Post Prius

Last week it swept over me that after seventeen years of loyal service, my beloved Prius had transitioned from a source of great enjoyment and help to one of great expense and inconvenience. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d needed to use it, and what I could remember was multiple occasions when it had cost me money in street sweeper tickets and various permits like the handicap placard and the area AA street parking permit. Not to omit the much greater ongoing cost of auto insurance. It was also a constant source of anxiety and stress. In 2020, somebody stole the catalytic converter right out from under it, which cost me a cool three hundred and another hundred for a prophylactic “Cat Cage” to foil thieves; and there’s the constant stress from the elaborate pas de deux with the street sweeper.

All this cost and hassle was bearable in the old days when I was commuting to work, meeting friends for dinners in other Bay Area cities, driving along rivers photographing their bridges, and taking long road trips to places back east like Texas or Los Angeles. But I’m now too old and tired to do any of those things except dinners outside San Francisco for which I can talk the group into selecting a place within Segwayable distance from BART.

Why, I asked, do I have to put up with this vampire sucking me dry? Why not sell the damn thing? I’d be without a car for the first time since 1963, but I know rich people who don’t have a car, so it’s not a question of status and certainly not of practicality, at least for San Franciscans, what with our vaunted Muni. Umm, ok we vaunt between screeches of outrage when the 14 Mission is running late.

I also have to admit that while I’m a cautious driver, I’m certainly not as skilled or alert as I used to be and that taking myself off the road is actually an act of public service.

I had no idea how one sells a car nowadays, so I offered my friend Jeff half of whatever he could get for a seventeen-year-old Prius covered with scratches and little dents from all those years parked on the street.When Jeff went searching online, I was astonished to learn that the car was worth far more than I’d imagined possible. I talked him down from his upper-middle-of-the-range asking price, and he put it on eBay for $5,900. There was a response almost immediately, and they poured in for an hour until he took the posting down after he had a couple dozen interested parties. Hmmm, perhaps shoulda added “OBO” after that price.

Early that very evening the first responder came by to look at the car, pronounced it just what he wanted, and handed me a crisp Franklin as a deposit. Before I took it out of his hand I informed him that I’d made a commitment that I had to honor to go up to San Rafael two days hence to see Sybil, who’s ninety-something and feeling her age. So I told him that after I got back I’d deliver the car to his doorstep.

He cheerfully agreed; and after I returned from San Rafael, Jeff and I took the car to him. I stood there watching in shock as the buyer counted out piles of hundred dollar bills. Never saw so much cash in my life.

How strange it was to stand there saying goodbye to by far the best car I’d ever owned, knowing that from that moment forward I’d be carless. Reminded me of that Peter DeVries novel Let Me Count the Ways in which the narrator classifies the members of his community into two groups: motorists and pedestrians like himself. I kissed it goodbye and still feel rather strange to be carless without a single regret. I keep thinking some will appear, but so far not one has.

Last kiss


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