Today’s a little bittersweet, as it’s the day I said goodbye to the first car I properly bought.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d had other cars before – a 1979 Mazda 323 shitbox, a 1984 Honda Accord and an early-’90s Honda Accord named Harriet – but this was the first car I had to trawl car yards to buy. The others had been picked up through family connections, bought from relatives.
The 2004 Santa Fe(z) was the first car I ever bought without anyone’s advice, bought from a dodgy motherfucker of a car dealer whose concrete lot now houses a Dan Murphy’s, and who seemingly closed almost immediately after I picked up my car.
It wasn’t new, but it was new to me. I paid twice the ticket price by the time I’d finished the finance period (because non-manufacturer financing is balls, apparently) but it was mine: a big, black, ugly affair of a car that was really a Hyundai Sonata on stilts. It looked like a Clayton’s Escalade, like something an exceptionally low-rent rapper would drive. It had side steps and an interior that I later discovered had been damaged by the previous owner, to the point where on super-hot days, the console would denature and black gunk would just leach off the fucker.
But it was something I’d chosen. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a jack in the back. It was something ungainly and it let me sit up high, regarding the traffic. Someone put wrong-size tires on the front and they’d scrape going around corners. But I could fit a taiko performance worth of drums in the back, if I wanted. I never could think of a nickname for the car that would fit – Santa Fez was what it was most commonly called, but it never really revealed itself.
It was the car I drove to my job in Chatswood (before we moved the offices to our homes) for the bulk of the 12 years I’ve now been doing the gig. I used to leave work late in order to (mostly unsuccessfully) miss traffic, so I remember mostly sitting up high in a sea of red brakelights, watching the sky orange, through purple, to black as the sun disappeared.
It was expensive to fuel, expensive to service. I cleaned all my stuff out of it, old dockets and screwdrivers and countless MP3CDs. I took my plastic lobster off the dash, preparing him for the next ride. And through a circuitous game of phone tag, I sold it to a car auction company.
The guy brought me a cheque today, all asterisks and small figures, and he got into the car.
I didn’t see it drive away. I was moving my new car – my Great-Aunty Dawn’s 1986 Honda Accord hatch, a silver Patrick Nagel wedge of a car – a little further down the street. By the time I rounded the corner, having made the trapezoidal run around the block back to home, it had gone.
I never really gave it a name, but I felt sad all the same.