Her name was Betsy. Betsy, the station-wagon.
Betsy belonged to Pam, my pre-school teacher. I remember riding in Betsy when Pam drove our small group to the Hollywood Bowl. And I remember thinking it incredibly strange that a grown-up would not only name her car, but talk to her car.
Until that time, Pam was the only person I knew who named their car. (I was four years old, so, granted, my world was rather limited). Pam fondly petted Betsy’s dashboard and reminded us all that we needed to be kind to Betsy and keep her clean.
When my husband and I bought our first car, I knew we would name our car. I named our houseplants, a car seemed like a logical extension. Our first car, was my dad’s old car. A reliable Honda Accord, and we were lucky to get it. Hence, the name “Lucky.” My husband and I referred to our car by its name, as in “Did you put gas in Lucky?” or “When is Lucky due for an oil change?”
When we bought our second car, we knew we were fortunate to be able to pick out exactly what we wanted. And we did. We specified the color and our request for a moonroof. And we were so, so happy to have achieved the level of financial independence that made this new-car purchase possible. We were happy to be a two-car-family. And now, we were fortunate to drive our two cars, “Happy” and “Lucky.”
Of course, whenever we spoke of our two cars, we were reminded of the expression “Happy-Go-Lucky.” And in a way, that fit. We were so happy, so lucky to be able to travel in a car; in our car. Having relied on Los Angeles public buses for years, we were constantly reminded of the little privileges that made driving in a car so much more comfortable - No other sounds, smells, or conversations invading our space; a place to seek refuge during a break at work.
When Lucky turned twenty, we realized it was time to retire her. My husband and I were expecting our first child and knew we needed a car that wouldn’t need several minutes to warm up each morning. Lucky still drove, but we wanted something more comfortable and more new. We would be luckier to be a two-car-family with two new-ish cars. We were lucky to be in a financial position to afford undertaking the expense of car payments and increased insurance payments. Our second car was aptly named, “Lucky 2.”
Our cars’ names are not public knowledge. Generally, naming a car is a private endeavor, in direct opposition to naming a child. When our son was born, the first question we were asked was inevitably, “What’s his name?” With our cars, its questions about gas mileage, price, and added features.
And while we are constantly answering our son’s questions of “What’s that?” we haven’t taught him the names of our cars. Yet. For now, it’s either the Black Car or the Blue Car. Later, we’ll teach him their true names.
I wonder what Pam would say if she knew how fondly I remembered Betsy.