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Travels With Blue
A Car with Heart Becomes a Soulmate
By William Cipriano
When I was a kid, cars never interested me; I preferred to play with trains. As a young man, I procrastinated about getting a driver's license and never learned anything about how an automobile works. I've lived content in my ignorance ever since. I suppose in some way I'm carrying on a family legacy: my father, an ever-practical engineer, made it a point to drive something nondescript, like a Nash Rambler, a car that was good on gas and could be counted on to get from point A to point B reliably, nothing more.
So my love affair with my blue 1986 Volvo came as a complete surprise. I say love affair because I didn't just like my Volvo: I grew to feel at one with it. Whenever I sank into the ratty leather driver's seat, especially as I warmed it electrically on a cold winter's morning, a soft peace came over me. I even developed a Sunday ritual of starting the day, rain or shine, by tooling around town contently sipping a cup of coffee, overwhelmed with a sense of ease and well-being. Every morning, I couldn't wait to see the old Volvo in the driveway, and during the day at work, I even checked on it in the parking lot. Like a character out of some mindless Hollywood comedy, I often found myself talking to it, as if it were my most intimate companion.
It had 87,000 miles on it when it came to me, after my previous, much-neglected car, a respectable but uninspiring Ford Taurus, had dropped its transmission and was declared irreparable by the mechanic who'd worked on all my cars over the years. It was he who saw into my soul and decided that this blue 1986 Volvo and I would be a perfect match.
Its original paint showed plenty of wear, more than a few scratches, and signs of rust. Someone had sideswiped the passenger side, leaving a dent along both doors. The windshield had no frame, the rear fender had lost its trim, the headliner looked diseased, and the passenger window opened only from the driver's side. For character, Blue vied with Inspector Columbo's banged-up Peugeot. As the mechanic told me, "It may not be pretty, but it runs."