By Trix Niernberger
When my mother-in-law passed away fourteen years ago, I inherited her shiny, red Toyota Corolla by default. Nobody else could fit into it. The car was four years old. She was ninety-two.
In its early life, the Corolla carried my mini mother-in-law, Aloha, to and from the gym where she swam laps. Aloha drove the car some 3,000 miles in four years and wrecked it three times when forgetting to stop. Now, years later, I am retired and drive it back and forth to the YMCA where I swim laps.
The car can be contrary, just like Aloha, who never welcomed me into the family. Aloha was her real name, which is a greeting in Hawaii that means love, peace, and compassion. She was not, however, the embodiment of her name. When we first met, I extended my hand to shake hers. I was greeted with a scowl and arms that were crossed.
I named the car Aloha in her honor. When the car blows a tire—which seems more frequent than everybody else’s cars, I pull over and kick her in the tire and yell, “Take THAT, Aloha! And THAT! And THAT!” She says nothing.
Aloha likes to lock her doors automatically whenever she wants to irritate me. Three times I had to call for roadside assistance to unlock my car at a gas station because—while I filled her tank with gas—Aloha locked the car. A dealership agreed this was not acceptable behavior, but they could not get her to stop.
Aloha likes to turn on her check-engine light whenever I haven’t driven her in a while. This tactic guarantees a trip to her favorite mechanic—a manly man with a generous smile, tight coveralls, and a compact rear-end appreciated by both of us. He usually looks under her hood and tells me she has no faults. The last time there, though, he whispered advice in my ear. It was an easy fix. He told me to cover her check-engine light. I used Ruby Red nail polish, her favorite color.
Sometimes I feel for Aloha. At age eighteen, she looks rather shabby due to peeling outer sores. To boost her immune system, I tried dropping vitamins in her gas tank at each fill-up. This strategy, though, may not be working. Aloha now has a chronic cough and is taking longer to start each day.
At this stage of her life, it seems best to resolve our differences. I hope to improve her karma and mine. I’m enrolling in a yoga course featuring one-on-one sessions designed to end conflicting energy, for both driver and vehicle. Aloha has no objection. The workshop will be led by our favorite mechanic.