Hiro didn’t have a lot of power, but what he lacked in power, he gave in heart. My steadfast, silver 2000 Honda Civic DX Coupe was by my side for the last of my teenage years and into early adulthood. It’s been more than 13 years since we’ve said goodbye but I can still see his clean lines, the red and white rectangular tail lights stacked above one another and the combination of raised numbers and letters in blue paint reading 4HGN017 embedded on his backside. My kids won’t know that once upon a time cars came with manual windows, the kind that you had to crank open and shut. Nor will they acquire the sixth sense skill it took to reverse your car or parallel park without a back up camera. But my hope is that when it’s our turn to give the gift of freedom to our kids, we’ll be fortunate enough to pay forward the gift our parents gave to us.
Dad gifted Hiro to me after a long, drawn out negotiation at the Honda dealership in Covina. I can still hear snippets of the bartering. Dad’s most consistent method of negotiation was to repeat the $10,000 he was willing to pay. The salesman would look incredulously at Dad, shake his head, inform him that this was not an acceptable offer and Dad would simply repeat “$10,000” again. This continued on loop and Dad eventually wore them down from the $12,200 MSRP. He, in fact, would only pay $10,000 out the door and somehow got air conditioning thrown in as well. Air conditioning is something we take for granted these days, but if you don’t know anything about Hondas, the DX model we purchased was the base model, the bottom of the line. In 1999, that meant no leather, no moon roof, no air and no automatic windows. Most of all, it meant no power. But I didn’t care, I had a car!
There wasn’t much that was atypical about my high school experience with Hiro. He was there for all the bright and cheerful moments. There were afternoon treks to the mall, sandy seats after trips to Santa Monica, late night movie dates and rides given to friends after school where I’d familiarize myself with the in and outs of Baldwin Park. He was there for the less than ideal moments, providing me an escape and shelter in the dark days of bullying. He was there for my first encounters with the law, pulled over twice in my last two years of high school. Once for a California roll at a stop sign while applying lipstick and another time for senior ditch day where all five of us would be pulled onto the curb and given truancy tickets. Hiro’s lack of power would be highlighted relatively frequently as I visited my best friend that moved to San Dimas. The drive home, going west on the 10 freeway just past Cal Poly Pomona would nearly do Hiro in every time. Taking care to make sure I was always in the slow lane, I’d watch cars whiz by to my left as I slowly inched up the hill despite my foot pressed deeply onto the accelerator. I moved at a snail’s pace, listening as the engine put in work, silently doubting Hiro. But he delivered each time.
Our thick as thieves days would be put on hold as I transitioned to a college student at UCLA. For those first two years of undergrad, I’d only see him on the occasional weekend home. But when I did, we’d be sure to rendezvous with hometown friends hitting up local house parties. Other than that, I’d also see him during school breaks where I’d uphold my responsibility of a regular schedule at the UCLA store, utilizing him to commute back and forth from Baldwin Park to Westwood. Later, when I moved into the ADPi sorority house as a junior, I’d find a parking space for him down Hilgard Avenue at a friend’s garage. This afforded me the freedom to not only drive to my office manager job on Wilshire Boulevard but feed my shopping addiction through visits to the Westside Pavillion and Third Street Promenade.
Hiro would deliver me into adulthood. He was there with me as I secured my first apartment after college on the corner of Beverly Glen and Benefit in Sherman Oaks. He’d sit outside the Robinson's May corporate building on Laurel Canyon Boulevard absorbing the heat of the valley sun that summer, slowly turning the backseats a sun bleached grey. And in the evenings, in the days before Uber, he’d be party to my reckless driving under the influence, ensuring my safe delivery home. He’d be with me as I packed up this same apartment less than a year later to move to San Francisco. His lack of power, yet again, would be put to the test with the arduous (for him) 5 freeway grapevine drives that I’d make to visit home. He was with me through the important milestones of this era - meeting the man (and roommate) that would become my husband, the exploration of a new city, the move to another apartment where Dave and I would live without roommates and the two promotions in my tenure at Macy’s.
It would be this last promotion that would signal the end of my time with Hiro. My movement up the career chain afforded me more expendable income and I consciously decided to step away from the liberty of no car payment and lease a new car. A decision I regret now, youth and a shorter list of responsibilities gave me the freedom of frivolity. Utilizing a southern California car broker, my new car was waiting for me at the Infiniti car dealership in Monrovia, just past the black and white panda sitting atop the Honda dealership off the 210. So we made one last trip down the grapevine with Hiro. As expected, he struggled but steadfastly delivered. At the end of this trip, we left Hiro with my parents and I said goodbye to my loyal companion. He wasn’t the fastest car, he clearly wasn’t the strongest but he had heart.