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Selected Podpieces


You love your old car/truck/boat/trailer/motorcycle; but the day finally comes when it's time to move on. Don't sell it, donate it! to your favorite nonprofit organization!

I never quite understood how all these nonprofits benefit from crummy old cars and rusty trailers. Sure, a nice van for carting campers to the beach, or maybe a truck for transporting canned goods to a food pantry; but a leaky motorboat? A 1989 Datsun? Surely there was something shady about this Donate-your-car routine.


But when it was time to find a new home for my little gray corolla, I decided to donate it to WOMR. I called the phone number on the website, and a woman whose voice sounded frizzy-haired and tattooed answered. In the background was a hum of unintelligible voices that indicated she was in a busy call center where dozens of other people were accepting rusty old vehicles too.


I told her what I wanted to do, and she said that was great, and that WOMR would definitely be thrilled. She proceed to elicit from me all kinds of information, like the kind and year of my car, and was it a gas-powered engine or did it run under its own steam, ha ha ha, and what was its mileage, and were there any liens on it, and where would it be parked when they came to get it.


Afterwards I went out to divest my little Corolla of its personality. Out with the dog blankets, the squashed roll of paper towels, the whisk broom, the ice scraper, the faded umbrella, the sunglasses, the little skunk made of pipe cleaners. Out with the map of Orleans, the empty notebook for tracking gas mileage, the pencil with the broken lead and the ink-free pen, the tire gauge, the tennis ball, the map of Massachusetts, the flyer for the car wash on Baker Pond Road, the handicapped parking permit, the year-old ticket for a movie at the Orpheum, the ancient roll of Necco wafers, a shopping list that included chicken pot pie, prosecco, and bananas, three car inspection reports, and a quarter.


I didn't have long to wait before I got a call that someone was coming to pick it up. I envisioned a decrepit VW bug with Ira Wood at the wheel chugging down the street. Matty Dread would jump out of the back, smilingly take my keys, and slip into the Corolla's front seat. He'd give Ira a thumbs up when the engine turned over, and Ira would drive off , Lady Di waving from the passenger window, and Matty would drive my little Corolla away.


Instead, at the appointed hour a tow truck came backing into my cul-de-sac, emitting little backing-up beeps, and a driver with a long black beard and multiple tattoos got out.

"Nice car," he said.

"Owned by a little old lady who never went to church," I said.

"That's okay," he said seriously, nodding. "Why are you donating it?"

"My Companion died," I said. "I don't need two cars."

The bearded driver stared at the nearby fence for a moment, and then said, "Nothing ever really goes away. It's a closed system. Everyone is still here, in some form."

I frowned to myself. Was my Corolla going to come back as a Mack Truck? A Tesla? Then I realized that he was talking about My Companion. That his molecules were floating around now in the clouds, or lounging on what's left of Nauset Beach, or maybe had become part of the snow that was blanketing the Midwest.

The driver hitched my car to the towing device, endlessly testing cables and lights. At last he climbed into the cab and pulled away, the little car's nose high in the air, the Obama! and Nevertheless, She Persisted bumper stickers making their last hurrahs.

"Goodbye!" called my Prius, which was parked in the street. "Good luck! I'll miss you!"

"Good-bye!" cried the Corolla, and it disappeared around the corner.

I drove the Prius up the empty driveway and into the garage.

"I'm going to miss that little car," said the Prius. "But now I'll get the garage all to myself."

"Yup," I answered. "All yours, for the rest of your life."

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