Emma, a white 2002 Ford Explorer, died yesterday in Houston, Texas. She had driven 147,500 miles.
Emma lived many lives in many places. Over the years she trucked from the suburbs of Houston to Chinatown every day; then served a semester in Auburn, Alabama, where she was briefly known as the “party car;” got lost in the streets of Dallas during a miserable summer; wandered through the wooded roads of small-town Pennsylvania for an autumn; and traversed Chicagoland for years with a stamina no one thought she had. Finally, she made the long journey back to Texas, carrying her owner’s many possessions and memories accrued from seven years in Chicago. Once she was returned to her hometown, she continued her many adventures across Houston and Texas.
She was a traveler; she was a trooper. Emma survived not only the Texas heat, humidity and many, many floods; but also Hurricanes Ike, Sandy and Harvey, and several brutal Chicago winters. She made many a road trip from Houston to Dallas and back (one time, with an unnoticed flat tire), from Houston to Austin, and across the eastern, Southern and Midwestern U.S. Once she traveled from Chicago to Cleveland for a weekend just so her owner could make pumpkin pie (from scratch!) with her friends.
She wasn’t without faults, though. Her air conditioning, no matter how many times it was fixed, never worked quite properly. Her doors had the tendency to freeze shut during those Chicago winters, and then, once opened, not shut properly, causing the door ajar alarm to go off constantly, especially while on the highway. In her final years, her worn-out body warranted several expensive tune-ups.
Eventually, the battery in her keys died. And unless you conjured some mystical voodoo magic when you closed and locked her doors, her lights wouldn’t turn off. She started getting cranky in her old age, locking and unlocking the doors at random while driving. Her alarm went off in the middle of the night when her owner was sleeping more times than she’d care to admit.
In the end, Emma died peacefully, when she wouldn’t start even though her battery had just been replaced. It was a very Emma way to go.
But for 10 years she drove faithfully and true. In Chicago, she started even when it was negative 10 degrees outside; she never skidded off the icy roads at night when carrying her owner home when she had to work late. She survived being buried under feet of snow and ice. She blasted music loudly and proudly. She patiently navigated Houston traffic. She stored many a coat, sweater, mix CD, chapstick, water bottle and grocery bag in her backseat. She was safe and reliable, even when her owner knocked off her side mirrors, or roughed up her front and back bumpers from small accidents, or parked her outside with no protection from the elements.
She was a source of joy and comfort. She was a space where one could cry when lonely or heartbroken, and a place to catch up with loved ones. She wasn’t just a means of transportation from point A to point B—she was more like an old friend you could call on for anything.
Emma was loved fiercely, and she will be missed. She will be replaced, probably by something with better gas mileage, but never forgotten.