Last Saturday, I said goodbye to my 2003 Prius with a heavy heart and immense nostalgia as the charity organization towed it away. “You seem to have loved your car very much”, said my neighbor as he saw me struggle to take a selfie with my car and offered to take the picture. It had been with me for thirteen and a half years and 165 thousand miles and numerous road trips all over the western half of United States! I have driven it through deserts, high mountains, valleys and forests in at least 15 national parks; in temperatures over 120 degrees in the Death Valley and in snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures in Chicago. It even did the Lombard street of the car chase scenes fame in San Francisco!

It was the first car I bought with pride, after intense and thorough homework on what it means to own a car and that too, a Prius. Even to this day, people whom I knew during those days ask me how my car is doing. I have been appreciated; I have been mocked (check this out – “you will get more miles on your Prius if you avoid this street and take this other street”); I have received sharp barbs in the name of my Prius (“yeah, you are the granola-eating, Prius-driving type. I hate those…”). Regardless of whether it’s a compliment or criticism, identifying me with my Prius always gave me a sense of joy and identity, which, in a sense, defeated the person criticizing me, and never failed to convey appreciation to the person who complimented me for being a Prius owner. I never did care for comments such as, “It has a ‘plasticky’ feel”; “It doesn’t have enough 0 to 60”. To me, it’s a lovely, (relatively) low-budget car which gave me 40-50 miles-a-gallon mileage, in addition to satisfying my eco-friendly side and giving me a distinct identity. It made me turn up my nose at those big heavy gas-guzzling trucks (who love to cut in front of me on the road) that take forever to fill a gas tank. I filled my tank in less than a quarter of the time, and it never costed more than $20-$40 for the ten gallons it took to fill the tank. On long road trips, I needed to stop for gas only after driving about 400 miles!

I have some of my best road memories in my Prius. Take for example, when I pulled up on the I-94 tollway entrance only to find that I had no change on me and there is a line of cars behind me waiting for me to pass. I quickly popped open the door, bent down to pick up coins in the dust (thanks to all those who missed their aim while throwing coins in to the basket) and got on my way. When I moved to Texas in 2005, there were so few Prius owners that those who drove a metallic blue Prius would come up parallel to me in the next lane just to convey a highway hi before speeding up. The one time I drove my parents through a snowstorm from Detroit to Chicago just because I was on call the next day, we saw so many cars spin off to the side. But not my Prius! It just skidded a few times and I was able to pump the brakes and get it back on track. My poor mom who wasn’t used to the American roads thought we were going over speed breakers!

I love the 2012 sea green pearl Prius I drive now, but it doesn’t feel the same……