Thursday, August 8, 2019

An Ode to My Chevy

Good-bye, Chevy, my car of almost 20 years! They (the local public radio station) are coming to pick you up tomorrow to take you away. The photos have been taken, you have been cleaned, and the mourning has begun.
Growing up in Yonkers, New York, I thought that I could always be like Barbara Walters or Robert Moses and get away without getting a driver's license. I loved the busses, the subways, walking everywhere of interest and, later, flying when I was invited to give talks as an academic. And, I almost succeeded without getting a driver's license but life interfered. Nevertheless, stubbornly, I did everything in reverse: first, becoming a Full Professor at the Isenberg School of Management in bucolic Amherst, Massachusetts. (Ironically, my expertise and specialty are transportation and logistics but I figured I could be more objective by not knowing how to drive.) Then, after having a child, and, after 3 drivers' road tests with the last one with a female state police officer straight out of the academy and in a uniform, to boot, success! This "talent" seems to run in my family - it took my father 13 attempts to get his license and my mother never learned how to drive. I survived unofficial driver's ed lessons on Sundays with my daughter napping and with one of my Finance colleagues giving me instructions, complete with a cushion for the car seat (I am short) in a mall parking lot, and he on the ready with his blue exam books to grade my driving in. The reward for him was breakfast at the local Burger King - my treat, of course.

I waited as long as I could to buy a car and when my daughter was about to embark to kindergarten I got my Chevy Venture. Why a Chevy, you may ask?! It had to be a General Motors car since I had recently been appointed the John F. Smith Memorial Professor, a chaired professorship endowed by the then CEO and Chairman of the Board of General Motors, and named after his father, also an alum of my university. The vehicle gave me "lift," a terrific view driving to and from my daughter's school and provided me with some respite, when I tried to catch up on The New York Times while waiting for her through elementary school, and, afterwards, most of her high school, until she got her license. My Chevy  served as a neighborhood fort for children, a place that kids, including my own, would chatter in the back, fortified with snacks that I provided. Through its windows we saw the seasons, listened to music, car pooled for sports and other activities, and even had a few vacation drives.

For the past few years, you aging grand dame, my Chevy, have had no heat or air conditioning - sometimes my wet hair would freeze even on the short commute to teach my 8:30AM classes in the winter. You rarely did not start, though, and when I received an award from UMass with the coveted UMass park "any time, anywhere" parking pass, I would leave you in my favorite parking lot for days and nights on end, when I commuted on a weekly basis by bus and then subway to Harvard (the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) where I was on sabbatical as a Science Fellow. Even this past spring, when you, my dear Chevy, developed an oil leak, I, gently, nursed you along, with help from our neighborly mechanic.

Tomorrow, as you get towed away, Chevy, and a new vehicle takes your place in the garage, the glow from your headlights will linger; whatever parts you ultimately get disassembled into, remember, it was you that kept us company on the journey that is life. As you await disassembly and your final fate, remember the giggling girls that you ferried over time and space, who are now studying for their PhDs! It is the beginning of a new era - thank you for being you!

As much as I had hoped that my Chevy would have lasted 2 more years, it was not to be. But the memories will always be with us.