Baby You Can Drive My Car

I bought a new car. I’ll sum up the dealing with car salesmen experience in two words. Space aliens. It’s all there: fake emotions, vacant and slithering eyes, cold and clammy skin, eats baby piglets whole. I didn’t personally witness that last one, but I’m certain it happens. POOR BABY PIGS.

Here’s what I learned. Lesson number one: the space aliens will not haggle with you. Lesson number two: the space aliens are not honest. The trick is to know their weakness, and that’s lesson number three. They think their intelligence is superior. They don’t think the humans can detect bullshit. Perhaps this was true in the past, but the humans are now armed with an incredible superweapon: the Internet.

But lesson number four is the most important of them all. Never, ever deal with the space aliens. There are a few good humans left out there in the wasteland of car lots. Your mission: to find them. So, after two weeks of research, test drives, and phone calls, I found an actual human being. And so I bought a car, a 2012 Hyundai Elantra Touring.

It’s a grown-up car with lots of room and safety features. I’ve always driven tiny subcompact coupes that are nothing more than the base model gearboxes. Cars are like clothes to me, something that is purely functional. I’d rather spend my money on records, stereo stuff, collecting toys, and the occasional classy night at the Red Lobster. No seriously, I’m kidding about that Red Lobster thing. Although nobody is kidding about those delicious cheese biscuits.

The girlfriend heavily influenced my decision. She didn’t want to be shoving a stroller, a car seat and a baby into the backseat of a two-door in a few years. Yeah. I just typed that. I made a decision on a car based on whether a stroller could fit. The other thing I had to give up was the manual stick shift, which is more fun to drive. But the girlfriend can’t drive one, and I guess the future mother of our children should be able to drive my car. I don’t think that’s what the Beatles were singing about, but oh well.

Hey, it’s not all I’m-a-boring-old-person-now-doom-and-gloom. The car has a spoiler on the hatchback, so it’s still got a sporty look. And it’s black, which is the classiest color of all. There are all kinds of neat features I’ve never had before. For instance, CRUISE CONTROL AND POWER WINDOWS. Yeah I know everyone had that ish ten years ago, but I’m loving it. It’s like a Disney World ride. Also: Electronic stability control! Anti-theft system! XM radio! iPod player thingy! Keyless entry and little remote that makes the car do a cute beep! SERIOUSLY IT’S A REALLY CUTE BEEP.

The car has another beep when I don’t put my seatbelt on, and I don’t really like you as much, irritating stupid beep.

Alas, I want to say a few words in tribute to my dearly departed car, a Chevy Cavalier—you awful, horrid piece of shit that caused me sleepless nights in our final weeks together when you were a rattletrap that pretended not to want to start. But I’ll always remember the beginning when the paint reflected the sun and sparkled. Rally yellow.

Before trading it in, I pulled a couple of trash bags of crap out of my car. I swear I’m not a messy person, and in fact, the trash bags were kitchen-sized trash bags, which are not very big. So there. Cars are like time capsules for a period of our lives, except you don’t plan the items you put into the capsule. Here is a small list of the things I found in my car:

– One unwrapped fortune cookie.

– A butter knife. I’d like to be coy and say I have no idea why that butter knife was in my car, but I do know. It was an essential tool to unjam CDs that got stuck in the CD player.

– One dollar in rolled pennies. Just in case I ever ran out of gas and lost my wallet at the same time. I’d have my back up one hundred pennies.

– A Christmas ornament. It’s a snowman whose lower half is a jingle bell. My mother gave it to me one year. It’s kind of sad that it never made it out of the car and onto to the Christmas tree. It’s been a couple of lonely, freezing Christmases for that ornament sitting in my glove box. It probably realized after year three that I was never coming back for it.

– The phone book. As my car sputtered towards its final days, I became terrified that my car would die somewhere and I’d need to call a tow truck and a nearby mechanic, where ever I happened to break down. I still don’t have one of those neat phones that can look up stuff. It doesn’t do those app things or whatever you people call it. And I can not and will not download your humorous sound board app.

– Coldplay CD. WHAT? IT WAS 2003. EVERYONE LIKED THEM, OKAY. Oh screw it, just put me out of my misery. Which is apparently what I was in when I bought that CD.

– 100349594694569 losing scratch-off tickets.

– President Obama trading cards. Another form of gambling. I was going to find the super rare chaser card of Sasha Obama doing something generally adorable. AND SELL IT ON EBAY FOR A MILLION DOLLARS.

– An embarrassing number of Red Bull cans, which no other human being can know the precise number, except the girlfriend. Because she knows a lot of embarrassing things. And that is basically the person you marry, a repository of all your embarrassing things. A person who simply sits in the passenger side, tosses whatever crap is there into the backseat, and says, “you really ought to clean some of these cans out of your car,” and nothing more.

