When I was young, cars had about the same life expectancy as a turtle making a dash across the Interstate, or the driver of a Vespa Motorscooter walking into a Harley Bar and asking for a Mai Tai.
The shine on a new car's paint started to weather after a little more than a few months of sunlight exposure, and after one snow filled winter with some salt on the roads, the metal was rusting from the inside out at pretty much the speed of light. They made cars out of much heavier steel in those times, so it took two years before a few brown spots could be seen near the wheel wells, and within three years parts of the fenders had a lacey appearance if someone had not hurriedly filled the holes with body filler and metal duct tape.
My father traded his cars in every two years because he was never sure if they would be reliable after 20,000 miles on the odometer: Or at least that was the excuse he gave my mother for buying a new car every time he wanted one.
Cars became so much more reliable over my years of traversing from puberty to senility that I had reached a point where I didn't really judge them by their age in years but judged how much life was left in them by how many miles were on the car. Today I concluded there might be a fundamental error in my thinking process, a fact that my wife swears she knew a few minutes after marrying me, but apparently took me forty-three years to discover.
My error in this case is that in cars, just like in people, age counts.
I own the most beautiful car ever made, a 1998 Jaguar XK8, British racing green, convertible. Some of you might try to argue that point with me, but you would be wrong, so let me continue. I have owned the car for ten of those fourteen years, and it has just 65,000 miles on it: A relative "youngin" in today's world. Each year that I have owned it, I take it into the dealer for a thorough going over, which is their technical term for lightening my wallet, and so the fact that it has been well cared for and has low mileage have lulled me into forgetting that it is now fourteen years old.
The tendency toward disorder called entropy apparently has the same effect on mechanical contraptions as it does on DNA based contraptions because today my beautiful car decided to let me know it was getting pretty tired. A small piece of the headlight washer assembly waved goodbye somewhere on the turnpike, the side-view mirrors no longer moved, the cruise control when turned on caused the engine failure system to light up, and the anti-lock brake system when I hit the brakes hard brought prayers back in to my vocabulary.
What really got me worked up was when I looked at the meticulously hand carved walnut shift lever, and saw that the finish of the wood had as many cracks in it as the face of an octogenarian who spent a lot of time on the beach when they were young.
I've concluded today that car years and dog years must be pretty much the same, and in those terms, I'm driving and treating a ninety-eight year old like she was in her mid twenties.
The nice thing about it is that even at ninety-eight, she still looks young, which is something I can't say about the owner.