My family names things. The microwave has a name. My mom's stone goose has a name. The computer has a name, as does the vacuum cleaner, and of course all cars in our family have names. The name itself is important, since once the appliance / vehicle gets the name, that's the way it stays. Replacing the item in question does not garner new naming status - it merely means that the item itself has gotten a 'new coat'. My sisters and I, not one to flaunt such a tradition (I come from an eccentric family, in case you hadn't already figured that out), have carried on the practice by naming not only our own stone geese, but our cars as well. My older sister drives Stuart. My younger sister has Gwendolyn. My parents have Agamemnon and Russell, and I have Lucy - named after a caramel colored tabby kitten I once fostered. It was as good a name as any, and considering that the kitten was, despite her small stature, afraid of nothing and no one (she was adopted by a family with a golden retriever, whom she very quickly trained to be afraid of her), it seemed an apt name for a car as well.
Lucy started white - ten years old, hatchback, with a rear-view mirror that stretched across the entire front window. I can't remember now why it was that I thought this was a good idea, but back then I decided that I really should learn to drive a manual transmission, and going on the assumption that the best way to learn is to do, I figured that meant I ought to *buy* a five-speed as well. I bought her first coat from a young couple owned by two ferrets who found my shoes infinitely fascinating as I sat on their couch and signed the paperwork. That coat didn't last long - one month later, having never gotten entirely comfortable with the whole clutch and gear-shifting thing, I rear-ended a woman who slammed on her brakes in front of me to make a turn. I couldn't stop in time, and Lucy went crunch. So much for the car.
Next, Lucy became red - and this time an automatic. After the experience with the little hatchback, it was clear to me that I really wasn't meant to drive a stick shift. The little Nissan Sentra was exactly what I was looking for - basic model with air conditioning (sort of mandatory in the California summer heat). I replaced the factory radio with one with a tape deck and my habit of cranking up the volume and singing along at the top of my lungs started with that car. I also got my first speeding ticket in that coat. I watched in my rear view mirror as the police car who'd passed me going the opposite way as I drove much too fast down the back country road, suddenly lurched into a u-turn and came back toward me. Heart pounding, I prayed he wasn't coming after me, no he wasn't, and then the lights started to flash and I was sunk. There are a lot of idiots on the road, you know. All you have to do to learn that is go to traffic school. These are not hard questions they ask, folks. This is your basic, common sense stuff. I left with a cleared record, the knowledge that back country roads are not a good place to speed, and a healthy fear of my fellow driver, because it seems that on the freeway, brains are apparently a luxury, and not a requirement.
When I got the Sentra, I decided that I needed to learn how to take care of it. I signed up for a basic auto maintenance class at the local adult school and spent one night a week for the next eight weeks in grubby coveralls, poking around inside engines, snarling at wheel bolts and impossible-to-reach oil filters, learning all about spark plugs and alternators and transmissions. Okay, so I've never actually broken down and changed the oil filter or any hoses or fluids since that class, but I figure at least I know *how*, just in case. Although I regret that I've forgotten far more than I remember from that class. The terms are familiar, but if you asked me to discuss how the engine works, I'd end up staring blankly at you in response.
Last year about this time, still reeling from a suddenly much-higher salary and the knowledge that I could actually afford to buy what I wanted instead of just something to get by, I sold the little Sentra and upgraded. This time, it's no basic model. This time Lucy has all the bells and whistles - power everything, cruise control, keyless entry (I looooove keyless entry!). I also upgraded away from compact car status - although in crowded parking lots I do sometimes try to pretend that she's still small enough to wedge into the spaces. I bought the Maxima based solely on color. Well, alright, that wasn't the only factor, but I'd initially intended to purchase an Altima (okay, so in case you didn't figure it out, I'm sort of biased to Nissans), and when I saw the dismal color selection (why the car manufacturers think that six different shades of white and beige are a choice is a mystery to me), I said what the heck, and went up a level in order to get a color I'd actually want to drive around in.
Through it all, there's been one consistent factor. The color changed, as has the make, model, accessories, and transmission type, but I have always adored Lucy because she's mine, all mine. I can forget to bring stuff in from the backseat. I can put different Fish on the back window (Darwin-fish and cat-fish....and I'm still searching for the alien-fish). I can program all the radio channels to stations that I like and crank them up when I'm driving. Back when I was in college, living in a college town, I didn't need a car - I had a bike, and that plus the rather extensive bus system meant I could pretty much get anywhere I needed. Of course, I didn't have a car back then - probably a good thing, in retrospect. Better to not know what I was missing.