– Chevrolet rubber floor mats. I bought these the day I bought this car. After my mother and I left the dealership, we stopped at an auto store. “Just to look,” she suggested. To get something. Maybe a cool key chain or air freshener to commemorate the purchase, something. We ended up picking out a pair of rubber floor mats that said “Genuine Chevrolet” in red, white, and blue colors. In truth, they belonged more in somebody’s rednecked-out truck than they did in the tiny Cavalier I was commuting to college in, but my mother and I were sort of swept up in the novelty of a brand new yellow car.

– A box of press-on nails. I don’t really remember why. The girlfriend wanted to experiment with press-on nails once while we were driving to a wedding or something. It was pharmacy-store trashy and exciting.

– The pillow I was going to give to a homeless person. It was a nice decorative Nautica pillow that I made the mistake of storing in a cellar. It got a little moth-eaten, but ignoring that, it was still a decent pillow. It didn’t seem right to just toss it, so I threw in the backseat and wanted give it to a homeless person who looked like they could use it. But the right homeless person just never came along. I was holding out for someone who was going to appreciate it. I don’t care if that sounds crass. Homeless people can be bitchy sometimes.

– The Club. Yeah, the CLUB. The original steering wheel lock. In cherry red. OH YEAH. I bought it before moving into Baltimore because I became convinced someone would try to break into my car and steal it. It wouldn’t have been unlikely in the city. But I never actually used it out of pure laziness.

– A blanket. I used to work with a manager at an old job who always talked about how it was important to carry a blanket in the trunk of your car, in case you ever break down in the cold somewhere. Frost bite can occur within 24 minutes. Hey, it made sense, and I’m all about survival in intense situations. And if my car also became surrounded by a pack of wolves, I could fend them off by menacingly swinging the Club. The only problem is, I don’t drive in rural Montana.

– Krispy Kreme wrappers. Phew. Glad the girlfriend didn’t see these. “Are you eating doughnuts in your car? When do you randomly buy all these doughnuts?” are such unnecessary questions.

– Little gumball machine toys of dogs. Sargent Barkowski, Ralph, and I Don’t Remember What We Named This Other One.

– A sheet of 37 cent stamps. That means I’ve had these stamps in my car for eight years. For perspective, that’s the length of time the Beatles were together.

– Every last remnant of a decade-long smoking habit. I quit four years ago, but there were still pack wrappers stashed deep under the seats, loose matches, a lighter or two, and even a single cigarette buried deep within one of the compartments. It was crumpled and discolored, but man, if I knew about That One when I was in the throes of quitting. Glad I didn’t. I also found a whole bunch of discarded Nicorette wrappers. Glad I did.

I loved you, smoking, but now it seems like I never did. An appendage that turned out to be nothing more than a ghost. But I know I loved you, once. I don’t miss you, and I don’t really remember. It was a break-up, like any other. You seemed so worthy and monumental and all-encompassing. Perhaps not worth dying for, but worth a gallant struggle.

Then one day, I had a realization of how easy it was to live without you—a realization that was at first unsettling, and then freeing. In the end, it was nothing at all. Nothing even worth saying, except I found a matchbox, and it reminded me of something unimportant, once.

Cars are like love stories, too. No wonder so many songs have been written for cars. In the beginning, it’s so shiny and pretty and purring. And by the time you say goodbye, you’re standing there in the driveway holding a trash bag full of your stuff. It’s stuff that could tell stories, but they’re stupid stories, and most of them you will solemnly keep to yourself. You just think the next time you’ll be better. Be less messy. Less reckless. Less hard on it. You were 22 then. You’re 30 now, and the new one in the driveway has room for a stroller.

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21 responses to “Baby You Can Drive My Car

  1. I’ve been holding back since I first discovered your blog, cos it sounds vaguely creepy, even though girly bloggers say this shit all the time to each other. But this post confirms it: you are amazing. I love how you write — whether it’s about ninja turtles, trips to the beach, or your girlfriend, you are always so funny and tender and unashamedly enthusiastic — which you should be! Congrats on your engagement, upcoming wedding, disneyland honeymoon, and many happy car journeys! I look forward to the day you write about choosing a stroller, cos I just know it will be hilarious :)

  2. Yeah, they’re space aliens. I’ve never had a good experience buying a car, except that one time when I bought a Saturn SC1, because everybody paid the same price. Options were priced on a sheet. The sales girl didn’t even know what the engine displacement was. It was great. Sad about the Christmas ornament, I could feel its pain. The pillow made me remember that I’m driving around, for a month now, with a 32-gallon trash bag full of clothes that I need to drop off at Goodwill. You ever think about that? Goodwill gets all their inventory for FREE and then they SELL it to poor people. Doesn’t seem right. Great post. Loved it.

