I drive a beater.
My car is a 1998 Buick Century, dull purple in color, battered around the edges, terminal rust in the rocker panels, and, thanks to a faulty wiper motor common to this model, wipers that always return to the upright position when not in operation. But the car serves its purpose (limited driving and running errands) and has been a low maintenance vehicle for the most part.
Then the heater fan went out at the start of a severe cold snap in early January.
To be fair, the heater fan has been going out over the last two years when it started operating only on High. This fall, when I turned it on, it would often make ominous squeals and groans, quit abruptly, then start again.
But two weeks ago it was dead dead dead.
That posed major problems for me as the combination of dead heater fan and frigid temperatures meant my windshield immediately iced up inside and outside the car. I found this out driving to the local middle school one early morning. I soon had zero visibility and almost went off the road more than once. Rolling down the window in subzero conditions, I managed to reach the school lot, then called Warren, ranting that the car could sit at the school all day, that I was walking back to court (two miles away) no matter what the temperature, and that I was buying a REAL CAR THAT WORKED.
Later, when I had calmed down, I reviewed the situation less emotionally. I'm working on a special project for another court, in essence a second job, and will have enough money to buy a decent used car for cash this summer. Nothing big, nothing flashy, just a small car made in the twenty-first century. In the meantime, I needed to fix the heater motor so I could finish this winter.
The car went off to the mechanic and I went off to Portland.
I rented a car in Portland. I had reserved a compact, but the agent offered me an upgrade to a Prius for only $80.00 more. Why not? My son Sam was with me and he agreed. Other than it took us both several minutes to figure out how to start the car (our first experience with a keyless car), the Prius was wonderful. It was new, it handled well, it was quiet, it had a great radio, it was oh-so-cool. Sam loved it, Ben loved it when he rode in it, I more than loved it.
I had car lust.
I drove that Prius for a week, reveling in its smoothness every time I slipped behind the wheel.
I wanted that Prius. I really, really wanted that Prius.
But even in my feverish, lusty state, my frugal side held me back. I am unwilling to take on a loan and make car payments. And I knew that once I got the Buick back with a working heater, I would continue to drive it.
But while I was out west, I pushed those thoughts aside and happily tooled around Portland in my little Prius.
After eight passionate days. I sadly returned the Prius to the rental agency and headed for home. Three days and $275.00 later, I had my battered Buick back with a working fan.
I am now able to safely finish the truancy season, a large chunk of which takes place in the winter. As I drove to various schools this week in my now warm Buick, I knew deep down that I continue to drive it into the ground, a course of action heartily endorsed by Sam. The non-consumer side of me will triumph, and I'm fine with that. Really I am.
But I'll still be dreaming of a Prius, longing for a Prius.