So Long, Pal
We took our Mini back to the dealership yesterday.
The lease was up - somehow it’s already been three years - so this was no surprise. But even still, it was much harder to say goodbye to that little car than I thought it would be.
Let me explain why, if I can. It’s sort of like when humans discovered farming. Before learning how to cultivate crops, their lives were spent searching for the next meal and there was little time for anything else. But once they learned how to farm and were able to settle in once place, they suddenly had more mental energy (and time!!) to devote to the development of other things, like art and technology.
The Mini for me was, in a way, like farming for those ancient people (though, obviously, in a much less life or death sort of way!!).The first few months we lived in San Francisco were some of the most difficult of my life. I was working for a jeweler in Sausalito and had to drive through the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge to get to work every day. Each minute of that drive was pure terror for me - coming from laid-back Colorado, California drivers were wild and aggressive. At the time, I was driving our aging Audi which was a temperamental machine on the best of days and the best of roads. The real kicker, though, was the fact that it had a manual transmission - which made navigating the steep hills even more of a challenge.
There is one memory that sits prominently in my head. It was the end of a long day of work (and an especially long commute home). I was trying to parallel park on the wickedly steep hill outside of our apartment and I somehow found myself stuck halfway in the spot, caught between a Ferrari and a Subaru. I needed to back up but if the Audi slid forward at all (something it did ALL THE TIME when I tried to reverse uphill) I’d hit the Ferrari. And if I gunned it to avoid sliding forwards, I risked shooting backwards into the Subaru. So I sat there, on the hill, crying and shaking until I got up the courage to finally get myself parked (and somehow, no cars ended up smashed in the process).
I wish I had been able to come away from situations like that with more confidence - like, I did it! I parked! I’m awesome! But every difficulty I faced (and ultimately overcame) made me more fearful, to the point where driving was a constant worry - even if I wasn’t in the car.
With my terrified driving and the crazy hills taking a toll on the Audi (which literally started to sound like it was rattling itself apart), we decided to lease a second car. And after some hemming and hawing, we chose the Mini. Though it was a small car, nimble enough to fit into the tight spots, it didn’t feel like a small car to me. Honestly, it sort of reminded me of the Toyota 4Runner I had learned to drive. It looked like a spaceship on the inside, all rounded edges and dials, and it made me feel good about myself. It made me feel safe.
Within a month of having the Mini, I was no longer afraid to drive in the city. I started to enjoy the challenge that is parallel parking on hills. I was able to start listening to music in the car and remembered how much I love to sing while I drive. Crossing the Golden Gate bridge became the highlight of my day.
And because I was no longer spending all of my energy trying not to die (or at least trying not to feel like I was dying) during my commute, I started to realize things. How much I was looking forward to getting my own horse. How the city smelled of eucalyptus when it rained. How unhappy I was in my job.
So I dreamed about training mustangs and making jewelry (instead of about getting in car crashes). I quit my job, bought a butane torch and set up shop on the kitchen island. I started this business.
The Mini never felt like the most robust of cars, but it always tried - and for that I will always be grateful. It dealt with the miles spent driving the potholed route to the barn and it suffered through our Colorado adventures last summer (including traversing epic washboards, 4 wheel drive roads that tried to bottom us out, and endless slow crawls that threatened to overheat the engine).
Truthfully though, we no longer need to maneuver into tiny parking spots on hills. Instead, we need to pull a horse trailer. We need a car that can reliably take us on the backroads and haul bikes and handle deep snow. So we decided, that with the Mini lease ending we’d once again join the Toyota club and get ourselves a Tacoma.
And the truck has been amazing - everything feels heftier and more solid and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world every time I swing myself into the front seat. And being able to throw things in the bed instead of trying to Tetris them into the back seat? Heaven. Driving over bumps without having my teeth rattled out by a rigid suspension? Glorious. This vehicle is going to shape this next chapter of our lives.
But then I think again of the Mini - I don’t know how I would have made it here without that trusty four-wheeled friend. How many things were decided during the miles I spent sitting in that driver’s seat? It gave me the space to realize my dreams.
Goodbyes are hard for me, always. And for so many reasons, this one was no exception. I only hope that the next owner gets half of the joy we did from this little car. Happy trails, my friend.