The Story of a New Car

Re: Meg’s comment—definitely ask me questions about those readings, if you want! I’m not exactly an expert, but I have been reading and working with these (and other similar) texts for several years and I’ll likely have at least some thoughts to respond with, and maybe other readers will too. If I have an answer, I will tell you, and if I don’t, we can at least chew it over together. Leave questions in the comments. Weird Blog Reading Group, we can do whatever we want! I will also add readings as I find them or as people recommend them to me.

Well, how about a non-political sidenote: in keeping with 2016’s plan to continue being a very bad year on a personal as well as a geopolitical level, we totaled our car on Monday. I shouldn’t say “we” totaled it; rather, an 18 year old Texting Teen plowed into us as we were stopped at a stoplight. He didn’t hit the brakes at all, and was probably going 40. All I know is one minute I’m sitting at a stoplight talking to my husband about whether or not he is interested in burritos for dinner, and then less than a second later I’m sitting there in physical shock with broken glass raining down all around. It was so violent! Cars are horrifying. A golf club we have in the back of our car for semi-inexplicable reasons hit me in the back of the head, and my glasses flew off and landed on the dashboard, so I was not feeling great. Could not hear out of one ear for a bit, that sort of thing. After saying “are you ok” I started screaming “MY GLASSES FIND MY GLASSES” so it was good to know that my priorities are in order. The glasses were intact.

That was about all that was intact, however, for after struggling free of the wreckage we found our car completely crumpled, the rear end now resting above the rear wheel wells. My old man’s proud Cornell Ornithology Lab bumper sticker lay on the sodden asphalt covered in glass; he picked it up and brushed it off and held it out to me as though it provided some sort of proof of something.

The kid who hit us was very shaken. “Ma’am, are you all right?” he asked me as I sat with my head in my hands. When I saw how young he was I went immediately into Compassionate Teacher mode, rubbing his arm supportively when I maybe should have yelled YOU GODDAMN KIDS or something. Let me tell you this—this kid’s car still had unpainted panels on it where it was being repaired from his last wreck! This kid is driving all over the region running into parked cars going 40 mph apparently. Good lord.

Anyway the car was a disaster. The ambulance came, the police came, the tow truck came. It turned out our tow truck driver lives one block away from us and we know his dog.

We are so lucky not to be hurt (and that the kid wasn’t hurt!)! Only sore and with a headache (me) and then unfortunately the next day one of us (not me) then slipped and fell on our icy back stairs and landed right on his tailbone, which caused a whole new round of physical middle-aged-type sorrows but what are you gonna do. This is the third time since I’ve known him that he has slipped on ice and fallen in such a cartoonish fashion that his feet went all the way above his head, the poor man.

So anyway we are very lucky, and there are many much worse things to contend with in this life, and yet LORD what a BORE. We (not me) spent three hours on the phone with insurance people, figuring out (among other things) how to get a rented car to get to work that afternoon. What a racket! Insurance is one of those things future historians will struggle to explain to their students. We walked to Enterprise, swinging by the tow yard on the way to get the parking pass out of our ruined vehicle. It looked so sad there in the lot, its rear window wrapped in blue plastic, all crumpled up and dead. It is foolish to imbue inanimate objects (especially dumb ones like cars) with feelings but you just couldn’t help feeling bad for the car. Our little car which has served us loyally, etc. The tow yard was full of violence and destruction, a graveyard exhibit of what terrible things cars are. Next to our car was a similar car that was completely burned, scorched down to just the frame, reeking and awful, hard to look at. What an insane world we have made.

One spot of good news was that the crash had been so violent that it had somehow dislodged my old man’s cool reggae sunglasses from wherever they had been hiding for months while he couldn’t find them. “Oh!” he shouted, snatching them up. So every cloud truly does have a silver lining.

We rented a very cool (not) tan Kia Soul and I took the hottest bath I could run given our wimpy hot water heater situation.

But then yesterday, we had a very wild experience. Our car was a 2008 Honda Fit with a manual transmission and 133,000 miles on it. We inherited it from my parents; a great gift. We loved this car. This was just simply a great car. And in fact this isn’t just random emotional loyalty on our part; the 2008 Honda Fit is in fact the best car ever, there was an article in the New York Times about it at some point and for a period around that time people constantly stopped me in parking lots to discuss it and ask my opinion of the car (me: “IT’S ZIPPY”). As of 2008 it got basically the same freeway mileage as a Prius but was many thousands of dollars cheaper. We never had one goddamn problem with that car. It was very irritating to have it destroyed when it would surely have given us many many years of service. So wasteful! And then you have to buy a worse car to replace your good car because that’s how depreciation works. We were like, hmmm how about this 2005 RAV-4? How about this 1997 Mazda Miata (!!!)? How about this Pontiac Vibe, a car I had never heard of in my life? These are worse cars and they also cost more than insurance is giving us for our car; I hate these cars, I hate cars. This was a depressing turn of events certainly. We trudged around one used car lot whining like babies. All we wanted was a 2008 Honda Fit with a manual transmission and dog hair all over the seats.

