Monday, August 25, 2014

Remembering the Toyota Camry

(Reclaimed from Bubblews; photo from Morguefile.)

Today's sponsor-inspired post is about a Toyota Camry my brother-in-law used to drive. It was a 1989 car that had a lot of miles on it when he handed it down to my husband in 1997. We put a lot more miles on it, almost 160,000 miles, and when my husband died in 2005 it was still running smoothly.

The Camry's color was described as gold or tan. Apart from that it was...probably older than the car in the picture, but recognizably the same type of car.

The Camry came with one of those decorative license-tag frames advertising that it had been bought in Frederick, Maryland. We used it in Washington, D.C., and the suburbs, where a well-kept "family/economy" car was one of the more impressive things seen on the streets. My husband was justifiably proud of his driving skills, and although D.C. has been officially declared the home of the most confused and dangerous drivers in North America, the Camry looked well-kept all through those years. Nobody would have bothered to iron out dents in it. My husband didn't let it get dents.

He drove in snow. I was brought up to think that driving in snow is just plain stupid, and if someone goes into labor while it's snowing this may be a sign that her baby is meant to be born at home. My husband thought of driving in snow as a point of Canadian pride. He had some reason to be proud of his skill because the car didn't acquire dents and scratches.

As far as I was concerned, one good reason for living in the city was not having to own or drive a car at all. Nevertheless, when he became ill I had to drive him to and from the hospital in the Camry. I don't mind taking a turn driving on a long trip on the highway but I was terrified of driving into the core of the city. I remember noticing how easy to handle the Camry was, how it seemed positively to *want* to cooperate--I hardly had to touch the gas pedal to keep it moving. The car in which I'd passed my official driving test had been a 1986 Toyota Corolla; the Camry was bigger but felt similar. That was comforting. I needed all the comfort I could get.

Later I learned that that "cooperative" quality about the Toyotas had been due to a design flaw, that in some models the flaw was serious enough that the cars had been recalled. My mother, who learned to drive cars that demanded more muscle power, used to describe our Corolla as "tricky" and "darty" and didn't think it was the ideal car for my sister and me to learn to drive. (Oh, it wasn't spoiled us.) But let's face it, I'm a pampered late-baby-boomer American; I grew up with power steering and automatic transmission, expect a car to start and stop and turn more easily than a bicycle, and am probably less dangerous to other people when driving a car that's easy to handle...if I have to drive at all. (Which, in the interest of public safety, I do try to avoid.)

If you want a car that's easy to live with, easy to look at, relatively easy to afford and even to maintain, the Toyota Camry might be the car for you.