When I first met Maggie it was a hot summer’s day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had just finished my days work at the local Marriot, parking other people’s cars, when I set out in search of one for myself.
The ’63 Beetle that I had bought as a boy of 16 was on its last legs and not very practical for the kind of trip I was planning.
“Find yourself something you can rely on Jim,” My Uncle Zeb had instructed me. “These darn fore-een cars that you like so much won’t make the trip.”
I was going to try and take my uncle’s advice. I wanted something dependable, something safe, yet something that had a personality all it’s own.
That’s when I first saw Maggie. She was sittin’ there, as pretty as you please, on the side of the road in front of a small house in East Ridge.
Blue bottom with a white top, slightly faded paint that still had a little shine left to it. A small orange lettered “For Sale” sign was in the left bottom corner of the windshield.
She was a VW Transporter, I could tell, even though the front emblem was missing. You could see a shiny, slightly brighter blue outline where the badge had once been.
I pulled over and thought about my uncle and what he would say.
‘Oh well,’ I thought. ‘I don’t have to buy it if it’s a piece of junk.’
As I parked my rusty Bug and got out, an elderly, stoop shouldered, gentleman timidly pushed open the screen door and started toward me.
“Hello,” I hailed him. We met right next the vehicle.
“Howdy young feller,” the old man clasped my hand and gave me a surprisingly firm handshake.
“I suppose your interested in Maggie?”
“No,” I said and blushed a little, thinking that he meant that I was there to see his daughter.
He frowned a little.
“You mean you didn’t stop to ask about Maggie here,” He motioned to the bus next to me.
“Oh, you mean this van? It has a name?”
“Shh! Boy don’t let the old girl hear you call her “it”.” The elderly man had a wry smile on his face. “Why Maggie here has been treated like part of our family since she was new. She has been treated like a person so long, she thinks she is one.”
“OK, what about “Maggie” then?”
We talked for a while about the how Mr. Nelson (that was the old man’s name) had bought Maggie back in 1974 to use in his business as a traveling salesman. He laughed and sighed recalling their adventures up and down the highways and the byways of the southern United Sates.
“She’s been a dependable old girl all those years, and then one day last month she just didn’t want to start. I am an old man now, I retired from my job last year. Since then Maggie hasn’t really seemed like herself. She had just lost her zip and vigor. I figure she’s lonely for the open road, but my traveling days are over. When I came out that morning and she didn’t want to go, I figured it was time for Maggie to move on.”
“Well I don’t know if Maggie is the right vehicle for me,” I said pondering. “I really need something I can depend on. You see my uncle has just passed away a few months ago and my aunt is left all alone up in Maine. The rest of the family is all down here. I am the only one who could possibly go and stay with her, so my uncle Zeb says it’s my duty to go and help out as much as I can. I can’t have a car that’s going to die on me.” I looked over at the van. Was it just me or had it moved closer? Nah, I must just be imagining it.
“I tell you what son, Maggie here needs a good home. You are going to be doin’ a lot of travelin’ which is what she like best. I’ll give Maggie to you, if you promise to take good care of her.”
“What?!?” I couldn’t believe it.
“Like I said son, Maggie and us is family. If she is not happy, like she is now, how can I let her just sit here and rot into the ground. She needs somebody and I think that somebody might just be you son.”
“But I can’t take a van that won’t start on a 1000 mile trip!”
The man smiled a wrinkly smile. “I didn’t say she wouldn’t start son, I said “she didn’t want to”. She’s been dee-pressed lately. Now that she has a chance for the open road again I am sure she’ll fire right up.”
I looked at the man a little funny. ‘This guy is really off his bean.’ I thought. ‘He really thinks this box on wheels is a person.’
“I can see you’re skeptical son. You could at least give her a crank and see what happens.”
Well against my better judgment I climbed into the well-worn drivers seat. Sitting there with that big wheel in front of me I started to feel something.
I felt taller somehow, and more confident. It felt right.
The keys were in the ignition. I reached down and gave the key a turn.
“Vroom!” The motor cranked without hesitation.
“See boy, what did I tell you?” The old man’s features beamed with confidence.
That evening, after visiting with the Nelsons and sharing tea and cookies and stories of our different experiences, I headed home.
Something special had happened today, I could feel it.
This is how my adventures with Maggie began so many years ago.
One day, I know, I too will have to settle down and leave the open road. When that day comes, stop by. Maggie will be waiting for you.
By Ken Wilford Copyright 2015
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