Thursday, November 03, 2011

Out car shopping


I wish I had some wild excuse for my bloggy absence. Wish I could tell you I've been working on my novel, or jetted off to some writer's conference or even have been on some sort of hedonistic child-free bender.

But no. No. I've been right here letting life kick my ass as usual.

Sorry to be so profane. But really, sometimes it feels that way, does it not.

It was Halloween that did me in. Halloween and the fact that I let the kids stay up too late three nights in a row somehow and this is the perfect recipe for disaster around here. By the time we got to Sunday morning, I was convinced Isla was sick. Turns out she was just tired. So we had one night, Sunday, of early bed time catch up then it was dreaded Halloween.

Isla could have been a Zombie without any costume, so colorless was she from gorging on candy as we walked from house to house, to house. Finally, after we had covered South, East, and North Streets and were heading down West Street, she said to me: "I think I'm done trick or treatin', Mom. I've got enough candy."

Say what? Is this my Isla ,my candy lover, my sweet toothed girl showing some sense of restraint and moderation in the face of sugar? It was. And she meant it.

We ended up at the Public library where she ate an apple, we met up with Esther, and she asked me to take her home.

Since then we've been late for school twice, I've packed pizza for lunch twice, and we've had Indian takeout once. Saag paneer is the only food that consistently gets eaten in silence around here. Isla never says a thing, no complaining. She simply eats it until her plate is clean. How something so mundane as  child eating curried spinach voraciously can be so profoundly beautiful I cannot explain, but it is.

I have no pictures of Halloween to offer you. They are still in my camera.

For the last two days my entire focus has been on one: figuring out when and for how long we will go to England. And, two: buying a new car. 

This second thing has been making me feel really tired and a little deflated  about the reality of making grownup choices when you are still a child at heart.

I tried a VW Passat, a nice used one, and as soon as I got behind the wheel, with that stick shift at my right hand, like old times, I became a 20-something again. I have forgotten how tight and zippy VWs are. How fun to drive. Warned away from that, I tried a Saab wagon, sigh, and a Toyota Matrix, both used with roughly 80,000 miles on them.

Talk about night and day. This is equivalent to having a date with the gorgeous singer of a rock band, a guy you can pretty much bet will cheat on you but Lord is he sexy and fun, then having another date, the same day, with the boring, well- brought -up, marriage material insurance agent your mother is trying to match you up with. You know the boring guy will be safer in the long run, a better investment, reliable, but God how you are attracted to the guy everyone warned you about.

I knew the writing was on the wall when I took the Matrix to my mechanic, trying to do the right thing, and told him how much more fun to drive the Saab was, and he said,

"There comes a time in your life when you have to make practical decisions and this car is practical. The Saab is not."

Booooorrrriiiinnnnng! I miss those days when I judged a car's worth merely by how good its sound system was.

I'm trading the Volvo, which still gives me a smooth ride but threatens, daily, to empty my wallet, in for the Matrix next week. The Matrix has excellent gas mileage, remarkable roominess for a small car, and , here's the clincher, it's supposed to be so low maintenance it is practically no maintenance.

"Your kids will inherit this car," said my mechanic.

If accepting the fact that driving pleasure isn't exactly a necessity means you've grown up and become responsible, consider me an adult now.

It will grow on me, right?


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain Betsy. My husband has been pointing out how cramped my little 5 speed hatchback is since my second child was born two years ago. The word minivan comes up daily. While I normally counter with a hopeful "how about a sports wagon?!", I know my days are numbered.....


Was Living Down Under said...

Oh dear. I know the allure of European cars. Once you've driven one, there's really no turning back. What was wrong with the Passat?

When we left for Sydney, my mum's old Pontiac finally died so we left her our old Jetta. Unfortunately it's eaten up a lot of her money yet she's hesitant to let it go. She would commiserate with you.

BTW, your rock star analogy was awesome... European lover anyone? :)

Betsy said...

Was Living Down Under: The Passat, like the Saab and my old Volvo are fantastic cars in their youth, then often become problematic and very expensive to maintain in their old age. Hondas and Toyotas, so I've been told, age much more gracefully. So, live fast and die young, or slow and steady wins the race.....

Lauren A. said...

I have owned 2 Saabs in my life, there will not be a third. I didn't call them the "damn Saab Stories" for nothin'!

Betsy said...

Lauren A: I need to hear this like any woman needs to hear her love interest is a bum. I am still swooning from the test drive I took on Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't know :D
I bought a VW Golf 5+ years ago and to this day my husband goes, you should've bought the Prius.
I didn't love it like my Golf, never will :D:D


Robin said...

