She was homely. She had no air conditioning. One of her tail lights was made of duct tape and a red gel swiped from the lighting booth in Jenkins Theater at UWSP. Her driver side door didn't lock, and her passenger side door didn't open. She had no hubcaps on her rear wheels, and her exhaust pipe was patched together with wire and aluminum foil.
I loved her.
I loved her because she was trustworthy and reliable. In spite of her flaws, she always got me where I needed to go. She got me to my first professional theater gig in River Falls the first summer I had her in 2004. She brought me back and forth between Hudson, Eau Claire, and Stevens Point countless times, skidding half-circles in the snow with her bald tires. And she braved the ravages of I-494 for six months while I was commuting to Eden Prairie for my first job out of college.
The best thing about Rita was how easy it was to get out of giving rides to people.
"Hey, Amanda, can I bum a ride in your car?"
"Yeah, you bet. Just to let you know, the passenger door doesn't work, so you'll have to climb through the window. And also, the exhaust pipe is broken so we need to keep a window cracked so we don't get carbon monoxide poisoning. But sure, I'd be happy to take you wherever you need to go."
"You know what, that's all right. I'll find another way."
One afternoon, while merging into 70mph bumper-to-bumper traffic on 35W, she began making an ominous scraping sound beneath my left foot. I took her in and learned that to fix whatever the hell was wrong with her would have cost at least three times what she was worth.
It was time to let her go.
When I went to trade her in, they offered me $100 - pretty much the value of whatever scrap metal she possessed that wasn't covered with rust. Before I bid her bon voyage to the great parking lot in the sky, I made sure to send her out in style.
Rest in peace, Rita.