May 17, 2013
It began, as so many problems do, as something that sounded like fun:
Maybe I would buy a new car!
My 10-year-old Honda Civic hybrid was about to cost $2,100 to repair, the latest of several pricey fixes to a vehicle I'd once called trustworthy, and so my eye began to roam.
Until recently, my Civic and I had been happy together. For years, I didn't even glance at other cars, much less covet them. My Civic may never have been the sexiest thing on four wheels, but back in 2003, a hybrid, any hybrid, carried a whiff of intrigue and mine made me feel special.
But 10 years later, the novelty was long gone and I couldn't trust it anymore.
"I'll let you know what I decide to do," I told Brian in the service department after my car's latest expensive failures were diagnosed.
Fix it or dump it?
I wasn't sure, but the little grinding in the motor as I drove off echoed the thought grinding in my heart: This car and I were through.
Anyone who has ever wanted a new car without knowing which new car can relate to what happened next.
I soon became a compulsive ogler. Every street, every parking lot was pulsing with temptations.
Oh, look at those Mini Coopers. They might not make the critics gush the way the other cars in my price range did, but who cared when they came in such seductive colors?
And that little Mazda3. I'd never been attracted to a Mazda, but this baby had nice lines.
Priuses, of course, were galumphing around everywhere, reminding me that while I may own a hybrid, it has never been the hip hybrid.
Walking down the street, I took to peering into strangers' cars, checking out the seats and dashboards.
"Sorry," I mumbled to one suspicious driver who caught me in the act.
Once, I saw a car turning a corner and liked the look of it so much that I chased it, hoping to see the brand, knowing perfectly well how superficial I was to judge a car by its cover.
I spent hours online reading car reviews. I read them when I should have been working. I read them when I would rather have been sleeping, once from 4 a.m. until dawn.
I always wondered who read car reviews. Now I know. Procrastinators and insomniacs.
For some drivers, buying a new car is no big deal. These happy-go-lucky types switch cars as blithely as they change socks. For those of us who change cars only once a decade, though, getting rid of the old car is as serious as divorce.
Should you follow your flamboyant heart or obey your rational mind? Go for 50 mpg or that zippy drive? Stick with the familiar or step into the wild?
When it comes to cars, I've always been responsible. I've spent a lifetime in little Japanese cars, mostly Hondas. They've never done me wrong but never satisfied my need for adventure.
I'm also cheap.
I've never understood why anyone would spend a fortune on an automobile in a big, congested city that devours cars as mercilessly as snakes devour mice. I capped my fantasy at $25,000 and tried not to yawn every time I read about the marvels of the Ford Focus and Honda Fit.
"How do you like your car?" I asked everyone I knew, only to learn that this was like asking, "How do you like your baby?"
People love their cars, I've learned. They are as loyal to their cars as they are to their sports teams and pets.
Ask them to recommend a car and most will guarantee you that the one they drive is the one, the only one, worth the love.
This is a heartening testament to the quality of cars available today, but it just confused the choice.
Buy American. Never buy new. Why do you need a car anyway? In my quest, I've heard it all.
Meanwhile, as I've learned and yearned and mulled, an independent voice has grown louder: The thrill of a new car would quickly fade. The new car payment would not.
And so I wait. Breaking up is hard to do.
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