Friday, October 25, 2013


It's a lovely fall day. One of those days that's meant for driving along the Mississippi River in a convertible, taking in the changing fall colors. I'll bet that's where the woman in the black BMW M3 is headed. I'm looking out the window at her from the Midas near my house. I'd love to be taking a leisurely ride to look at the trees too, but that's not possible, what with my car on a lift. But, hey, if I crane my neck, I can make out some trees behind the strip mall across the street. They're looking a lovely chartreuse color.

I can't complain. I don't have to sit in auto-care shops very often, even though my car is almost 13 years old. Unfortunately, this is my second time at Midas in a week, as a routine oil change revealed some other problems, albeit minor. It gave me time to think, sitting in Midas, sipping my complimentary Diet Coke, about the pros and cons of owning an older car. One pro is definitely the free pop.

But there are many cons. My car is ugly, and it lost its new car smell about 12 years and 9 months ago. My kids don't like riding in it, but for that they really have themselves to blame. The back panel on the driver's side seat won't stay on, so it reveals an unsightly array of wires utilized by the long-defunct seat-heating mechanism. Lily constantly kicked the back of my seat when she was a toddler, and eventually the panel gave up and found a new home the the floor of the car. My kids (along with everyone else) also complain about the unpleasant smell in my car. The combination of Sam's messy eating habits, the foul odors he emits from every orifice, and my attempts to cover the stench with air freshener have turned the smell of my car into something vaguely like the bathroom at Buffalo Wild Wings. It's bothersome enough to Sam that he now rides with his head out the window, not unlike a dog. When the temperature drops below zero, I insist he close the window, so then he just plugs his nose. I've decided that one of those swimmers' nose clips will make a good stocking stuffer for him this year. Perhaps with both his hands free, he won't spill so much food.

As unpleasant as it is to ride in, my car gets pretty good gas mileage, so we usually take it if we're going on a long trip. Like the time we spent a weekend in Milwaukee. We had agreed to take our friends Dave and Molly with us, although when they saw that we were riding in my car, Dave said, "You know, on second thought, maybe I'll drive us." He eventually changed his mind, and to improve the experience for our friends, Brad covered the sticky, crumb-encrusted seats in the back of my car with a blanket. He also reattached the back panel of the driver's seat with duct tape. These quick fixes gave my car the ambiance of a vehicle that might be seen on Sanford and Son, or the Junky Car Club. Perhaps this is why Dave and Molly haven't taken a ride from us since then.

There is one big pro about my car: it's paid for. And contrary to many peoples' car-buying habits, when I paid off my car, I did not take my newly acquired car title straight to the dealership to buy a new one. I know many people who do, though. It's as if the title reads "By the time you own this vehicle, it'll be outdated. Please buy another." And I don't understand it. There is no bigger waste of money than a vehicle. Not gourmet coffee, not air conditioning, not Ugg boots, not BlackBerry stock, not even the new Vikings stadium. And yet people buy them with abandon. When I was younger, I knew people who couldn't afford to move out of their parents' house, but (or because) they bought an expensive vehicle. One such friend repeatedly complained that, at 22, she was too old to live in her childhood bedroom. But you'd never know it by the way she strutted to and from her brand-new Acura Integra. After listening to her complain for the umpteenth time about her living situation, I suggested she just move into her car. Unfortunately, this was right around the time of Chris Farley's SNL skit about living in a van down by the river, and therefore my friend wrote off my idea as just plain foolish.

Spending on what amounts to nothing more than a conveyance simply doesn't interest me. That goes for purchasing a car as well as maintaining one. And yet, my cars love me. I've only owned two vehicles in my entire life, because they stay with me for decades and never fail me despite the way I neglect them. I never wash my car. Ever. I leave it to Mother Nature to wash off the dirt and salt. And even when she doesn't, I wisely chose a car color called Autumn Bronze that hides the dirt remarkably well. In fact, I've decided that every car I ever own from now on will be Autumn Bronze. I know that surprises people who know I'm more of a warm-weather girl, but Summer White would plainly show that I haven't washed the car since I drove it out of the dealership. I don't clean the inside of the car, either. I used to depend on B to clean my car, but he's tired of spending hours trying to clean up a mess similar in scope to a small tornado and receiving nothing in the way of gratitude. But it's not that I'm ungrateful; I just don't notice.

The last time Brad cleaned my car, he was unhappy that I didn't acknowledge all his effort. And rightfully so. I apologized profusely. And then I asked B if he really wanted me to become a person who cares about the cars she drives. I could almost see the thoughts running though his mind: the thousands of dollars we'd be spending on a new car for me; the extra money we'd spend if I actually followed my car's maintenance schedule; the driving gloves, the sunglasses, the Weather-Tech floor liners I'd require. He said no. I know exactly how to appeal to my obsessively fiscally responsible husband.

Speaking of the maintenance schedule that I don't follow, I drag my feet about fixing my car for what I feel are non-critical issues. A power window that won't roll up and down properly is not critical to me; that's why I went for two years without fixing it on my first car. It drove people crazy, and I don't understand why! So what if I had to open the door and step out to get to my coffee? So what if a few five-layer burritos splattered on the ground while I flailed at the drive-through window attendant from my open car door outside Taco Bell? Finally, one day my friend Trent had had enough. He called a service shop and made an appointment for me to get my window fixed. Then he hounded me every day until it was done. I never did fix the dents that I inflicted in my car door from opening it at drive-throughs during the Broken Window years, but fortunately, the constant presence of salt on my car (this one happened to be black--a big mistake) provided ample camouflage.

As my car ages, it has crossed my mind that I may someday need to buy another one. What vehicle would I get? There are so many choices today that it's hard to decide. I can tell you this, though: it certainly won't be a minivan. I deliberately limited my family to two children so I could stay in a sedan. Besides, we already have one large vehicle in our family, and it's not for carrying kids. B requires an SUV just to carry all the stuff he needs: golf clubs, two-by-fours, cases of beer, a kayak, Sheetrock, Lederhosen, bicycles, a lawn mower, poker chips, boulders, a tile cutter, and a gas fireplace insert. And that was just last weekend. B leads a much more exciting and productive life than I do.

Ah, here it comes now, rolling off the lift: my 2001 Infiniti G20.  I'm listening to Seth, the nice man at Midas, describe how my car is all set, and he'll see me at my next oil change. That's right, Seth; I'll see you in about a year, when the leaves are changing again.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, did this hit home with me!!! My family is always telling me that I should take better care of my car.....but they don't want me to spend any time ( they need me for something, always) or any money (which should be spend on them, of course) to do so!!! I just wish I could figure out how to get my cars to be as devoted to me as yours are to you! As always, your writing puts a smile on my face and I find myself nodding along saying, "Me, too. That's exactly what I think/feel" after almost every sentence. Love it!!!