Goodbye, Toyota Highlander


Photo by Michael Wang

I remember watching the Oscars when I was little. Between the massive Lincoln Town Cars, little silver Priuses pulled up to the curve, ejecting celebrity after celebrity. The commentators talked forever about the car choice, and I had fallen in love with the little eco-friendly green machine.

My dad has been driving the same car since I was 2. The 2001 silver Toyota Highlander was just something that was always there. For elementary-school me, it might as well have been a Ferarri. It was easy to spot in any parking lot. The leather seats always felt cool to the touch and the blast of the A/C comforted my sweaty face many a time during summer. The trunk was wide and spacious, perfect for lugging buckets full of balls and groceries, and I could put the passenger seat back all the way down so I could take naps on the way to school. It was anything I could have ever wanted.

Eventually, as the car got older and older, it stopped being the reliable car I had grown up loving. The clock would randomly stop working, and the cassette tape slot began to stick its little anachronistic mouth out. There were some stains on the leather seat and sand on the carpet. The glove box was loose; it began to hum with the rumbling of the engine whenever we went anywhere. Every ride was a bumpy one, and sometimes the engine would go on strike, not wanting to start up until the jumper cables came out. The glued-on metal part that said “Highlander” on the back of the car detached, leaving in the middle of a drive to let the remains of the glue title the car. It was at that point that I realized that the old Toyota Highlander would soon have to retire.

After coming back from a debate tournament, I was waiting at the curb of the airport looking into a sea of concrete and metal for the car. A Toyota Prius pulled up right in front of me and the window rolled down. My dad was in it. I had been begging to get a new family car for so long, and the glorious moment finally came.

The car was new. It had a little wireless charger that we couldn’t use because we were an iPhone family, and had the nifty little camera in the back that made parking easy. There was no humming of the glovebox and the radio was high-tech and new. The car came with a 800-page manual and all sorts of instructions and warnings.

Honestly it wasn’t all I thought it would be cut out to be. Sure, I felt like I was in spaceship cockpit, but I missed the little nuances about the old car. All the negatives that spurred me to incessantly lobby my parents were just complexities that made the old car feel like home. I missed the worn feeling of the seats, the spaciousness of the SUV, and most of all, I missed the humming of the glovebox as it steadily marched down the highway.