  3. Aw, such a happy, hopeful post. Love it. And the girlfriend is thinking ahead, which is what smart women do.

    Loved the bit about the pillow, but moreso that you never found anyone worthy of it. And also the part about The Club because I just heard Baltimore referred to as B’More Careful. (and we are going there this weekend!)

    Congrats on the new car and enjoy!

  4. I agree with orange. You are amazing. Your gal is the luckiest.

    O- donate to a church instead. Still a tax write off and the needys get stuff for free. Or to a homeless shelter. If you can find one.

    We’re gonna get a new car soon as well. The fiance wants a fit. He has his mind set and has test driven so we’re pretty much waiting for inventory. I know what you mean about the aliens tho. Dude seemed pretty brainwashed last time we were at the dealer. Course the dealer we went to is called dick ide.. which makes me chuckle immaturedly every time. Dunno why I’m posting all this… and from my fancy phone too. Oh well.

  5. Ha!

    Congrats on the new car. What I loved most is how much of a story the trash in your car told. I’ve recently had a similar experience when prepping to sell my old car. Luckily, most of my “trash” was art & design related.

    As always, thanks for dissecting what appears to be the hum-drum of life, but when told in the right way, is actually quite entertaining.

  6. I had a similar experience last week when I wrecked my Mustang (lost control on a wet road and slammed into a wall) and had to go to the tow yard and fill trashbags with all my junk. So many memories. So much mess. Mine was Monster Low-Carb cans, a 5lbs Olympic plate, a rubber duck, loose change, an old certification practice test, a wooden samurai sword, a paintball gun, paintball mask, tons of empty Orbit Mint Mojito gum boxes, a year old UFC magazine that never made it in the door, and some BPA-free water bottles that I’ve been looking for. Loved this post, dude. Congrats on the new car.

  7. I really enjoyed this post. It reminded me of many experiences, including the time a used car salesman asked me out while I was buying a car, and the time I cleaned out a wrecked car of mine before it was sold for parts.

  8. I love the roll of pennies OMG LOL

  9. We recently got rid of our 1993 Dodge Caravan after 346,000 miles. I’m grateful for every inch that car drove for us, but it’s heaven driving my 2006 Honda Civic now that my kids are teens and we don’t need all the baby stuff, and being able to fit into almost any parking space. By the last month or so, the van was literally ticking for all to hear and leaving a trail of oil that I had to replenish every time I drove it, not to mention the burning smell. Mortifying to say the least. It was beyond time for it to go, but sad too. I took pictures of it before they came to drag it away for good.

    Congrats to you and Girlfriend on your new car. May it take you safely to many cool places together!

  10. The third dog was lieutenant woofington I believe.

  11. Everything sounds sweet, except that part about power windows. They’re great, until they break. Then there’s expensive motors to replace. And power locks, who like to freeze when it’s cold out and will just continually re-lock.

    I can’t say my power locks were one of the reasons I moved from the North, but that hellishly cold morning certainly influenced my decision.

    • I’m actually totally with you – I *wanted* a car with crank windows…but good luck finding one in 2011

      • I like the crank windows, too. But the best part of power windows is for childproofing. I have used the almighty “window lock” button to keep people from doing embarrassing things through an open window on a couple of occasions, and also just because Bing thinks it’s really fun to listen to obnoxiously loud cars and smell burn outs. The window lock button prevents that too. You will love it.

  12. Oh, please tell me you didn’t throw away Lieutenant Woofington.

  13. Even though I rarely comment on your blog, I still think it’s very cool. In fact, that’s a sign of its coolness. I visit most of the blogs that I do because I want to comment and get me some backlinks. I read you without the backlinks, therefore you must be cool.

    Anyway, I used to repossess cars. We not only had to bag all the personal belongings, and tag the bags for the owners who might come get their stuff, but we had to inventory all that. You didn’t have enough stuff in that Cavalier. Start throwing things into the Elantra today. Seriously, you want repo man to find at least 5 Hefty lawn bags full of little tiny objects. Not that you’re getting repoed, of course. Just the principle is all I’m saying.

  14. I still drive my first car – we’re going on 10 years together. And it’s a 2-door stick shift. My husband can’t drive it and there’s no way I’m going to deal with putting a carseat in the back…so I’m starting the process of saying goodbye to my car, because I expect we’ll be breaking up in the next couple years.

    I really, REALLY liked this post. You’re a great writer!

  15. You THINK you’ll be less messy, but you won’t. By the way, neither will your kids, no matter how many times you yell over the front seat “quit leaving your trash in the car!” The back seat becomes a time capsule of their lives then. Numerous crumpled happy meal bags, half empty goody sacks from kids birthday parties, that paper about the school fund raiser from two years ago. I found a deflated dark green ballon with a black string tied around it festooned with dog hair while digging around for something in my car today. I couldn’t place the memory. But it still made me smile.

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