At the agreed meeting spot near the lake, she’s standing over on the beach. I call to her and she walks over.
“Just chilling with the birds,” she says, gesturing to the ducks swimming near the seashore.
This isn’t a scene from a romantic drama, but it probably looks just as mundane. I’m here to talk to Jenna about her car. It’s parked nearby; a little black Honda that’s only a bit bigger than mine. Lancelot is a 2011 Civic with some spots of faded paint on the roof. He also has a sun visor that’s been riveted back together to attach to its roof mount and a center console that doesn’t close properly, but Jenna has no intention of replacing him anytime soon. She depends on him quite a bit.
Jenna and I go sit down nearby to go talk about Lancelot. One of the first things I learn about him is that Lancelot is his proper name. His nickname is Toothless, as in the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon. Jenna is a comic book artist and studied in a college program that included 3D animation and modelling, so that kind of name isn’t unexpected. What I don’t account for is the sheer number of stories that Jenna has involving Lancelot. She doesn’t quite speak of him as though he’s a person(though I certainly will; it’s easier that way), but I get the feeling that he’s practically a part of her family.
According to Jenna, she received Lancelot as an 18th birthday present, but wasn’t able to drive him on her own until she received her driver’s license a few months later. Aside from using him to drive to school, she visited friends and even went on road trips with her new car. She tells me that when she received Lancelot, she heard that the previous owner had bought him new, but only had him for a couple of months. This, coupled with the fact that the windows were heavily tinted led Jenna to form a theory that the first owner was a spy or a detective. There isn’t much more to it than that, but I find the idea interesting. It makes me wish that I could also discover something weird about my car that may or may not be true. Anyway, aside from the theory about the previous owner, Jenna has many stories involving Lancelot that go very far in showing how important the little Civic is to her.
The first story Jenna tells me is a memory of a road trip she took with Lancelot. On a country road in Kansas, she yielded for a tractor; the large kind with wide tires. Unfortunately, Lancelot became stuck in the ditch that she pulled into. She did get the car freed with some help from her passengers, but another small quirk of Lancelot’s was created when his underside struck the road as he emerged from the ditch. Since then, the driver’s side door squeaks when opened because it was jolted slightly when Lancelot bottomed out. She doesn’t seem to view the squeaky door as a problem. It’s just another part of the car, like freckles or moles on a person’s face. Likewise, Jenna’s habit of leaving the windows rolled down while driving has led to weird occurrences that have become almost normal.
Lancelot’s windows are often left rolled down while driving simply because Jenna enjoys the cool air rushing into the cabin. However, this has led to a few minor mishaps while Jenna has been driving. Jenna remembers that once, while driving during a quiet fall day, a cluster of soap bubbles floated in from a nearby haunted house attraction. Jenna was alone and watched it settle onto the seat next to her, sagging like a cute, colorful Jabba the Hutt. Another time, Jenna was driving by a cemetery at night when a grasshopper flew into the open window. It hit both her and her passenger in the face and terrified them both. If any readers are noticing somewhat of a horror theme with these stories, then it may be interesting to note that the next story Jenna told me involved scaring people in a more deliberate way.
While attending UT Arlington, Jenna went out to see a horror movie with her roommate. The way Jenna describes the movie, it involved a haunted house and a dead woman who appeared everywhere to intimidate and kill people(I think?). Jenna played off of this by pretending to see somebody in the rearview mirror sitting in Lancelot’s back seat while she and her roommate were driving home after the movie. Her roommate screamed. Jenna claims that she pulled many more pranks on her roommates while driving around in Lancelot, but she can’t remember most of them as well as this one. Though most of Jenna’s stories involving Lancelot may not seem like much, they reflect why Jenna so greatly enjoys being able to drive Lancelot. She enjoys the simple things that many of us may take for granted.
When I ask what significance Lancelot holds in Jenna’s life, she has to think for a bit, but comes back with a couple of simple, but heartfelt answers. The first answer involves stress relief. Jenna loves driving along the quiet rural roads in her hometown with music playing and the windows down. It’s an important part of her routine that helps her get through a lot of the stress she faces in life. Jenna’s other answer is more grounded.
I constantly forget this about Jenna, but she lives in a rural area about half an hour’s drive from the nearest large city and even further from some of her closest friends. Having Lancelot available allows Jenna to go work in the city and visit her friends in her free time. She tells me this very matter-of-factly. Lancelot is a very important part of Jenna’s life; important enough that she named him. However, that is mostly due to the fact that the car affords Jenna a lot of opportunities that she wouldn’t otherwise have because of where she lives. She looks at her car with admiration, but not the admiration of a dedicated gearhead. Her love for Lancelot is more grounded than that. Jenna is thankful that she has her car and her artsy, fun-loving nature has inspired her to name and care about him in a way that few non-gearheads do.