I haven’t seen Parker for a while. How is he? Nick, a loyal fan.
I’ve shared many of the adventures with Parker, my old Buick Park Avenue, much like Dr. Watson shared his with Sherlock Holmes.
Nick had read them all. She was a fan.
I’d see her – usually at Wednesday’s community discussion table at the CEED Centre. Nick never failed to ask how “the old trooper” was doing, not just to make conversation, but because she admired his character.
Parker prided himself on being a comfortable, even luxurious ride from day one, but it was his stoic determination to keep going even after numerous mechanical setbacks that set him apart.
“How’s Parker today?” Nick asked again when we met just before Christmas. You could see empathy in her eyes, hear love in her voice. “I was so sorry to hear he’s had another scary mechanical incident. Out of the garage yet? Must hate being taken off the road for so long.”
I felt a lump in my throat, knowing that what I had to tell her was not the good news she hoped for.
Parker (1991-2019) had passed on.
At least it didn’t come as a total surprise.
Nick knew Parker had been suffering the ravages of old age.
In 2018, his brakes failed on the Lougheed Highway in Haney when I was driving. Luckily, we were just coasting between stoplights. I turned into the curb, shut off the engine, and breathed a sigh of relief as traffic whizzed by, and a bus pulled up behind and honked impatiently.
Parker had been slowly leaking fluid from his master cylinder. There was no pressure for braking.
That was a close call I should have heeded. Instead, I dug up a replacement master cylinder at the auto wrecker that had already found us a new brake cable, two starter motors, generator, and horn and airbag assembly that wasn’t anywhere near the colour of his original one.
This mishap led to serious conversations with caregivers.
“You have to realize the master cylinder I found,” Carl, Parker’s wrecker, warned me, “came from another old Park Avenue. It works, but you can never know for how long.”
The mechanic who performed the transplant thought I should retire Parker, too.
“There comes a time,” he said, “when putting old parts into him won’t cut the mustard. Have you thought of buying a new car?”
And then there was mother-in-law.
“It’s not safe for you to drive those old cars, Jack,” she scolded. “When I sell my house, I’m going to help you buy a new one.”
They were all right, but it took that latest brake-related incident to convince me. This time, my wife was behind the wheel.
She’d just pulled into a mall off the Lougheed when the brake pedal suddenly went spongy. She pumped the pedal like mad, trying to stop the forward motion. But, if it weren’t for cement lane block, Parker would have kept going.
“Brake lines ruptured,” the mechanic reported. “I replaced them, but you really shouldn’t be driving this car anymore. Hasn’t anybody told you that?”
The Canadian Liver Foundation raises funds by recycling or scrapping old vehicles.
I talked to Kirsten.
“We’ve just lost a loved one from cancer. I know Parker would like to know he’s helping others by making this donation to you,” I told her.
“Did you say his name was, Parker?” Kirsten asked. “I can fully relate to that. My car’s name is Eleanor. She’s a 2010 Mitsubishi. I treat her better than most people. We have a lot of staff like me here.”
I’d made the right choice.
“Thank you, Kirsten,” I said, and arranged for a pickup at the house.
The tow truck driver looked at me as if we’d met before, but he couldn’t remember where.
“Hey,” he said, finally. “You’re that guy in the paper, ain’t you; the one that owns Parker.”
“This is him,” I said, wiping a tear from my eye. “Please take good care of him.”
“Don’t worry pal,” he said. “That car was one good old boy.”
Parker is survived by me, his friend and biographer, our family, and loyal fans like Nick and the tow truck guy. I have a new car now – my first ever – thanks to mom. It’s not electric because there’s no plug-ins in the remote backwoods of B.C.
But, he has some environmental qualities. Rodents have already decided that the plant-based wiring – soy – is tasty.
The proof is tooth marks and the poop they’ve left under the hood.
I call my new SUV Hal, after the computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
That Hal tried to wrestle control of a spaceship from the humans he believed he was smarter than. My Hal complains I leave the lane more often than I do.
“Lane departure,” he insists annoyingly.
I’d like to turn Hal off when he does that, but I’m afraid he’ll say, “I’m sorry, Jack, I can’t allow that.”
This, of course, is another story.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.