driving.
I drove to ballet class, Bible study, and worship team practice most frequently. In fact, the rattletrap and I conquered the drive to the dance school so often that I could put in almost any album I owned and know exactly which part of which song I would be listening to at certain points of the journey. If I got delayed, the music and the scenery would be incongruent. To this day I cannot listen to White Heart's album Don't Wait For The Movie without seeing the city lights, the overpasses and the skyline (and the construction) during Dr Jekyll And Mr Christian. I would often pull up to the dance school exactly as the last notes of How Many Times was fading out. Driving home from Bible study and worship team practice would often have me driving during dusk or early darkness, and I relished every second of it.
But the rattletrap was aging. The aforementioned budget for coolant was growing. Even the faithful and much-used CD player started to get a little bitter and grumpy. At first it simply refused to play the CDs I've burnt on the computer. It was a blow to not be able to listen to my Prodigal albums (I haven't been able to get the new deluxe re-release package yet because of financial constraints -- however, you, dear reader, are in need of this collection), but hey, I still had a few factory-pressed DA albums. So I contented myself with listening to ¡Alarma! all summer long. But then, one day when I returned to the rattletrap to drive home from my grandmother's house, it simply refused to pick up the CD where it had left off. I argued with it for half the drive home and even put in DA's Darn Floor - Big Bite, which it had played without complaint only a few days earlier. It shot me an error message before the disc was even fully loaded in the player, and then refused to return the disc to me. I eventually got the CD back, but I knew the rattletrap was now in its final days.
Two weeks later it started to 'overheat' even with the coolant tank full. We could only drive it for about ten minutes (if that) before the warning light would come on. We could no longer tell whether to heed the warning or ignore it.
It was over.
I cried as I nursed it home for the final time, in silence. It still handles beautifully -- it was almost like a ballroom dance partner. People tell me all the time I'm such a smooth driver, but I think most of it was the rattletrap.
I knew when I first became its primary driver four years ago that its days were numbered, but you're never quite ready for the day when it comes. And now that I'm back at college, I will never see it again; never again share with it a dark magical highway with streetlight-stars and skylines lighting my way to dance, friends, or home.
I miss you already, Little Van. Thank you for the good times, and always for the music.