Conversations With Cars

Some of us talk to ourselves, some of us talk to cars.

As in a recent parking episode, at the intersection of 9th Street and Bryant in downtown San Francisco. It happened at the precise spot where traffic from the Hwy 101 off-ramp muscles its impatient way into the mainstream maelstrom of 9th Street. I was late for a lunch meeting on Bryant.

“I don’t think I want to go into reverse,” said The Volvo.

I was, at the time, pretty much parallel to the far-right curb in a metered space on one-way 9th. But I was interested in getting a little closer so as to reduce chance encounters with cars making reckless right turns. This required only the slightest maneuvering back and forth, but The Volvo, as I mentioned, was interested only in forth. I eyeballed the off-ramp traffic on the left, and the rather aggressive Bryant traffic dead ahead.

“Oh, please,” I said, inching ever farther into Bryant every time I tried the reverse gear and The Volvo chose not to reverse.

It should be noted that The Volvo, which went only by that uninspired name from the time my husband purchased it, new, was a 1977 two-door stick shift. We had had similar conversations before. “I am, after all, Scandanavian…” it would murmur on days when, left alone in hot sunshine, it would refuse to restart until the cool of evening. Or, “Do you realize you are confirming my image as an old geezer lady,” I would say, gently – well, sometimes not – when it choked up in front of two Yuppies driving BMWs.

Eventually, at 9th & Bryant, I put the thing in neutral, got out, pushed it more or less into a parking place and went to my meeting. Thence I drove it, in forward gears, a few blocks to the Popular Mechanix Volvo place, with which we have a long and intimate relationship.

“I can get home on foot or on the Muni bus,” I said to Jon the P.M. guy and the assorted Volvos hanging around, “but if you by any chance have a loaner it would simplify my day.” Jon understands both Volvos and Volvo owners in distress. Out came a lovely little ’98 number named True Blue. Wayyy fancier than Popular Mechanix’ regular loaners Goldfinger and Black Beauty, True Blue boasted all manner of things I had long coveted: right-side mirror, four doors, automatic everything, functional radio… the works. I sensed right away that we might communicate well.

En route home, while True Blue was beginning a sort of sexual identity epiphany which would lead to knowing herself as The Blue Iris (my favorite flower), we became ardently conversational.

“I could be yours,” she said. And lo, there, affixed to her dashboard was a small card proclaiming, “This Car Is For Sale.” Jon is no dummy.

The next day I signed the adoption papers, and two days later we delivered the ’77 – now fully repaired and running like a Rolls Royce – to the auto dismantlers, where the State of California paid us $650 to get it off the road. I felt a little like I was leaving Great Uncle Philemon at the county home for the indigent. But The Volvo said, “Don’t you work all the time with end-of-life issues? Didn’t you provide palliative care? Doesn’t the time come for many of us when physician-hastened dying is the best choice?”

And Iris said, liltingly, “Hmmmmmm….”


  1. Dear Fran,It’s becoming more and more rare to receive an actual paper postcard in the mail, so I was quite intrigued. Thank you for the kind words and thanks for the follow up info on the disposition of “The Volvo”. I believe all cars should have names, and that a good name adds an important and enjoyable, if unquantifiable, element to owner ship. Hope you continue to enjoy your relationship with TrueBlue.Andrew

  2. Congratulations, Auntie! And RIP, TV. (Or should I say, RIPieces?)ugh. sorry!I always love reading your words and ideas.Love,Janiewhoisprocrastinatingonhomework

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: