April 30th, 2003

JOY

Two Milestones, One Week

This weekend, Sweet Justice, my adorable Dodge Neon turned 100,000. She has served me well throughout the past six years. Happy Birthday, girl.

Why is she called Sweet Justice, you ask?

The summer of 1997 was a summer shrouded in death. In the week surrounding my maternal grandmother's passing, both my and my mother's cars entered automotive valhalla. My car's demise was forthcoming; the 1986 blue Toyota Roller Skate (otherwise known as the P.A.F* Mobile) had seen better days. It ran with the temperature gage in the red, and within a half an hour, above the red, every day. I had to keep a bottle of coolant in the trunk to fill up before I started the ignition. The graffiti in the back seat left behind by my high school friends was fading. The radio only worked when duck taped to the dashboard. When the head gasket blew for the second time in 10,000 miles, the Roller Skate was retired.

A few days later, my grandmother lost her battle with cancer, and my mother and I headed up to New Jersey in her '93 Camry XLE V-8. I still have dreams about driving this car. It had the kind of power that no one would ever expect from a Champagne Mist grocery getter: incredible handling, lightning-fast acceleration, and the smoothest ride at 90mph I have experienced since the days of my dad's Mercedes. Mom and I have a nice arrangement when we go on long car trips; I'd rather drive, she'd rather sleep. It was like the car knew me and was thanking me for driving it the way it was made to be. The day after my grandmother's funeral, my mother was driving back to where we were staying from my grandfather's house on Rt. 80. It was raining lightly, but there were few people on the road. Mom hydroplaned the Camry, lost control, and ended up bouncing it between the guardrails like a pinball, smashing up all four corners, but coming out unharmed. The Camry was totaled and we took a rental car back to North Carolina.

We still had to find a replacement for the Roller Skate. The mentality in New Jersey, or at least the one that my parents had adopted, is that everything that is good is far away. If you want good food, the restaurants nearby are nothing compared to the ones that take 45 minutes to get to. Good car dealerships are even farther. Despite the fact that mom lived 1/2 a mile from Cary Autopark, one of the Southeast's largest auto malls, mom was convinced that the only dealerships worth looking at were in Wake Forest. I begged and begged to go to the one nearby, for little other reason than I didn't want to have to miss work to drive an hour to look at cars that I can see down the street. In front of the Acura dealership, there it was: a 1995 Strawberry Pearl Neon. As much as I tried to convince myself that I wasn't the kind of girl to drive a pink car, I loved it. The car had belonged to the dealer's sister, had a good history, the price was right, and by the end of the day, it was mine. Finally, after two years of bending key after key trying to get the Roller Skate started in the winter, after gallons upon gallons of coolant, after rolls and rolls of duct tape, I got some Justice. Some Sweet, Sweet Justice.

Coincidentally, today is the two year anniversary of my starting this job. Hopefully these past two years of watching my skills deteriorate, a stagnant salary, and enduring some of the most trying people I have ever met in my life will pay off in a similar manner. I could use some Justice right about now.

*P.A.F. - Punk As Fuck
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