We went to the Honda dealership and asked if they ever got 2008 Honda Fits. “Oh yeah,” said the guy, “but we can’t keep them on the lot, they sell so fast. Want me to put you on the list?” Apparently they have a LIST for people who want 2008 Honda Fits. What the hell?? We said okay. We asked about cars with manual transmissions, to which we are weirdly committed. “No, you’re not gonna find one of those—they’re phasing them out, and people who have them tend to hang onto them,” he said. He offered to show us a 2008 Civic. “We want a HATCHBACK!!” we said woefully. He said “I figured.” We said “what? Why?” He said “Well, you Fit people, it’s like, you really just want a Fit and nothing else. You’re all that way, it’s really funny.” Which I found sort of bizarre—realizing you’re part of this demographic you had no idea you were part of, thinking your own predilections are your idiosyncratic own rather than part of some wider cultural phenomenon, it’s weird. He said the only thing he had in our price range currently was a motorcycle.

We left demoralized. I don’t give one shit about cars, I hate cars, I just want my good car back so I can get to and from my damn job and I don’t have to think about it anymore. “Lets go to the Ford dealership and just see what they have,” said my old man. “I thought you said ‘fuck Ford’ earlier” I said. “I was just expressing myself” he said.

BUT THEN! We walked into the dealership and were met by a profoundly nervous young man to whom I will refer as Fred. Fred shook our hands then announced that it was his first day, that we were the very first customers he had ever greeted in his life, and that he was very nervous. “I’m pretty nervous, guys, not gonna lie,” he kept saying. We reassured him, telling him he was doing great. We sat down with him at his desk. “What are you looking for today?” he asked. “What we really want is a 2008 Honda Fit with a manual transmission,” my old man said. “Okay lets see what we’ve got,” said Fred, who began scrolling through some sort of database on his computer. Literally two seconds passed. “Okay here we go, something like this?” and he clicked on…a 2008 Honda Fit with a manual transmission. With half as many miles on it as our car! I yelled OH MY GOD. Fred was so excited. “Really? This is the exact car you want? Seriously?” We were all laughing. Fred kept repeating how nervous he had been when we walked in and how glad he was that he actually had the car we wanted, so that we wouldn’t be mean to him. The idea of us being mean to someone at a Ford dealership for not having a 2008 Honda Fit with manual transmission in stock is very funny to me but I guess there’s no accounting for how poorly people can behave.

They went and got the car and brought it out. It is IDENTICAL to our car, except it is a slightly different color. The interior is the same, everything. We looked at the maintenance history and it’s had the same work done at roughly the same times, over the years. “Yep, looks like he got that driver’s side lock replaced in 2014, just like us,” etc. It is even filthy and disgusting in the exact same way as our car, with weird sticky crumbs ground down into the cup holders, and the back seat covered in dog hair. It had been traded in on Monday—the day our car died! It was like our car returned to us. We took it for a test drive with Fred. It turned out that Fred didn’t know how to drive stick. He had a lot of questions about it. We drove down the highway telling Fred about how stick shifts work and why we feel they are superior to automatics. We were joking about being gone for hours because we were teaching him how to drive in some abandoned parking lot somewhere. He kept saying wonderingly how nervous he’d been and how nice we were, and we kept telling him what a great job he was doing. When we got back I felt definitely like it was fate that this car had turned up for us and that if the price could match what our insurance was giving us we would obviously buy it, but honestly at that point I mostly wanted to buy it because I knew it would make Fred happy. Salesmanship! He had an unorthodox technique, but an effective one, if the right people come along.

Anyway our insurance gave us a quote and then Fred’s supervisor told us his lowest possible price was fifty bucks higher than that, so we said SOLD, although ultimately it will cost us several hundred dollars more considering taxes and such but oh well that’s life as a car owner.

Now we are back in the exact same car that was destroyed, and it only cost us several hundred dollars, some mild physical suffering, roughly 10 hours of tedious and frustrating busywork and phone calls, and the shame of briefly driving around town in a tan Kia Soul. Given the general vibe in today’s America I pronounce this experience: not bad

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5 Responses to The Story of a New Car

  1. Meg says:

    So glad you guys are okay! Ugh.

  2. Denise in WI says:

    ReinCARnation. Sorry; couldn’t help myself.

  3. Drea says:

    My car was a Pontiac Vibe, and it was a great car. It was totaled in an identical fashion, by some texting, murderous ding-dong who plowed into me at a red light. But your Honda Fit was and is the greatest, old and new.

  4. K Erickson says:

    my husband requests a picture of cool reggae sunglasses. i am concerned that this means that he is interested in acquiring a pair.

  5. suecd says:

    That is a crazy story, and I’m glad both that you’re okay and that you’ve been reunited with as close to your old car as possible. I too am committed to manual hatchback cars with a preference for the zippy. When I was looking about 5 years ago, there was not a single (new) manual Honda Fit within 100 miles. My (manual) Honda Civic hatchback died prematurely in 2003, and I still call it “my beloved Civic.” I ended up with a manual Subaru Impreza hatchback which met all my requirements with the added bonus of being able to get up my driveway in the snow, which turns out to be worth the mediocre mileage.

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