Totaled: Letting Go of the Car You Love
One summer day in 2013, I watched in awe as a vehicle I'd never seen before rolled off an exit ramp in the small town of Clifton Forge, Virginia. A spritely and pretty yellow thing accelerated past me and in that moment, I knew I had to have one. The Ford Focus ST was here, loud and proud, and I felt something I didn't quite understand about it.
On May 22nd of 2018, I watched in the rain as my beautiful new car was rolled off the truck at a Ford dealership in Salem, Virginia. This Focus ST was not only special to me - it was one of the very last ever made. I signed the papers and lurched off the lot, learning the art of driving a six-speed as I went. A boost gauge proudly displayed in the cabin, and 13 miles on the odometer. I jaunted around the mountains in the Virginia highlands, experimenting with it's limits and my own driving skills. I felt a connection and pride like no other to this car.
On August 22nd of 2018, with 7,400 miles on the clock, I let someone borrow the car. I swapped for their 2011 BMW Z4, and enjoyed the twin-turbo inline six all the way to work. 30 minutes later, I got the call - and a photo.
20 miles per hour, an unassuming stop sign pole in a parking lot, and sun blindness resulted in $18,000 worth of damage to my pristine car. The transfer case was ripped from the engine and pushed backwards; the frame was destroyed in my pride and joy's attempt to keep the driver safe. GEICO and I fought for four months, and finally decided to total out the vehicle. There I was, without my ST, the first car in my adult life, the one who taught me how to push towards limits - the only constant in my life at that point in time and a reminder of how everything had gone to absolute shit.
My little one had already gotten me through more than I could ever thank it for in it's short and exhilarating life. It brought me to Georgia with everything I owned in the trunk, kept me safe when I was rear-ended at 3,000 miles, and showed me how simple and beautiful the joy of taking a late afternoon drive through the country can be. I didn't think I could live without it and the safety and warmth it inspired in my heart.
It took months to accept the fact that she was gone - auctioned off to a branded title dealership and repaired. I took solace in the fact that it wasn't parted out to different cars around the country and could at least continue her life in one piece again, so that someone may also enjoy the connection I had to my ST. A special car in every way, I knew I had to let go.
To truly let go of something you love with your whole heart and share everything with is hard. To remember it after the fact is even harder. The only way to accept the outcome of the events is to just say thank you - and that's exactly what I did in the salvage yard. I sat in the dirt and weeds and leaned against it, and spoke to it. I told it about how thankful I was for keeping the driver safe. I let it know exactly how much she meant to me, and reminisced about all the good times we had together. I broke down completely as I sat in the drivers seat for one last time, and retrieved the owners manual from the glovebox for memories and safekeeping. I broke my fingernails as I peeled the ST badge off of the front grill, and shoved it in my pocket. A final goodbye was said in a cracking voice through tears. I left her there, damaged and broken in the Georgia sun - hoping that she would one day shine as brightly to someone as she did to me.
So, thanks little one. Not only did you teach me so much about driving, you taught me even more about loss and accepting the consequences and subsequent events of it. You helped me grow as a person, and turn a horrible event into a series of positive actions that have led me to where I am today.
On April 1st of 2019, I purchased my new-to-me 2017 Ford Focus ST. I had my owners manual with me, and placed it in the glovebox as a memorial to the car that came before it. Our journey together may be over, but the memories will always be at the forefront of my mind and present as I find my way through this world.
If you'd like to buy my pride and joy, she is still for sale in Omaha, Nebraska and was extremely well taken care of. If you or someone you know ends up driving it, I'd love to hear about it.