I bought a car this week. I haven’t owned one in years. I rode the university shuttle and public transit in New York. I had a car but gave it away. I tell people that, because I sound magnanimous. But the truth is it was my mother-in-law’s car, a 1998 Saturn, and still had cigarette burns in the driver’s seat from when it was stolen. Neither car nor mother-in-law lasted very long. Before that I drove a 1998 Corolla. It was the only car I bought new and may be the last.
I am telling you this so you won’t think me pretentious when I say that the car I bought this week is a BMW SUV. That’s a lot of letters, especially when you consider that it’s not really a SUV but a “crossover.” I suppose that means it crosses over from a sedan to a SUV, but it never quite gets there. It is neither one nor the other. For that reason, I think they should have called it the “Liminal.” Isn’t there a Chevy by that name?
There are two wars related to my getting a car and not relying on Lyft, family, or friends anymore. The first is internal, the second external. Both were exhausting and from which I am recovering.
The internal war did not start that way. It began with my following a protocol, a sort of deductive process by which I should have been able to make the right choice for the right reasons at the right time in the right way. It’s Aristotelian that way. I am an essentialist. I believe that cars and people exist and do not cross over, but that’s another post. The protocol included whether to buy or lease, new or used, foreign or domestic, and the model such as a sedan, SUV, or even one that changes form. I had the television show The Transformers in mind. The protocol lasted three months, including financing the car, which turned out to be straightforward since I belong to a credit union.
But in my research I went bouncing around like a pinball from Audi to Volvo, hitting everything in between: Chevy, Ford, Jeep, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, and Volkswagen. But never Kia. I included Volkswagen despite the defeat device scandal that nearly bankrupted the company. In the end, I took a ten-minute test drive with my daughter before settling on the BMW, which leads to my second car war, the external one.
Although the test drive went well and my daughter gave me helpful feedback, let me say that you should avoid being in the same car with your adult children whenever possible. This includes driving them in your own car, but certainly being a passenger in theirs, which constitutes a hostage situation. Why? Part of me says that if you have to ask you shouldn’t be allowed out without a nurse, but I will attempt to answer.
Adult children speed, tailgate, talk incessantly, adjust the GPS, apply makeup, control the satellite radio, try to park in the most unmanageable spots, yell at other drivers, change lanes without signaling, miss exit ramps, swerve to take missed exit ramps, eat, yell at children in the backseat, and then tell you to stop nagging them. As a point of reference, in our family we have identified two positions upfront in any vehicle: the driver and nagger. I am a nagger. What I am saying, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is neither a driver nor a nagger be, at least when it comes to your adult children. No one wins. Also, I learned that this can be extended to the wider family.
My cousin drove me home recently from a family gathering and we were complaining about how our children drive. We felt quite smug when all of a sudden she turned from a designated turn lane into the opposite lanes of traffic instead of on the other side of the street. By the time she backed up, the light had changed and we were stuck on trolley tracks. I yelled, she panicked, and clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Thankfully, the wounds were ego related and not physical, which reminds me that it is better to ride with strangers than family. The people on the trolley were infinitely better off.
And that car ride with another daughter from Los Angeles to San Jose? It was yet another battle in the car wars, which rage on.
Image credits: BMWs by Alex Suprun; map by ErikaWittlieb. Like fiction? Check out the “Mercury trilogy” (The Gringo and Laura Fedora) as well as the autobiographical Nine Lives here. Also, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”