What does it say about my own car choices that I sometimes see a Matrix tooling around town and I say, "Wow, that's a cute car. Maybe that's what I'll get next." I drive an aging Subaru Outback that obviously needs shocks and, after a fender-bender last month, a new bumper (scheduled for 2 weeks from now). So I look pretty classy driving around town, let me tell you. Car woes have been plaguing me since the spring, so I feel your pain. I'm going to try to get mine to hold on at least until the summer, and a bit longer if possible.

If it's any consolation, a super-fun friend of mine drives a Matrix, and she loves it.

Betsy said...

Robin: YOu know what? The Matrix is a cute car. And it drives like a cute car. It's merely driving pleasure I'm referring to here. Once you get behind the wheel of one of those so-called luxury cars, you get ruined. It's like flying first class.

Robin said...

Aha! I get it now--I've never driven such a nice car (and I really couldn't be trusted on the road with a 5-speed, to be honest). I was going more for total image than just driving experience. I've also never flown first class--I'm clearly missing out on the finer things in life! (Hence the elderly Subaru.) But maybe I'm better off if I don't know what I'm missing.

Robin said...

OK, this whole car thing is really striking a chord with me, so I'm back with a few more bits of commiseration. I missed your earlier Momfo post on the bigger vs. smaller car dilemma, so I just read it, and I wanted to tell you several things:
1. The "extension of my...personality" thing killed me. I have driven a total of 3 cars in my life, and they have nothing in common yet somehow each were meaningful to me.
2. It already sounds like you're moving away from the Passat, but I tested one of those when I ended up buying my Subaru, and it was advice from a trusted mechanic that steered me away. They are known for eating cash, plus a lot of VWs require premium gas.
3. That said, the replacement of the head gasket (at first I started to type "head casket"--telling, no?) was the beginning of my recent and ongoing car woes. I'm a separated mom of 2 kids with a full time job, and nothing has stressed me out more over the past few months than this car b.s. The other stressful car issues (aside from the fender-bender, which was, by the way, my fault, and my first insurance claim in over 20 years, since I was in high school) have all turned out to be inexpensive, routine repairs that any car approaching 100,000 miles (which mine will reach this weekend) would need, but still. The angst!

Anyway, I hear you, sister--this car stuff is just too much!

Emma said...

well i'm green with envy that you are getting any car at all. My 1994 Toyota station wagon is a heap of junk, but i would have to win the lottery to buy even a slightly less junky vehicle. I'm using the power of my mind to keep it going until i graduate and can start working for actual money! Last week something in the electrics for the indicators went, so that they will come on but then just stick, so i manually have to turn them off, on, off, on etc etc when sitting at an intersection.

Anonymous said...

My 1996 Buick has the "CHECK ENGINE SOON" light on. It's been on for, um, I'm not really sure. Going around a corner last month the ball joint let go ripping the entire unit right out of the transmission. The whole front passenger side smashed the pavement. It was a good thing that we weren't on the freeway.

I LOVE driving a stick shift! I miss it, but it's probably better for me not to have one since it would just encourage me to crank up the music and drive faster than I should, somehow believing that I'm a teenager again. There's just something about winding all of those gears out! Control, perhaps?


mooserbeans said...

Oh bummer! Our problem has been appliances. It seems like you can't get ahead. It also seems like your entire life is doomed to making the wisest choice. I was telling my friend that I can't remeber the last time that I had grown up fun. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear. We have switched from an aging Volvo to a brand new Honda Fit. We want to love it so bad, it's our first new car ever. But you don't go from Volvo's best car of 1995 to Honda's cheapest in 2011 without noticing.

Katriina said...

When we lived in Japan, it cost us almost nothing to get a second-hand European car (people in Tokyo don't like second-hand anything). One very, very careful previous owner (I'm talking perfect condition, and barely 3,000 miles on the clock!) and the engine literally purred with effortless power. I LOVED driving it. It really was a rock star lover of a car.

Now we have a sensible SUV (well, it's my husband's, really. I detest car shopping so much that I've never owned my own car). The SUV is reliable and safe and just fine. It's the guy I settled down with and for whom I feel warm appreciation. I just have to try not to think of Rock Star Car and that incredible rush whenever I would put my foot down...

-alex said...

I drive a Mazda5. Not sexy, but it's a microvan as opposed to a minivan, which I don't want to own. I still have room for lots of stuff and I can seat six, which is a bonus when all the rellies come over to visit next year.

TerraD said...

Alex, I drive a Mazda5, too, and I love it. I call it a mini-mini-van, and it is so practical for families!