Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inch Forty-Eight: Car Lust

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.

Car lust.


Laurie said...

I can relate. I'd been driving a '96 Volvo station wagon, which was a great car, but getting tired. I'd also been lusting for a Prius... my best friend has one & we've done a few road trips in hers. In the end, my SO talked me out of it, due to the fact that he would not be able to work on it, & it's a long way to the dealers. Instead, I recently got a several year old Kia Soul in Alien Green :o), which I'm enjoying. Like you, I hope to never have a car payment again. I'll keep your story in mind if I'm ever in need of a rental car.

see you there! said...

Never driven or ridden in a Prius. Your endorsement sounds good. We have one car - a 1998 Honda CRV. I know we will have to trade it in at some point but like you I plan to drive it until it doesn't go any longer.


Tonya said...

I also have driven a Prius. Rather....I TRIED to drive one. I rented one while on a business trip except I didn't know I was getting a Prius until I had walked about a mile at the airport to the car rentals. After getting all the way out to the car, I couldn't figure out how to start it! I sat there for probably 30 mins...then got pissed and schlepped my cookies all the way back into the rental counter to get the cheap Ford instead. I know it's an amazing car but it should have step-by-step directions on the dash!!1 Glad you liked it!