I haven't bought a new car since my kid was born and he's old enough now to legally drink. I moved to Hawaii when I got divorced from his mom. One of the few things that you can get cheaply in Hawaii is a used car. People leaving the rock have a need to sell their cars and deals abound. I bought a perfectly passable car for $250 once. I drove an '82 Lincoln coupe two-door, a pure pimpmobile, nicknamed by one of my friends "Huggy Bear," for a couple of my carefree years on Oahu. This prestigious ride set me back $900. Often I could buy a car, drive it for a year, and sell it for exactly what I paid for it, which made it a free ride.
So my used car habit was firmly fixed when I moved back to the East Coast. There I found the best person to buy a used car from was a dead person. They were always motivated sellers and their reasons for selling were as pure as the winter snow I told myself I had missed when I lived in Hawaii. The actual transaction would be handled by the surviving spouse. I preferred cars that had been owned by deceased wives, because I felt the widowers had maintained them meticulously, as putting the wife's car in for an oil change gave them a chance to get out of the house and talk to somebody who had no choice but to pay attention to them.
However in California, where I now live, I am out of the dead person loop. People die here, but they are not friends of friends of mine and their cars are sold to people who are. I could buy a car off Craigslist, as I could buy love off Craigslist, but either transaction might entail unacceptable risks. I could buy a car at a sheriff's sale, but I cross the border frequently and I am afraid of the criminal repercussions that might occur should some diligent DEA drug dog discover that the sheriff hadn't vacuumed all of the cocaine from underneath the seats before he sold me the vehicle.
A new car seems like a good solution, but I don't think I'll be able to get one, because I am afraid that when the car salesman leans across the table at me to close the deal and tells me in a voice husky with emotion (he's emotional because he's thinking about his commission) "You deserve this car," I'm going to have an answer for him. And it's going to be the same answer as if he had said "You deserve these car payments," or "You deserve to have your auto insurance bill tripled."
I'm going to say, "No, I don't."
That's sadly true. And I never realize it more profoundly than when I look at the condition of my current car. Unwashed for months, it has a uniform coating of greenish pollen on its surface, it being the tree-mating season here. It is littered with spare clothes and emergency umbrellas and hoodies in case it rains or the temperature drops. Multiple pages of Mapquest directions to places I have been but will never go again lie scattered on the seats and floor mats, which are also festooned with empty candy and fast-food wrappers. I have more money in loose change under the seats than I have in my IRA. Each of my cup holders has a layer of cup holder glue in the bottom of it, a mysterious substance which forms when spilled beverages congeal in some sub-atomic fashion into an adhesive so powerful that it could be used to glue submarine hulls together. Pieces of hard candy, which I keep in case I need to pop a few into my mouth if I come across a DUI checkpoint after researching local microbrewing efforts, are useless for that purpose because they are mortared irretrievably into the cup holders, like fossils in a layer of Paleolithic sandstone. So cups sit unevenly in my cup holders, which means they spill more, which means another deposit of cup holder glue. The whole process is an inexorable as any geologic one.
And it's all my fault. It's because I don't think about my car except when I need to go somewhere and I stop thinking about it the moment I get there. If I bought a new car, in spite of all the exciting warranties and smells that owning that vehicle would entail, in a few months it would be just as neglected as this car. It would turn into the car I deserve.
No way I'm paying three hundred bucks a month for that heap.