Wednesday, February 5, 2014


"I just don't think like that, you know? A car is just a car. I drive them for years, my current car is 10 years old, I just can't see buying a new one what a waste of money. Right?"

Then Julie (my dental hygienist) took the tools out of my mouth so I could answer. See, she talks while she works, but she makes you talk back so there is always the pause while the various instruments are taken out and you can rinse and spit and then answer her.

So here is where I have to make the choice, just nod and smile or admit the truth. "Yeah, I'm not the right person to ask about that. I love a new car." Trying to count back I think we've had 15 cars over the course of our marriage. It could be 16, I feel like I'm missing one, but at least 15. Probably half were used when we bought them and during most of that time we were a two car family so that increased the number, but still, that's a lot of cars.

So we talked about cars and what we've owned and what I liked best. She is looking at buying another car, and as she drives them for a decade the thought process is that when she is ready for a new one this car would be handed off to her daughter to drive.

I answered that my two favorite cars to drive were my second Civic and the BMW. For different reasons. We talked about handling, and road feel, and responsiveness. We talked about our current new car. I like the Audi. I really do. It's a good car. I don't have any complaints. I just already know that we will go back to the BMW after this one. I like the way the BMW feels connected to the road. No other car I've ever driven feels as "stuck" as the BMW did.

And then I started thinking last night about the cars and how they fit in to our lives. The first car we had was Vinnie. My beater Vega. It was my first car. Or I could say cars I guess. My dad got it for me before I even got my license. No idea what he did for it, but some sort of barter/work deal. And it sat and waited for me. It was a Vega station wagon, red with a decal paint thing down the side that was purple and blue and shiny. Now there are people who I went to school with thinking, I don't remember that? Well that's because my brother's car was kaput one day so he took mine and wrecked it. I hadn't even gotten to drive it yet and it was done. My dad found another body in the junk yard and pieced together Frankencar for me. Away went the shiny decal. And the car tended to look more orange red than deep red. But it was mine.

Our next car was cursed. It was my parent's old car. Bright yellow Capri. BRIGHT yellow. And it got hit every time we turned around. By the time we gave up on it and gave it to my sister it was literally held together with duct tape and bailing wire. And she got hit two more times in it before she gave it away. We were never sure if it was because it was so bright that people were blinded and ran in to it or what. But BRIGHT yellow, people, how could you miss it? And I guess they didn't....

Then we bought Christine from Jim. It was his car in high school, his grandparent's car before that. It had a 350 Chevy small block engine. Looked like a grandma car but could blow the doors off of anyone in a race. Not that I raced it. That would have been wrong. After Christine was the 300 ZX with the t-top. Super fun car for California. When you would put the car in gear it would drop. Felt like you were sitting about 3 inches off the road. And it cooked. It was a 2+2 so technically it had a back seat, but it wasn't much of one. Took a memorable road trip from San Diego to Alameda (where they keep the nuclear wessels) with 4 of us crammed in that car. Don't recommend it.

Now that lowering? It was great for Southern California, not so great for Idaho. When the snow hit I was stuck inside. I couldn't drive the car without getting high centered on the ice moguls in the road. And since I had a baby I needed to cart around as well it wasn't practical anymore. In came the first of the new new cars. An Accord. A sedan. A grown up car. It was a turning point. Where safety and comfort (can we get the car seat in and out easily?) became more important than how fast can this puppy go?

From there on out cars became more than just speed. Or looks. They had to serve the right purpose. When we got to a space where a second car was needed we would end up with the family car and the other car. For a few years the family car was my car. The first Accord then a second one, brand new off the truck with 7 miles on it when I got the keys. I worked for Honda at the time and got to pick it out and order it and track the car as it headed my way. Loved that car. And the first week I had it someone hit it in a parking lot. I remember walking out of the grocery store and looking to where I had parked my car and thinking, "Oh that can't be right, my car is brand new, that one has a bashed bumper." Oh no, it was mine. I was sick. Hadn't even made a payment on it yet. But the benefit of working for a dealership was they fixed it up for me and unless you were at the exact right angle you couldn't tell. Did it again when someone keyed every car parked along the street at work. Ugh.

A few years later we traded in that car and Brent's current car (it was either the Mustang or the second 300 ZX, can't remember) and got the Expedition and a baseline Civic. The family car switched to Brent's car and the other was mine. I only drove it to drop C off at school and then to the Max stop to catch the train to work. It didn't need to be anything fancy. The Expedition was fun. Sitting up above the traffic and able to see what was going on was great. It also held the three of us and the 4 Staggs so when we wanted to all go do something we could take one car. At the time C was still in sports and we were thinking ahead to that as well.  But then we moved, he dropped sports and gas went over $3 a gallon for the first time. Eek! Time to switch again. Though I was glad to have it for winter in Colorado it was nice to trade it in and pay less than $75 to fill the tank.

But from there on out the family car became Brent's and mine was the other. Thus the second Civic. It was a coupe. Gorgeous lines on the car and zippy. The thought was that we would have it paid off and C could take it as his car when he was old enough. But then the time came and he wasn't interested in driving. And I quit my job. And we went down to one car. We had an Acura for awhile, figured we really liked Hondas so the Acura would be a logical choice. Yuck. Hated it. Couldn't wait to get rid of it. It was after the first BMW and we went right back to BMW. Then this year it was time again. I wanted something with either front or all wheel drive. Rear wheel just doesn't cut it for me in the snow anymore. Not that I generally drive it in much, but when I do I'd rather have surer footing. So we did the trade again. And now we have the Audi.

And I look back at my Vega and wonder what the girl who drove that car would think of the Audi. To start the Vega you had to pull out a manual choke, start the car, ease the choke back in. If you drove it for more than a week it needed a quart of oil. I actually got pulled over once and given a ticket for "excessive smoke." But I loved that car. Like I said, it was mine. I didn't have to ask my parents for permission to drive it. It was freedom. Sitting in that car it was my own space. Mine. And I think that has to be where the car love started. Each car we've had has reflected where we are in life. Kid, no kid, luxury, speed? Gas prices, one car or two? Lease, loan, paid in full. Each different. But all the same. When I get in the car and start it up (now the push of a button instead of the pull of the choke) and turn on the radio (satellite instead of the boom box on the seat next to me) it's mine. My space. My little pocket of movable freedom.

So what would that girl think?

I have to think knowing how I was then, and who I am now that as she kicked off her shoes, put the seat as far back as she could, put a toe on the brake, started the engine with a single push of a button and listened to how smoothly the engine runs...well...she would be pissed as fuck that she couldn't smoke in it....

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