Triumph and Transitions

At long last, the time has come.  Victory is MINE!

Which is to say, a year and a half after I should have done so, I finally bought a new(er) car, and some two weeks after I should have done so, I am blogging about it.  Back on the 8th, my Vati and I made our way to Troy where I drove and examined and, in the end, purchased a 2010 Toyota Corolla.  I’m considering calling her Ruby, cliché though the name be.  She is shiny and red and a whopping 16 years newer than the Buick Century…which means there are some changes to get used to.

Here are some of them:

Gear shift placement.  Back in 1994, the gear shift was attached to the steering column, such that one would reach behind the steering wheel to put it in drive etc.  But if I try that now, the wipers will turn on instead.

Traction control.  This is the most unsettling one: if the car starts to slip, some system …um…interferes?  Tries to take my control away?  Makes the car move funny until I remove my foot from the gas?  It sort of makes sense, but it’s also profoundly strange, and kind of unwelcome; the first few days I drove it were particularly icy, lending another layer of discomfort to learning to navigate the novelty.  Add traction control anxiety to new car anxiety to pothole-of-DOOM anxiety, and you have the most nerve-wracking drive I’ve taken yet.

Car payments.  Welcome to adulthood, kid.  This one shouldn’t be a problem, but there was the moment where I misread my statement – which said the first payment was due on March 25th – such that I thought payment was due a month earlier than that.  So…well, I sure got my payment in on time, even if I had some gut-wrenching moments of panic that prompted me to sign up for online payments.

Radio and dashboard.  This was always going to be a change, I guess, but it’s not too bad.  My hand is already learning where to reach to control the heating vents and radio stations.

Putting my cassettes away.  The Buick had a much beloved Billy Joel tape, Turnstiles, in the deck for months.  Now I’ve got a CD player – which, as CDs are getting phased out, means I am still a bit behind the times.  Ah well.  There’s an auxiliary jack as well.  Such novelty, guys, I’m not sure I’m up for it.

Looking for the right car in the parking lot.  So far this has gone better than expected.  It helps that the remote entry works more remotely than the Century’s did (and beeps cutely.  Hooray!)

HEAT.  It still takes a few minutes for the Corolla to heat up in a winter like this, but it’s so much faster than the Century.  Not to mention, there’s such a thing as being overly warm in the car.  I had no idea.

Speed.  The Century could book it, when needed, but there was no way to go over 65, much less 70 or 75, without it whinging a bit.  A kind of growling and shuddering that made everyone in the car recognize how much the car was working.  Now I can just zip along at 80 without noticing.  Whoops!

All in all, it is a lovely change – though I must admit, Dad may be right.  Once I’d purchased it, he said “I think it’ll take years before you love it as much as you loved the Buick.”  Sounds unlikely, given that the Buick essentially cost me nothing and I just put down a heaping chunk of change on this newer car.  But that was the point: there was an essential carelessness to driving the Century, an attitude unbothered by the prospect of minor damages to something so sturdy and so many years old.  I never really thought of the Buick as rugged, but it turns out I drove it that way.  It was a far more masculine vehicle than the sweet lady I have now.  But she’s rather delightful so far!  I think I’ll keep her.

Extreme Unction for an Automobile

Clearly there are some weeping angels working some kind of mischief, because I blinked and we’re more than a week into September.  This means, among other things, that it’s been 3 weeks and 9 months since I first declared that I Need A Newer Car.

It’s a bit hard to narrow possibilities down when all you’re looking for is “newer than 1994, a bit smaller, better gas mileage than a Buick Century.”

It’s a bit hard to narrow possibilities down when all you’re looking for is “newer than 1994, a bit smaller, better gas mileage than a Buick Century.”

Sadly, making such a declaration isn’t the same thing as finding and purchasing a vehicle.  Back in February, I stirred myself just enough to flip through an old Consumer Report and figure out which 2-6 year-old cars would, statistically speaking, be a bad plan.  Weeks later, I took a few stabs at searching for images from the driver’s seat of each one.  A few months after that, I’d gotten as far as checking dealerships online, as well as cars+trucks on Craigslist.  At the current rate, I’ll be finding and test-driving actual cars sometime in 2015.  2016?  2020?  You’d think it wouldn’t be so wearying for a person in southeast Michigan.

Fortunately, unlike Melpomene, I am not the owner of a dead car.  My Buick is hard pressed, but not crushed.  True, there’ve been some rough starts (dead battery a couple times here, flat tire there, not to mention that time the gearshift came off in my hand) and, more alarmingly, a few sudden stops (a serpentine belt that slipped off something important, a broken gas line, a weird hiccup followed by completely normal functioning on the car’s part, and paranoia on mine).

Imagine this, but full of gas receipts, Kroger bags, and a travel mug rolling about

Imagine this, but full of gas receipts, Kroger bags, and a travel mug rolling about

This is the car that has suffered parking garage scrapes, a fender-bender on US-23, and the loss of its catalytic converter when it was stolen some years back. It’s got some tea stains inside and rust outside.  It rattles so much that I keep the radio far too loud at any speed over 60 mph.  It is partly held together with zip ties.

“Apart from the brakes, suspension, carburetor, transmission, the whole engine really, upholstering on a couple of the seats, and a fender or two, it’s the exact same car!”

“Apart from the brakes, suspension, carburetor, transmission, the whole engine really, upholstering on a couple of the seats, and a fender or two, it’s the exact same car!”

But it’s also the car that’s taken me to Hillsdale and back at least three dozen times.  It has conveyed me to concerts in Grand Rapids, Bay City, and Dublin, OH.  I’ve visited family and friends in Midland, Lafeyette, Columbus, Grand Haven, Kalamazoo, and Chicago with it.  It’s carried me, my generally overpacked bags, boxes of books, the Bar Bag of Delight, and various friends most faithfully.

I think I’m growing fonder of it, rather irrationally, as it becomes older and less reliable.

It can’t be too long before it turns in its notice of resignation.  Were it a horse (o, valiant steed!), we’d be fingering a shotgun with regret and making arrangements with the glue factory.  Were it a man, we’d be anointing him with oil and praying for God’s mercy upon him.

But as it is a vehicle, well.

Guess I’d better head back to Craigslist.