Ride On, Amigo

Kelly - Costa Mesa, California
Entered on March 22, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

The Rust Bucket. If you are a member of today’s roadway community, you are familiar with this marvelous machine, this rare staying together of steel and cracked glass rumbling just right of fast paced traffic. I dub it a marvel due to the fact that it has not been dragged to the yard, nor shamed off the streets by newer, faster cars. Rusties cruise on with their pride intact, despite hostile honks and gestures from drivers sitting in comfort with air conditioning, tush warmers, back-rubbers, touch screens, talking phones, talking ipods, talking ladies prompting them to bear right, not to mention braking and acceleration in real time. No, the bucket is not equipped with any of these luxuries, but along with extra oil and jumper cables, it carries something worth much more.

I became the owner and operator of a Rust Bucket two years ago. That 1990 Isuzu Amigo was a ray of hope, that walking, biking and begging for rides for two years will actually get a person somewhere different. The first of many Bucket driving lessons was that a visual thru the windshield on early, see-your-breath mornings is not always necessary— mainly because dinosaur defrost dismisses this option— but roads can be driven on instinct. That first day, the journey from home to work was similar to being with a sought after lover for the first time. You know what to do, but it takes some finesse to do it well. Investigate the handling. Find that favorite gear and rev it up. The fact was that my car and I got off to a rocky start. It needed a doctor, quick. Luckily, I worked with thirty of them. I did not send my car away with a stranger. Instead, I popped the hood and as with the scalpel through frog skin, entered a world completely foreign. Without my co-worker and forever go-to technician I would have been lost. He helped me to listen to my car, to translate its ticks and groans, its erratic pulse, into the layman’s terms I understood. We wrenched and tweaked, changed fluid and put life blood back into that truck until its putter was once again the steady breath of a road warrior. From a perfect stranger to my new partner in crime, I knew that day that my truck had a personality, as with any that has put so many miles under its belt. I did for the friend what it could not do for itself, the beginning of our symbiotic amigoship.

If these wheels could talk, oh the stories they’d tell. My truck is a hand-me-down. These gently used gifts I have become partial to in my years as a younger sibling and a minimum wage laborer. From t-shirts to lunch boxes, I cherish things passed to me freely for the stories they hold, whether in thermos or in thread. Each time I crank the engine, its rattle tells of cattle guards crossed on back roads through Arizona. In the dings on the protruding fenders and oxidized bumpers, a picture is painted of close encounters with granite boulders on bone jarring trails (and a few shopping carts). The scent of exhaust fumes and sun baked upholstery inside is laced with the odor of beach salt, city smog, and twenty summer seasons. These flaws are the scars and bum knees that recount life battles. These are the perks that you can’t add into your sales contract when you buy a shiny new car at the dealer, but come stock on an old soldier beater.

When I see an old car I look on it not with pity but admiration for all that it has seen. As for their noble drivers, whether at the wheel or pushing from behind, I salute them. I see the hearts in these seasoned vets. I can look at a trunk that never quite closes right, and know its because its packing all that history.