Replacing an Old Friend
About a month ago, I was “T-boned” while driving my 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid. A GMC Sierra tried to land in the passenger seat. As predicted, this did not end well for the Accord, and it was totaled. In its honor, I replaced it with a 2013 Honda Accord. I had bruised ribs, after the accident, but we all walked away from it. I kept looking at that passenger door and the deep slit that ran from front to back, and thinking about how my son might have been riding with me that day. And how he probably would have survived, because that door held up and didn’t crumple into the seat. I’m not sure why the airbag didn’t go off, but the important parts of the door held fast. That’s the kind of thing that helps to cement my “customer loyalty.”
When I was a kid, I named my favorite cars – each had a clear personality in my mind, and I sobbed my heart out when my dad traded in the little red Volkswagen convertible known as “Priscilla Macintosh.” He recently told me that he was sad, too, but that the whole bottom had rusted out and probably wouldn’t hold much longer. Her successor was “Clementine,” and despite the apparent trend towards naming cars for fruit, I distinctly remember it being a less than complimentary reference to the following verse from “My Darling, Clementine”:
Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes, without topses,
Sandals were for Clementine.
But silver cars never got the good names – my grandparents’ Cadillac, for instance, was lucky to be called “Old Pewter” (Pewter being the official name of the color, “Old” added just for spite, I think). My coworker, Karen J., called what I felt for the Accord “a failure to bond.” It met its demise without a name, and I feel bad. It served me well for nine and a half years, and it didn’t always feel the love. It was a trusty steed, and well worth the money paid for it.
I’d been saying for nearly a decade that my next car would be “Catch Me If You Can, Copper! Red” – a color I made up in my head, but which resembles nothing so much as a bright shiny fire engine. My husband and son were visibly relieved that the Accord didn’t come in that color – but unlike the 2005 Hybrid, did come in a lovely “Basque Pearl II” – a dark, sparkling ruby that takes on a variety of hues depending on the light and shadow of its surroundings. I was determined that it should have a name, and quickly.
So I turned to the collective wisdom of my Facebook Friends. Their suggestions included women’s names: Ruby, Betty (Page or Boop?), Sally (long and tall?).
A lot of people liked descriptive names and saw the color as something between ruby, blood, aubergine, and purple, with a hint of cinnamon.
One person suggested “Car,” and I had to wonder if they felt as “meh” about red as I felt about silver.
Harold Underdown kindly offered up “The Purple Crayon,” but this is definitely more “ruby” than “purple.” I would definitely drive a purple car – if it was, as my friend Kathy says, “a committed purple.” None of this lavender or purplish blue stuff!
Someone suggested “Prince” (with a nod towards “Purple Rain”), but I had to point out that all cars, like ships, are female.
I mentioned how most of the car names I came up with as a kid involved fruit, and got suggestions like “Blackberry,” “Cherry,” “Plumb,” “The Mulberry,” and “Merlot.” (Hey, Merlot starts life as a fruit.) “Purple Daisy” was in the running, too.
There were a lot of suggestions like “Sangria,” “Plum Wine,” and “Cherry Merlot” (that’s the car’s secret “stripper name,” of course).
“Sister” came up a few times. “Plum Mover” sounded too much like a plumbing problem, and never seriously made the running. When I mentioned that I’d prefer names that did not suggest a violent demise, like “Crash,” “Boom,” and “Bomb,” someone suggested “Crimson Cradle.” If the car’s rockin’, don’t come knockin’? I nixed it, and they offered up “Crimson Cruise.”
“Too much like a name for Tom’s next child,” I said. I came up with a few of my own:
Jalokia Jalopy – it’s not really red enough to be a hot pepper, though.
Ruby Jean (inspired by “Aubergina”) – the car, itself, seems to like this one.
Cherry, Cherry Bo Berry Banana Fanna Fo Ferry Fee Fy Mo Merry, Cherry… – and suddenly, it has its own theme songs.
Jesus suggested “Purple People Eater,” which is on the car’s Spotify “Joyride” playlist, and amuses me greatly – purple being my favorite color and all – but by the time it was suggested as a possible name, her official name was pretty well settled in my mind. Don’t you wish some people gave this much thought to what they named their kids?
Wouldn’t that just confuse people, if I started calling it my Blackberry?
“Wait, I thought you had a Windows phone?”
“I thought she had a Slate 7 – that’s Android, isn’t it?”
“Nawww, she’s DRIVING a Blackberry.”
“Holy shi… I’ve heard of riding a broom, is this the high tech version?”
Cars, Like Ships, Are Female
A coworker, years ago, was rebuilding a Fiat. She had a nice, dependable, slightly beat up truck, too. She took some part off the truck and used it on the Fiat (cannot imagine what would’ve been compatible and don’t remember). I told her, “You’d better do something nice for that truck, or it’ll get jealous and stop being good to you.” She laughed at me.
Well, a day or two later, she showed up at the office with one arm horribly, hideously bruised. It wasn’t broken, but she was just lucky. Somehow, she’d been standing by the driver’s side of the truck (door open) in her driveway, and it started to roll. Knocked her down with the door, ran over her arm with the front tire, TURNED when it got to the street, and backed into the front of the Fiat.
I just smiled. From that moment on, she gave me that quizzical, “How do you know these things, you spooky woman?” look. I suggested she go out and buy the truck a treat. She did. It behaved after that, but I think we both knew that it’d probably kill her, next time. It clearly hated the Fiat.
And every woman knows that cars are female. I mean, get real: Woman goes out, car doesn’t start. She tries three times, gives up. Hands the keys to a man – any man. Husbands are best, but homeless guy under a bridge would probably do. Car turns over and purrs. Fact of life.
What’s In a Name?
Shortly after “Plum Wine” and “Cherry Bomb” made the list, I decided to call a halt to certain names. I wrote on Facebook: “I’m actively discarding suggestions that are incompatible with driving: anything alcohol or ‘smash,’ ‘crush,’ ‘crash,’ ‘bomb,’ ‘explosion’ related are not in the running. There is much in a name – as Irma (from A Puppy, Not a Guppy) learns when naming her fish – and I would have this sweet ride last a good long time and treat me right.”
Cherry (or, Ruby Jean)
For a short while, Ruby Jean was the front-runner in the name game. The car, itself, seemed to like it – it had personality. Aubergina felt too regal, too refined. For all it’s little luxuries and it’s gem-like color, this is a fun car, a car that would climb trees, if it could. But then my friend Abhi suggested Cherry. Others had mentioned that the color reminded them of Queen Anne cherries. One suggested Bing – admittedly, I scratched my head at the Microsoft connection, then remembered it was also a type of cherry.
But what few would know is that my mom’s real first name was Cherry. And as I was mulling the short list in my head, the news came on – a gentleman speaking on transportation safety was wearing a tie dotted with crimson cherries. Sometimes, the universe sends you a mix of subtle and not-so-subtle messages.
I’m listening. The car’s name is Cherry.