The love of my life
|It’s strange to think back and write about the most favorite car I ever owned since the last time I drove a car was more than fifteen years ago. Recently cars have entered my life again although it was other people's cars.
Only yesterday, I had a visit from a local police officer because I witnessed a hit-and-run just in front of my house a few weeks ago. Only collateral damage, no injuries, but the cop wanted to know more details, which I could give him. At the very spot of that accident one year ago, there was another accident, a hit between two cars. That time I wrote a piece about it and won first prize in a local contest in my neighborhood. Other than that, I have no business with cars lately, apart from riding along with friends who do own a car.
The best car ever was my bright red Lada station wagon, a car I bought for 800 euros via the Internet. I was browsing for another vehicle, and I saw this Lada, a very idiosyncratic car made in Poland.
I still remember the first time I laid eyes on him (my cars have always been masculine), and I was totally head over heels in love. I saw, I paid, and I bought the car. Never regretted it since; a Lada is a truck of a car. It is big, bulky, and it will always start. You can rely on the Lada; it is a car you can depend on. And I did.
For four years, I was the proud owner of this bright gem, which stood out from all the other cars because it was not shiny, not flashy, or elegant. Lada cars became popular in Russia and Eastern Europe during the last two decades of the Soviet era, particularly in former Eastern bloc countries. The original Lada was widely exported in sedan and station wagon versions. With over 20 million units sold before production ended in mid-2012, it had become the highest-selling automobile to be produced without a major design change.
I loved my Lada. I had a camper trailer in the north part of the Netherlands at the time, and my dog Benji and I would drive up North every weekend on Friday evening after work to the camping site. It was a three-and-a-half-hour trip from my house to the country. And I loved driving. It gave me a feeling of total and utter freedom. Whatever mood I was in, or if I had been stressed out by work, I would go inside my car and drive, and the worries would disappear. Driving my Lada did that for me.
It was a very sociable car. I would pick up anybody from my friends or family and drive them to wherever they wanted to go. That is how much I loved driving it.
I had only one accident with my Lada. I was driving this road and had to turn to enter a driveway to my left. I signaled, but the driver behind me had not seen that, so she was in the process of passing me by when we collided. That is the result of the Lada being very close to the ground; the signaling lights are not easy to spot.
Driving a Lada is not for everyone. For one, you are stared at a lot of the time, since in my country as in most European countries, the Lada was one of a kind that stood out amongst the modern cars of today. It had no airbag nor electric windows or cruise control. It had a choke, a poker, and that was about it. On we went, our adventure ahead of us, every single day.
I remember one time the key broke down inside the lock. Luckily, I was in my own neighborhood, so I could walk home, fetch my spare key, and drive back again. But other than that, he never failed me.
Till that day in spring, when I was driving to the Belgian border, I parked my car near the sea, had a stroll for a few hours, and when I got back, the car was dead. It must have been that Belgian sea air! I had to travel back by train, leaving the car behind. There was nothing I could do about it; I had to say goodbye to the most beautiful car I ever owned.
Months later, my Lada was still parked in Belgium, and I got a ticket from the Belgium police charging me almost 600 euros in fines. There were reasons why I could not pick up the car in the first place and take it back to the Netherlands, but suffice it to say I was not happy about that. I had to part with my love and had to pay for it as well, no treat, I can assure you.
My Lada is part of the life I no longer lead. Since money is tight these years, I do not own a car anymore. And I do not want another car because I am not especially interested in today's modern cars. They all look alike, they are more computers on wheels than anything else, and they don’t look as cute and as potent as my Lada.
The Lada brought me wherever I wanted to go. It gave me my independence and this incredible sense of freedom. It had its own parking space in front of the house I lived in back then. I looked at it every morning, gave it a little pat on the hood, and on I went. Rain or shine, it took me places.
Should I settle for a Ford, a Renault, or any other European car? I don’t think so. I now ride a bike in town or take the bus or the tram in my home city. Owning a car is not at all that convenient anymore since there is no place to park the vehicle. However, the main reason is that they don’t make them anymore. The Lada is a car from the past. A relic, a memory of times gone by that is long there. I cherish those memories and think back with great fondness for my red Lada station wagon, the best car I ever owned.
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