When you came into my life, I was a little past my prime, but I guess the same could be said about you. Lots of miles: 155,000 in your case. Toyota Sienna: I never thought I’d grow so fond of you, but I’ve had this thing for minivans. You weren’t much to look at, and filthy. The previous owner let you go cheap because he didn’t have time to make you presentable. “It just needs a thorough cleaning,” he said. His kids were off to college, and we found a petrified diaper under one of your seats. Fifteen years’ worth of empty sunscreen tubes; beach passes, fake nails; teeth whitening strips. There was even a mouse infestation. But an afternoon with a vacuum and a bucket of Lysol and you were ours.
The miles added up, and winters took their toll. Gigs, get-togethers, dump runs. One rear door handle snapped off in the cold, then another. The driver side door lock didn’t work, the passenger door wouldn’t open from the outside. Eric and I devised a routine we called “hutching”, a low-grade cop maneuver - toss of the keys, one handed catch, but you weren’t allowed to look at each other. Like Starsky & Hutch. It beat feeling irritated about the doors. We made allowances for our Toyota. That’s what you do with family.
Passing vehicle inspection every year’s been a trial, but we knew a guy named Al…Some miracle of Japanese engineering kept you running when lack of money and credit dictated it was you or a couple of bikes and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
I don’t know when I began avoiding you. Probably around the time you started roaring like a jet. With the windows closed, the fumes made me sick. The noise through the one window I was able to get down meant I couldn’t hear myself think. The mechanic said you needed a new catalytic convertor and, given the 266,000 miles on your odometer, recommended putting the one grand a repair would cost towards a new car. I let the water bottles pile up on your floor and never filled the gas tank more than half.
The other night when the temperature dropped to the single digits, I wanted to stop and offer a friend a ride. She was picking her way down the sidewalk on the passenger side. I couldn't honk the horn, couldn't roll the window down to shout at her. I knew it was time to let the van go.
But how to replace you, buddy? You have a CD AND cassette player! There’s no selling you, except maybe for scrap. When I finally drop you at the junkyard, the sun reflecting off the duct tape that holds a corner of your windshield in place, you’ll look like trash to the rest of the world, but I’ll know you’re royalty - a 2000 Toyota Sienna - and we won’t see your like again.
So farewell old frie- wait, there’s a 2002 Subaru Forester up for grabs? And the Subaru has everything done; all wheel drive, heated leather seats, plus a moonroof? What, do I look like some upstate New York cliche?
Let me just get the plates off this old van…