The Last Oil Change

My love affair with my Honda Civic is about to come to a screeching halt. China is coming between us.

This week I had the oil in my car changed, for what is likely the last time. At least it will be the last time for me and this car. It could also be quite some time before I take another car in for an oil change. I am not even sure when I will next have a car.

I feel really torn. The Honda is only the second car I have ever owned. For most of my Foreign Service career I have had this car as I bought it primarily because I would be heading to a Mexico border post. I also bought it because I was pregnant and becoming ever more so and the logistics of getting myself to and from my doctor’s appointments without a car presented a challenge. (The one time I walked from the Foreign Service Institute to my OB-GYN’s office 2.5 miles away at the Virginia Hospital Center while experiencing “morning sickness” was a wake-up call)

So I have driven this car to and from Mexico – 2,000 miles each way – and traveling to/through twelve U.S. states. This is the car I brought C home from the hospital in. The car she has thrown up in several times… on the way back from Fort Davis, Texas, on the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, once while waiting on the bridge to return to Mexico, and once while I was taking her to the pediatrician in El Paso. (Do not tell CarMax).

I have enjoyed the freedom of getting behind the wheel of my own car. So much so that although I dislike the time suck of my current 50 minute one-way commute, I do not mind the drive.

Most of my adult life has been spent without my own car. While living in Decatur (Georgia), Beijing, Seoul, Manila, rural western Japan, Singapore, Jakarta, Honolulu, Monterey (California), Hyattsville (Maryland), and Washington, D.C. I had no car (though in the spirit of full disclosure I did have a motorbike my last two years in Japan). I had to figure how to get around without my own wheels by train, bus, taxi, subway, a car sharing network, bicycle, my own two feet… Sometimes it was annoying, sometimes it took a tremendous amount of time, but it was almost always an adventure.

Therefore a part of me quite excited to get back to living without my own car. Most certainly I will be happy to say goodbye to the costs and responsibility of owning a vehicle. Goodbye to car insurance, registration, taxes, parking, toll, gas, upkeep and so on and so forth. Including my monthly car payment, I figure that selling my car rather than taking it to Shanghai is akin to gifting myself a $500 a month raise. Thanks me, I’ll take it!

Shanghai is a huge city of some 23 million people; I considered taking my car for approximately a nanosecond. The thought of driving a car around the city, well, it does not fill me with happy thoughts. I imagine myself hunched over my steering wheel, eyes darting right to left, wiping my brow of sweat attempting to navigate the streets with signs and traffic laws I do not understand. Power to those people up for the challenge, but I am opting out. I know me, and subjecting C and I to that added stress is just not worth it.
This selling the car and adjusting to life again without one is but a small part of this whole adventure. It just feels like a big thing right now.

Less than seven weeks to go.

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