Bun-bun the diesel VW Rabbit had a habit of dropping mufflers up and down the east coast (Canadian camping grounds, the Expressway leaving Fenway Park, etc.), but even sounding like a giant, percussion-heavy marching band, he got us where we were going. Steve the pickup truck stuck with me through my first couple of years behind the wheel before politely leaking gas to let me know that the connection between his cab and his bed was about to let go.
These days, Arizona's and my beloved Subaru Baja, Roo, is well on his way to joining those hallowed ranks of Good Cars. Last summer, he gave us fair warning that he wasn't feeling well on the day before a planned road trip. Which was annoying, sure, but better the day before than a few hundred miles down the road! Similarly, this past week, my sweetie and I were on our way to the dentist for his-and-hers cleanings, when one of Roo's rear wheels started making a godawful grinding noise and he dragged to one side, like a pony that had just gotten a pointy rock stuck in his hoof and was tossing his head and going "Get it out, get it out, get it out!"
We pulled over. We stared at the tire and brakes. Arizona stuck his head under, to see if we were dragging something. Failing to find anything we could see, we went through the usual "parking brake on, parking brake off, back up, wiggle around, go fast, go slow" routine, and what do you know? Things started sounding better and better, until we could only reproduce the grinding noise with a hard turn to the right.
As an aside, this pleased me. I really hate handing a car to a mechanic and describing a problem he (or she, of course, but mostly he) can't reproduce. It's like taking a day off to ship a horse to the expensive vet clinic for a comprehensive lameness exam, only to have it walk off the trailer sound as a dollar.
Which left the question of what to do? Should we turn around? Keep going onto the highway? We would need to get on the highway with him at some point to get him to the shop, as it's ... Well, what do you know? The shop is right down the street from the dentist.
So off we hied to get our fangs cleaned, then dropped Roo off with our most excellent mechanics, and picked up a loaner to drive home, only a half hour late getting Arizona back to his desk. And thus Roo (in addition to only needing a fairly easy and inexpensive repair) proved himself once again to be a Good Car.
Because did I mention we were planning an eight-hour, four-state drive on Saturday to visit a friend? Yeah, that. And while it wouldn't have been the end of the world to break down on some highway between here and there on a Saturday, it would've been a whole lot less convenient than toodling down the road with nice clean teeth for a two-hour repair.
Instead, our road trip passed in hours of pleasant conversation, Arizona's continued marveling at how us transplanted Bostonians choose to pronounce our place names (often only hitting one or two out of every three letters), and a game of 'spot the best vanity plate.' Because I can only guess that it's really cheap to get a vanity plate in Maine, because there were LOTS of them.
There was the SUV that was RN-N-L8 and doing eighty in the middle lane. It took me a second, but then I grinned. "Running late!"
There was the white hatchback that proclaimed itself a HERO. Since it was a Purple Heart plate and wore USMC stickers, I'll take that as fact rather than braggadocio.
There was the big, badass pickup truck that claimed to be YR FATHR. I'm not sure if it was meant to be biblical, Star Wars or Jerry Springer, but it was memorable.
Then there was the usual gaggle of names, initials, and inside jokes that Arizona and I could only guess at. But it got us reminiscing about vanity plates we have known and loved, like the red VW Beetle named LADYBG, and a variety of horsey themed plates I have seen at the shows over the years, versions on EQUIT-8 and JUMP IT.
My all-time favorite, though, was one I saw back when I was a kid, maybe on one of those familial road trips: a white VW Rabbit whose plate said IM LATE.
Mind you, I was old enough (and had a weirdly esoteric sense of the world stemming from reading anything I could get my hands on) that at first I thought it meant someone was pregnant and, to quote Aerosmith, the rabbit done died. Upon following the in-car discussion, however, I acknowledged it was probably an Alice in Wonderland reference. And a cool one, at that.
Me? I've never had a vanity plate. Thought about it, sure, but I just haven't been able to settle on a seven-character string that works. It's made even more complicated by Arizona's and my choosing to be a one-car family, since we do most everything together anyway. So for now, we're ... well, whatever numbers and letters Roo is wearing (I think there's a Y in there somewhere). And we're grateful to him for giving us plenty of warning that he needs to see a car doctor!
How about you? Does your car have a name? Do you have a favorite vanity plate? Have you seen a funny/awful one? Let's collect them!