Champion no more …

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I guess it was inevitable that at some point I would have to relinquish my crown. There’s always somebody younger and stronger nipping at your heels. I just wasn’t prepared for how suddenly it happened.

One Friday evening I left work the champ. The following Monday morning my reign was over. After many years on top, suddenly I was no longer the proud owner of the junkiest car in The Republic parking lot.

That Saturday I traded in the 1999 compact I had been driving since 2002. The following Monday I drove into The Republic lot in a car that was actually manufactured in this millennium. As I got out, I looked around at the other vehicles, one of which had, without knowing it, just become the junkiest car in The Republic parking lot.

I have no idea who the new champ is. When my 16-year-old, rusting car was in the lot, the title was never in doubt. But now that it’s gone, the competition has gotten much closer.

I gave up the title somewhat reluctantly. I would have been content to drive my old car until the day my children take my license away, but it broke. Unwilling to give up my crown without a fight, I tried to have it repaired. But after two trips to the repair shop failed to fix the problem, my eyes began to stray. I started to look at automobile ads, but never in view of my old car.

One Friday, I spotted a car that sounded perfect for me. The next day my wife and I stopped at the dealership “just to look at it.” A short time later I drove it home.

Since we were in my wife’s car when we stopped but were trading in the old car, I had to drive it back to the dealership. I think it knew something was up as soon as it saw me pull the new car into the driveway.

As I pulled into the dealership and parked my 20th-century relic, I felt as if I were taking a beloved dog to the vet for the last time.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I said. “I’m sorry. Yes, the new car is younger and prettier, but I swear that’s not the reason I’m leaving you here.

“I would have driven you forever, but you’re just not the car you used to be. I just can’t justify spending any more money on you. You’re just going to have to be the worst car in some other parking lot from now on.

“Don’t worry. You’ve got really low miles for your age. Someone much younger than me will come along and think you’re the best car on the lot. If you treat your new owner the way you treated me, I know you’ll be rolling along for many years to come. Yes, you might have to play some dreadful music on your CD player, but who knows, maybe you’ll learn to like Miley Cyrus, or better yet, lose your hearing.

“Please don’t be angry with me or at yourself. It’s not your fault. It happens to all of us eventually. It’s even happening to me. Like yours, my odometer continues to count the miles. And, like you, I’m beginning to suffer from leaks, worn out parts and peeling paint.

“If I see you on the road, old friend, I’ll be sure to wave. Otherwise, we’ll surely meet again one day in the big junkyard in the sky.

“Until then, thanks for everything.”