New Used Car. LX Edition.
What happens when my car just takes off as I’m driving down the 405 in the dark, on my way home from work? What happens then? Does anybody notice the 1999 Honda Accord, forest green, gradually lifting off the roadway?
I’m not sure I’ll be able to pilot myself home safely. I’m a little too scared and a little too excited to figure out how to land the damn thing. Why didn’t the previous owner tell me about this?
I was hesitant about buying a car off of craigslist, but this one seemed too good to pass up. The model year was 1999. Under 200,000 miles. ’99 was the year Honda had changed the locks, after realizing the previous model’s locks could be opened by an 11-year-old with a paperclip and some gum. I had already been burned by a used Honda Accord once, but that was a ‘97! It was the locks! Now I had other problems, though. Or were they problems? The jury was still out.
The Spanish college kid had been so nice, too. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a sign. But it can be so hard to tell if the stranger you meet for a craigslist deal is nice, or too nice. It’s a fine line, made even blurrier by the language barrier.
And the leather. It didn’t matter that it was falling apart, or that the driver’s seat was missing a significant portion of it’s back. This was the luxury model. V6. Still, the spontaneous departure from the ground, had I know it would occur, might have been a sticking point. Either way, the deal had been done. We had signed the paperwork on the hood of the car in a deli parking lot, and it was mine now.
I was still only a dozen or so feet off the ground, but my speed had picked up considerably. That was the most concerning aspect of the present situation, until I realized my leg was locked stiff from terror and the accelerator was fully depressed.
I eased off the gas and the car began to slow, matching the speed of the cars below. All those years spent playing video games, all those action movies I had watched, where the hero needs to land the plane because the pilot’s been shot and I’m not going to let any more people die today god damnit, had not prepared me for this. My instinct was to pull up on the wheel, with the hope that it would point the nose, or hood rather, back down towards the road. The steering wheel did not move.
Turning the wheel, though, did have the intended effect. This eased my nerves considerably. Worst case scenario I could steer the car away from any obstacles and just wait until it ran out of gas. But was it even powered by gas at this point? Hard to know. The knot in my stomach tightened again.
Freed from the flow of the traffic below, I began to ease off the gas even more. Eventually I was moving at the speed of a brisk jog, the other cars rushing past me about 15 feet below. Up ahead I saw a field off the side of the highway. I turned the wheel, gently, and took my foot completely off the gas. The car came to a stop about 300 feet from the road and about 20 feet off the ground.
I calmly opened the door, took a deep breath, and stepped out of the car. It had been unseasonably rainy and the muddy ground softened the impact of my fall. Still, it did not feel good to fall into a muddy field from 20 feet. I stood up and assessed the damage. No major injuries, a sore ankle, not too bad.
I stood still for a moment and looked up at the Accord. My Accord. The LX. It sat there, door ajar, lights on. The sun was setting now and the glow from the tail lights above tinted everything around me red.
The next morning I drove with Kati back to the field. She was skeptical, but my earnestness had convinced her to at least come and see. I wasn’t sure what we would find. I hoped that the car would be on the ground, stuck in the mud, but was almost certain that it would be gone.
I could see there was nothing in the field as we pulled up, but I still made the trudge out to where I had landed. Kati wryly noted the hole in the mud my fall had created and began to walk back to the car. I looked up. The clouds moved slowly overhead, and for a moment I could see a dark speck against the blue.
As I went to join Kati in the car, I idly pulled out my phone. I clicked the wake button and my thumb moved reflexively over the screen. The craigslist search bar stared blankly back.