October 04, 2005

Prius Envy

Now, I love my car. My car has been very good to me thus far, and it’s beautiful, and it’s all mine. Also, I got a bunch of money off it by buying in the end-of-year sales, plus a discount since my grandfather worked for Chevy. So how come I get crazy jealous every time I see a Prius on the road? There are a lot of them now, too. I want to lean out the window at stoplights and ask the eco-conscious drivers all sorts of questions. “Do you really save gas? Is it hard to go uphill? Does your battery ever run out? How long does your tank last? What are the major differences that you’ve noticed? Does it feel like a weird toy car instead of the heavy-ass petrol-suckers we mortals are forced to drive? Hey, where are you going? Do I look like I care that the light is green? HEY!”

Most of these questions are covered on the website, but I feel I need to do my own personal consumer poll. This is what I do when I am in the market for a new anything, be it coat, car or shoes, I have a process: 1. Research, 2. Poll, 3. Comparison Shop, 4. Rationalize Expenditure of Monies,* 5. Purchase. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes for me to actually acquire something new. If I tell you I am buying something Saturday, know that I have planned to buy it for at least two weeks, and have been stalking it until it either went on sale or I couldn’t stand to be without it anymore. But I will have pro/con lists and projection sheets (and occasionally a few sketches) backing up my decision, so no one can accuse me of being frivolous. ‘Miserly’ or ‘insane’, that’s a different story.

Whilst dreaming about a lovely fuel-efficient Vehicle of the Future, my mind wandered to all the cars I have been (un)fortunate to commandeer in the past. It’s time for a trip down memory lane… but we don’t have to stroll, baby—I got wheels.

Car #1: My father’s White 1994 Ford Topaz
We never really had names for our cars, but this one has come to be known as “The Piece of Shit Topaz”. Now, kick me out of Michigan if you like, but Ford sucks. They suck hard. Apparently, the trucks don’t suck, but I don’t personally know because the two Fords I pushed to their final destinations were Escorts, and the one I left for dead was this Topaz. So the trucks might be ok, but I never wanted a truck, and if I did, I would probably buy one from an automaker that hadn’t screwed at least half of the people I know.

The major advantage of this car was that it was free. I used it to get to my mall job—I was 18. I shared the use of the car with everyone else in the family, so between the two cars (this and my mother’s puce Escort), the eight family members usually got to their various jobs reliably. The demise of the car would have made Murphy proud: On a dirt road, a mile out of town, on my way into work, wearing heels, a week after I had a new battery installed. I walked back home crying and cursing, with bleeding heels. The Topaz, she moved nevermore.

Car #2: “My” 2002 Silver Saturn SL1
I bought this car when I was hired at my first real job (meaning one that will actually pay you enough money to not only support you, but maybe turn a profit if you play your bills right). My first new car; I was 22. I loved this car. Pretty, affordable, and an awesome crash test rating. Then I went away to school—hence the quotation marks around the possessive. By the way, this car is quite the hot-button issue around my house, and the story changes depending on who tells it, but the facts are: I left my car at home while I attended 2 years of college on the east coast. I made assurances that it would be paid for, as three of my other siblings had no cars, and needed to get to work/school. They would pay for, and use, my car.

My favorite fact: When I returned home, the 2-year-old car had 68,000 miles on it.

Later I learned that it was making an average of 4 trips into the city and back PER DAY, because my mother didn’t want the kids taking her car. As soon as I moved back home (sleeping in my sister’s bed; there was no room for Beedoo, BA) I waited as long as I could, then ran out and bought a new car. I was afraid of mine dying in the winter, and also wanted complete control of my car back, since anyone who had plunked a nickel down for a car payment once started calling it “my car”.** I couldn’t deal with it—I needed something of my own back. Which leads us to…

Car #3: 2004 Silver Chevy Cavalier
My current sweet ride. I was going to just get another Saturn, but they discontinued my model and were pushing the Ion. I hate the Ion. It feels like a fake car, with a little clown-car steering wheel. Plus it was too friggin’ expensive. So, I employed steps 2-3 of the shopping process and learned about Chevy, whom I so far have no beef with. Even after the added balance of my old car, which of course was not paid in full yet, the new one came to just under $19,000. Pretty tight, I thought. Of course, insurance screws you, so I don’t drive much of anywhere besides work. Add gas prices in and I have a very strong case for staying home nights. But I do ride my bike and take the bus occasionally—one of the major perks of living in the city proper.

But I still want a Prius. The green one. Too bad my car is less than a year old.

*This phase lasts between 2 days and several months, depending on the amount of money involved.
** Unless it needed gas, a tune-up, to be washed, or an oil change. Then it was mine.

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