I’ve pulled my old Subaru Outback from retirement (the one with 349,000 miles) and decided I’m going to drive it until she dies.
This car and I go way back; we’ve been in all lower forty-eight states together and a lot of Canada, too. We’ve driven over every mountain range in America and all the plains. We’ve been to the shores of all five Great Lakes and the Great Salt Lake; the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We have a lot of history together and we know each other well. That doesn’t mean we always get along without conflict.
This morning, headed south on Highway 1 toward Duluth, a dash light came on that said, “Airbag.” I snapped at the dashboard, “Yeah, sure! I know I talk a lot, but don’t call me an Airbag, you bucket of bolts!”
We shared a good laugh about that and made our way to the city where my first stop was the dentist’s office. When I came out, Subie asked me, “How did it go?” I’m going to need some work.” I replied in a deflated tone of voice. Subie chuckled and asked, “Is it because you’re getting older?” Sarcastically, I laughed, “Haha. Is that rust spot on your door because you’re getting older?” We gave each other a look of disdain and moved on.
Our next stop was Miller Hill Subaru in Duluth. The service guys, Rich, Casey and Garret, were surprised to see her again. “I thought you retired that car?” One said, another said, “It’s a blast from the past.” Another suggested seeing my old car was like watching an episode of The Walking Dead. Subie and I laughed and rolled our eyes.
Garrett waited on me, “What can I do for you today?” He asked. “I need a new filament for the right high beam.” I said. Garret wrote a service ticket and in a minute or two, a tech came to take Subie into the shop. Watching her be driven away was like a parent seeing their child escorted down the hall to an exam room at the optometrist’s office. I went to the waiting room.
Soon, Garret came to tell me my car was ready. I paid my bill, he gave me the keys, and told me the car was parked out front. That made me happy. She’s still good enough to be placed up front with the newer, lower mileage cars.
I went out, got in the car and pulled the door closed. “Wow! Whoever brought my car out must have been a tall, long-legged dude.” I slid my seat forward so I could reach the pedals, then fastened my safety belt. Facing the large panes of glass in the showroom windows, I could see our reflection as if we were in front of a big mirror. I smiled and waved at myself, my reflection waved back, then I started the car. When I released the parking brake both day lights came on. I turned on the lights, flashed the high beams and sure enough, all four headlights were working perfectly.
As we pulled away, Subie said, “Thanks for getting my glasses fixed. I’ll be able to see much better at night.” “No problem, buddy.” I replied, “No problem at all.”
Since my first appointment of the day was with the dentist, I had skipped my morning coffee. I figured avoiding coffee breath was the polite thing to do. My next stop was to get a cup of joe and use the WiFi.
I saw on Facebook where my friend’s daughter, Kelsie, just graduated from the academy and is now one of Iowa’s newest State Troopers. I recalled the first time I met Kelsie - she was just a tiny baby. Her dad brought her to the radio station in a car seat carrier. “Hey,” Dave said, “I want you to meet someone really special.”
The whole staff gathered around, oohing and awing at this precious little girl. Some started talking to her in goofy baby voices. I looked at Dave, who was one big smile from ear to ear, and said, “She’s a beautiful baby, Dave. Has she got a job yet?”
Since then, Kelsie has grown up, been to school, worked internships and had a few different jobs. But today was different because now she has a career. I was as proud of her as I would be if she was one of my own kids. I sent her a message reading, “Awesome, Kelsie! I‘m very proud of you! Just remember when you pull me over, I’ve known you since you were born. Will that get me out of a ticket?” I chuckled over that, knowing I’ll be going to Iowa again in the near future. I closed my iPad and returned to my car.
Subie complained, “Geesh, already! What took you so long?” “I was schmoozing a little bit - talking my way out of a future speeding ticket.” I explained. Subie retorted, “Well, you wouldn’t get speeding tickets if you would set the cruise control.” “Ha!” I exclaimed, using logical rational, “You’re the one with wheels! YOU were speeding, not me.” Subie took offense, “Well you’re the one who told me to do it.” “And do you do everything I tell you to do?” I asked sarcastically. “Yes, pretty much, I do.” Subie answered. “Yeah, right...” I mumbled, and turned left onto highway 53, heading south toward Winona.
“What time are we going to get there?” Subie asked. “It depends. Are you going to speed today?” I answered with a question as I shifted into fifth gear and set the cruise control at sixty-one miles per hour. “You better watch out for Trooper Kelsie.” Subie warned in reference to my speed. “She’s in Iowa. We’re in Minnesota. She won’t be getting us...at least not today.” I said and kicked it up to sixty-three as we purred down the highway.
I really like this car - we go way back. We have a lot of history together and I hope we’ll have plenty of future together, too. With 349,000 miles, every day is a gift.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/tom.palen.98
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!