When I was 19 years old my Grandma, Elma Jack, suffered a stroke and passed away. Pretty classic narrative for teenagers everywhere and it sucked. After the hospital, and the funeral home, and the crushing final dinner in her house, my dad and his siblings had the task of dividing up what was left. I ended up with her 2000 gold Buick Century which I lovingly nicknamed "The Golden Bucket." It was one hell of a whip!
Being the youngest of 10 grandchildren I felt like I had been cheated out of my time with my Grandma. That sounds really selfish but in reality all my other cousins got to spend an extra 10 or 15 years with her that I missed out on. As it turns out she wasn't quite done with me yet. Here are some of the best things my Grandma taught me through her Buick.
1. Haters Gonna Hate
In my last year of University someone filled the Golden Bucket's gas tank with water while I was sleeping. Twice. Imagine my surprise as I load up the car with four of my friends and 25 minutes until class starts, put the key in the ignition and absolutely nothing happens. I freaked out. I cried. I got towed. After 40 minutes at a garage, the mechanic laughed in my face and said, "Man, somebody hates you!"
But, 600 sad dollars later, I thought I was in the clear. Nope! Three weeks, a broken locking gas cap and an empty can of coke later I was back at the garage with a gas tank full of pop. SWEET! I don't know who it was, or why, or even how, but someone in a townhouse complex in Mississauga hates me. Not everyone's gonna be as big of a fan as me as my Grandma was but that's OK. Sure, it would be a lot easier if everyone loved me but that ain't gonna happen. You can't worry yourself with who they are, or why they hate you, or what you could do better. Fuck 'em.
2. Slow Down and Be Responsible
If you're being reckless in a gold Buick with beige interior, everyone behind you is going to assume that you are an ancient lady who's having an episode of dementia. That doesn't make you cool. No one thinks you're sexy and wild and carefree in a car like that, so let's all just chill out. Drive the speed limit, check your blind spot, and make sure everyone's wearing their seat belts. It's way cooler to be alive in a Buick than dead on the 401. The Buick Century is the least sexy car a girl could drive and thank god! If I was under the impression that I had some swagger while driving my car lord knows what sort of trouble I could've gotten in to. The Buick kept my feet firmly planted on dorky ground.
3. Respect your Elders
There is a certain camaraderie between owners of Buick Centuries. No one else can quite understand the luxuries of a front bench seat (yeah, it seats six people!), the smooth handling, the tape deck, and the fact that others refer to it as "a boat." I've shared many a nod of recognition with white-haired men in newsboy caps. Driving an "old lady car" gives you a little insight into the retirement lifestyle. You know those pages in US Weekly that are called "Stars: They're Just Like Us!" the Buick was my US Weekly for old people. I realized although they may not know how to tweet or who Soulja Boy is we're all just moving through life as best we can. (And trust me you're moving at your best inside a Buick) For example, one time while visiting my parents I drove to the grocery store on a Tuesday; senior's day where I'm from. Now, I'll be damned if it took me 40 minutes in the parking lot to find my car again because of the sheer number of Buick Centuries! So, I feel the struggles of the 70+ers out there!
4. It's Not Always About the Destination
During my time with the Golden Bucket, I had some of the best conversations. Driving my theatre school class to and from rehearsals, driving my city friends to my country small town, even once driving to Ottawa on a whim to be a mime at a rave (true story). The Buick was a meeting place, for me and its passengers, to solve the world's problems, or more likely bitch about people, places and things we couldn't change. The Bucket also became an escape for me. Sometimes it was the only place I could really hear myself think and get away from everyone. It gave me the freedom to run away and the courage to go back. I've cried in that car, I've screamed in that car, I've laughed in that car, I've loved in that car, I've grown up in that car. I can only imagine what I would've missed out on if I hadn't spent as many miles as I did in it.
* On this one I also have to thank the wonderful passengers. Everyone who bummed a ride to Sheridan, listened to Avicii on the way to Stratford, watched me freak out that time it got towed from a Burger King parking lot, yelled at me for running a red, drove to Hamilton to go swimming and eat cupcakes at 3 a.m., and specifically to Marcus Haccius who taught me not to litter cause I'll get hit with a $500 hammer.
5. Let it Go (Not like the song from Disney's Frozen)
This past October I realized I could no longer afford the Golden bucket. All of our hijnks had led to exponentially increasing insurance payments and my move from suburban Mississauga to downtown Toronto made it essentially purposeless. I had to give it up. But it was more than just giving up my car. It was like losing that last little bit of my Grandma I had left.
More and more I find it hard to picture her face or hear her voice, but when I was in that car I knew she was always riding shotgun. I know that sounds totally lame but I always just trusted that she was chillin' with me in the Buick. Letting go of that -- I guess, spiritual -- relationship with my Grandma didn't hurt as bad as losing her but it sure didn't feel good either. But I did it and now I just have to look for her in different places. Like when my dad says "Oh Balls!" as an expletive, or when I peace out of a social engagement to "leave you young folks!", or when I pull my house keys out four stops before my street on the streetcar. Now that I've let go of my car I've realized all the wonderful and weird things my grandma has given me.
She's not with the car. She's with me.