If you love something, set it free …

Right this minute, my old beater car — my traveling companion, my protection, my buddy — is sitting in front of my house, and a tow truck is coming to take it away.

After 10 years of driving it, my car is going to be donated to Colorado Public Radio. And It hurts like a mother to say goodbye.

Maybe you have a beater car, too: A car with a hole in the floorboards, like the Flintstone-mobile. A car where you can either use the windshield wipers or the radio, but not both. A car where the doors are fused shut with rust, so you climb in through the window, Dukes of Hazzard style.

I called mine Uncle Meat, and I love all its imperfections. Duct tape is an important structural component. The radio is stuck on one station. The A/C stands for Ain’t Cool and the hull is more dented than a Zika baby’s skull. Third and fourth gear don’t work, the right pop-up headlight is permanently popped up. It’s a padiddle; it’s rusted. It leaks. There's weed residue’s in the console and a real weed grows out of the right headlight. Cops constantly pulled me over, figuring I’m undocumented or a drug dealer. It’s the automotive equivalent of probable cause. When it comes to repelling potential dates, it’s the car version of Fukushima.

Some of these are minor annoyances. But you can take your Audis and your Bimmers and your F350s and shove em up your starfish. Beater cars are better cars.

I never fretted about muddy shoes or dirty dogs.

I never washed it or vacuumed it.

I rammed it into poles and snowbanks and deer and never fixed the dents.

Once, I got in an argument with another driver and he got out of his truck and kicked in a fender. I just drove off, because who cares. I’m not fighting a dude.

I walked on the roof for a stepladder, laid on the hood for stargazing and let my nieces crawl all over it for fun.

Where it rusted, I repainted using house paint.

I drove it for miles with the “check engine” light on.

I never paid a dime for comprehensive insurance.

These were minor gains, but the lifestyle payoff I got was huge. By not having a car payment for 10 years, by not paying for repairs or vacuuming or even car washes, I had money for travel and food and drugs … and life. 

We know that experiences are what make you happy, not things. There aren’t many experiences you can do in a nicer car I couldn’t do in Uncle Meat. He carried me up to Vancouver and down to San Diego and up to Quebec and back. He swaddled me on hundreds of winter morning trips to ski areas, protected me on hundreds of late-night Taco Bell runs. He was my disheveled magic carpet. Dozens of nights, he was my house.

A mechanic told me it was probably not road worthy. That was four years ago.

I finally got a nicer car a few months back. My parents worry about my physical safety more than I do, and gave me some cash to get a newer car.

I don’t love the new car. I get frustrated when it gets scratched, mad when passengers crawl in with muddy sneakers, and jittery when the “low tire pressure” light blazes.

So for seven month I’ve sequestered Uncle Meat in the backyard, hillbilly style. I still don’t trust this new car not to let me down. And selling Uncle Meat hurt too much.

Finally, at the neighbors’ urging, I put Uncle Meat on Craigslist for $500. Then $300. Then $200. The only biter was a guy who texted me like a sleep-deprived meth cook. And he only offered $125. I didn’t do it. He might’ve shived me and used Meat as a getaway car.

So public radio gets it.

Goodbye Uncle Meat. I assume you’re headed for the crusher. Don’t worry; it won’t hurt.

I’m bowing deeply in humble gratitude to the trembling Japanese salarymen who designed and built you.

And damn if I didn’t feel all stomach-bumbly and sad this morning when I slipped the title and the key under the floormat and left the door unlocked. Damn if I didn’t drive it around the block two extra times just to savor the sweet sickly smell, feel the reassuring rattles, hear those calming clanks, too.

On my second pass through my alley, I swerved and plowed him into my garbage bin. It felt great. I reversed and plowed him into my recycle bin. It felt right. I rammed a light pole, and felt joy. I sideswiped a light pole. It felt amazing. I rammed two more light poles on my way down the alley, before I was finally able to let Uncle Meat go.

I’ll miss him.

I’ll miss all he represents.

I’m trying to grow up, but a deliberate car accident, and everything about Uncle Meat, felt so young and reckless and worry free — feelings I’ll never stop loving, that will never stop making me feel alive, no matter what kind of car I happen to drive.