New Car Smells and Sights

I got a new car last night! It was so exciting. It was like Christmas, except no one else got anything and I was the only one jumping up and down yelling, “Look what I got!” If it wasn’t for the selfish guilt, it would have been a Hallmark moment.

This car is so much nicer than what I deserve, it’s not even funny. It’s a Toyota Prius, but it might as well be called James Bond’s Car That Can Fly, because it’s the most high tech thing I’ve ever had. I honestly think that if I drove it into the ocean, it would become a submarine and a shagadelic heart-shaped bed would rise up out of the back seat.

And it’s small. Since about halfway through my pregnancy with my last child, when my husband and I looked at each other and realized our four-door car would not accommodate two car seats and a 6-year-old (however skinny that 6-year-old’s bum was), we’ve had either a mini-van or an SUV. Driving a regular car makes me feel like a 20-year-old supermodel.

Driving my new car is my way of telling everyone on Indiantown Road, “Hey, look at me! I’m so young and carefree, I can only seat five and I have hardly any trunk space! What am I hauling around? Kids, bikes, bags of mulch? Huh-uh! Not me! I’m driving a regular car! I’m obviously going to brunch at The Breakers. Or to Robb & Stuckey to buy a knicknack. Or to the Apple store. With a quick trip to Starbucks on the way, of course.”

This may surprise you, but I don’t know much about cars. When someone would ask me, “What do you drive?” I’d answer, “A car.” “No, what kind of car do you have?” “Oh! A blue one.”

This is the fifth new car I’ve ever had. Before this, I had the powder blue Pilot SUV, before that a maroon mini van, before that a navy blue mini van, which had a stick shift in it, I shit you not. Before that was our first brand new car, which made me think I died and went to heaven. It was a midnight blue Nissan Stanza and it never, ever lost its new car smell, in the 5 1/2 years that we had it. The only reason we ever got rid of that car was that, like I said, Child Number 3 was coming along and we had to join the Mini Van League.

The used cars of our past were a sad lot. We had a white Monte Carlo that could have actually been a flying car. It had “wings.” The bottoms of the door panels were coming loose and when you drove fast (that is, more than 35 mph) they would flap. I kept waiting for it to leave the highway altogether.

My first car was the Armored Car, named that for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute. It was a brown Mustang, given to me by my sister Pam. It was a cool car when she had it and then she graduated from college and got a high paying job at a steel company and, having more money than she knew what to do wisely with it, she bought the cutest little MG convertible. She was worried, however, about driving the little sports car through the mountains of Pennsylvania during the winter, so she “gave” me the Mustang for free on the condition that I would pay the insurance and give it back to her whenever she asked.

I took the ‘stang to Kent during my last year of college, which was a mistake on five or six fronts that I won’t get into here. I drove it to and from my waitress job and then to and from my first real job. By this time, the brown Mustang was getting super rusty from the horrible Ohio winters and my complete lack of upkeep and maintenance of the car.

Enter Mr. Perrotta, my mom’s down-the-street neighbor, who was famous for doing the nicest things for us but with the worst possible outcomes. He was the most generous man alive. When I had moved out of my mom’s house, whenever he would see my car in the driveway, he would come over and yell into the kitchen window, “COME OVER TO MY HOUSE AND BACK YOUR CAR IN.” This was code for “I bought a bunch of crap at the dollar store and I want to give it all to you.”

I would back the Mustang into Mr. Perrotta’s driveway and he would start filling my trunk with large plastic shopping bags full of generic baby powder, toilet paper, Little Debby Cakes and that blue stuff you put in your toilet. I used to tell him that I could never in a million years use that much stuff, but his answer always was: “IT’LL KEEP.”

So Mr. Perrotta decided he would help me out with the rust on my car by bolting pieces of white sheet metal over the rust spots. So my Mustang - and yes, it was a Mustang, just as cool as you’re picturing it - was covered with what looked like armor with these huge bolts holding on white pieces of steel about the size of cereal boxes, give or take a few square inches, depending on the size of the rust spots and the size of the sheet metal Mr. Perrotta had in his garage.

The fact that I continued to drive that car tells you something about me:

a) I am really that nice, that I wouldn’t dream of hurting Mr. Perrotta’s feelings by painting over the armor or removing it, or saying to him, “What the hell are you doing?” I just simply drove the car and pretended I didn’t hear the laughter.

b) I was so poor I didn’t have the money to take the car into the shop and have them redo it.

c) I don’t know anything about cars.

So look how far I’ve come. If Mr. Perrotta could see the black Toyota Prius 007 car I’m driving today he wouldn’t know what to do. But I know what I’d do. I wouldn’t let him get within 50 yards of my new car.

Labels: , , , , ,