I believe I got the car back in 2007, though it was a 2005 model. Small and cute, it served me faithfully and reliably for a number of years, but lately I’d been feeling like it was, well, falling apart. But I didn’t want to try borrowing the money to buy a new one.
Yesterday morning, just after I got my post up, I got a call from my brother to go over to his place and ferry him to our parents’ place, where he had left his car the previous afternoon. (He’d had an emergency eye doctor’s appointment, and hadn’t wanted to drive with his eyes dilated, so he was stranded at home without his car.) So I set out to go over to his condo and give him a lift.
I was most of the way to his condo when I noticed that the needle on the temperature gauge on the dashboard was well above the halfway point. I’d never seen it above the halfway point, even on a hot day–and it was cool and raining yesterday morning!–so I was automatically alarmed, and kept checking it.
And it kept rising.
I was hoping, at first, to make it to my brother’s place.
Then I was hoping to make the parking lot to his condo association’s public pool.
I was nearly to the parking lot when the needle hit the red line on the top of the gauge.
Panicking, I turned off the engine right away, and put on the emergency flashers. (I was already on small residential streets with minimal traffic, so I wasn’t really causing very much of an obstacle.) Then I used shaking hands to dig my cell phone out of my purse, turned it on (yes, I only turn it on when I’m going to use it), and called my brother to let him know why I was going to be late.
As I was sitting there, getting splashed by rain slightly through the open window, I could see smoke rising from the sides of the hood.
I didn’t want to call roadside assistance, since I was so near to my brother’s place, and I didn’t want my insurance premiums to go up. (They’ve been going up constantly for years now, despite that the only ticket I’ve had the entire time has been one for expired license plate tags, and I’ve had no accidents whatsoever.) Eventually, we decided that I’d wait a while for the engine to cool down a bit, and then try to make it the rest of the way to his place. (If it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d have to get up a fairly steep hill, I’d have just put it in neutral and pushed it.)
When the time came to try turning it back on, I didn’t want to. I was scared. I thought it might catch on fire or something.
Eventually, I did turn it back on, and the temperature gauge had dropped back to the middle. I left the blinkers on and went very slowly towards my brother’s place, maybe a quarter of a mile away, probably much less. By the time I got there, the temperature gauge was well above the three-quarters mark again.
My hands were shaking badly, and kept shaking for a long time afterwards. And once the adrenaline of the panic wore off, it was like “total brain shutdown.”
After talking to my parents on the phone about it again (yes, I know it’s pathetic in the extreme for a woman my age to be constantly consulting her parents) we decided that it was time to just give up and get a new car. My mother pointed out that I would be coming into a fair chunk of money later this summer, because I get the rest of my inheritance from my grandfather when I turn forty, which I hadn’t thought would happen until forty-five. (Eerily, I got a fortune in a fortune cookie not too long ago that said I would soon inherit an unexpected sum of money.)
So it was decided that today would be car shopping day, as I was too mentally drained to be able to handle it yesterday.
Of course, there were still issues. My garage is super-tiny, so I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find another car that fit inside it. But on measuring the door, and then testing my brother’s Prius, we found that it wasn’t actually as small as I thought. But smaller was definitely better, since just getting the car inside the garage doesn’t help much if I can’t get out of the car once it’s inside the garage.
Still, we had ideas, and my father had a voucher for savings from the local dealer that sold both my parents and my brother their cars. So my father and I headed down there after lunch to look at what they had.
Most of the cars the salesman wanted to show me were too big or their gas mileage was too bad, or both. Then I noticed the compact Prius, which he hadn’t wanted to show me, because it had a lot of miles on it. (75k, on a 2012 model. Which is more miles than my 2005 car had, btw.) It was white, which certainly wasn’t my first choice color (but better than bright red!), and it was nice and small, and had freakin’ awesome mileage. (Even better, the city mileage is actually better than the highway mileage, which is good, since I’ve become the kind of timid driver who won’t drive on a highway unless there’s no alternative.)
We took it for a test drive, and apart from the fact that the brakes were way better than the ones on my old car, I liked the way it handled.
So we bought it.
My mother apparently got a bit ticked at my father for just buying it without shopping around first. But a compact hybrid was exactly what I’d wanted in the first place, so what need was there for further shopping around? (And the price was a good one, obviously.)
Anyway, it turns out that it actually fits in my garage better than the old car.
But it’s going to take a lot of getting used to. I spent a while studying the manual, but it’s probably going to take me months, if not years, to get to know all the new features. (I don’t exactly spend a lot of time in my car, after all. And rarely explore its features.) And I’m not going to allow myself to turn on the stereo until I’m sure I’ve gotten used to the various things I need to actually drive (like turn signals, windshield wipers, headlights, y’know, stuff like that).
Of course, it’s not entirely a happy ending. I owe my parents a huge amount of money now. (But I have terrible credit, so I couldn’t just send car payments to the dealership over the next umpteen years like a normal person.)
Every time you turn it off, it tells you how far you drove, and how much it cost in gasoline. A cool feature, but I have to wonder just what it’s using to calculate that. Is it using 2012’s gas prices? And if so, the gas prices where? I’m pretty sure gas costs more in L.A. than it does in the Midwest, for example…not to mention that gas prices fluctuate, sometimes on a daily basis. (For that matter, sometimes they’re pretty different from one service station to the next!)
We’ll have to see if I freak out tomorrow morning when I go into the garage and see an unfamiliar car there, though. Sometimes my brain has trouble remembering big shifts…
(Oh, if anyone’s wondering, the guy at the dealership who removed the plates from my old car said that from the smell coming off the engine (a full day later!) he thought it might be a gasket. Meaning I’m actually lucky something worse didn’t happen.)