A few weeks ago my mom called me to say that my grandparents wanted to buy a new car for my grandmother. Her car is six years old and she barely so much as drives it to the grocery store by herself. It’s a 2006, only has 50,000 miles on it, has four brand new tires, and is in great shape from extremely little use. So my mom asked my grandpa if he would consider selling it to Jonathan and I for the trade-in value if we were interested. He said sure. So she contacted us about it.
While we hadn’t been planning on purchasing a new car until one or both of ours die, the opportunity to buy a used car from people we know took care of it well and that is in such good condition was appealing. Furthermore, this car would ironically look LESS like a grandma-car than the car I currently drive. We decided to try to make it work and gave Mom the go-ahead.
The next day I get a text from my mom saying that my grandpa (who is a lot of wonderful things, but patient is not one of them) had decided he wanted the new car immediately and had driven straight to the dealer to trade the old one in. So, no car for us. It was probably definitely better for us financially anyway not to have to come up with money for a car unexpectedly. But I think this is when I started to let myself feel all of the emotions I had previously been keeping at bay about my car.
My car is an 11 year old Toyota Camry. It has 110,000 miles on it. It’s been from Louisiana to Chicago and back. And from Chicago to Ohio multiple times. And from Chicago to North Carolina. And from North Carolina to Ohio and back multiple times. And from North Carolina to New York and back. And from North Carolina to Louisiana and back. You get the picture.
My parents gave me this car when I was a senior in high school. It was a 2001 (so already 5 years old when I got it) and already had the bra because all of the paint had peeled off of the front. Although initially I was a little bummed that it looked like a car my grandma would drive and was probably the ugliest color regularly manufactured (I didn’t get any say in picking it out) I quickly got over its appearance and was thankful to have a functional car that was all mine. I even tried to come up with an affectionate name for it to make me feel like we were bonding (I think I was calling it Rupert for a while, but it never really stuck.) I have never been in an accident in this car and I have never been pulled over in this car. And the car has never broken down on me (although I have had at least 4 flat tires in it.)
This car and I have had six beautiful years together, including 4 Chicago winters, but it has suffered quite the decline from its originally precarious perch on the “decent” rung. The decline has been gradual, I’ll admit, and I’ve been pretty good natured about it, but I have finally reached the point of being genuinely ashamed to drive the thing, much less park it in the front of the house of the family I am about to be nannying for (with its white pillars and bricked circular driveway.)
Let me show you what I mean:
No paint on the front, hence the car-bra. We actually got the bra right when we bought the car because all of the paint had peeled off of the front bumper. This is just one of many spots where the bra has ripped and tattered shreds of it dangle from the bottom of the car.
Also, in this photo, no hubcaps. I lost these all within the space of two weeks one winter while I was in college. My theory is that when I had my tires rotated, they weren’t put on tightly enough. Either that or someone followed me around for two weeks and stole my plastic wheel covers one at a time.
Two missing door handles. The result of harsh winters when my doors were frozen shut. The driver’s door handle I pulled off myself, but it’s only ¾ of the way broken and still functional. The back passenger handle was ripped off by a man called Bob who worked for Public Safety and was supposed to be “helping” me get into my car after a particularly icy day and 30 minutes of trying on my own in sub-zero temperatures. I’ve been missing these handles for 3 ½ years.
Loud squeak when opening doors. Ok, seriously. This is what my car sounds like every time someone gets in or out of it. My Car Door Noise.
Broken cupholders. So that people will stop being lazy and hold their own cups already!
Cracked windshield. Happened my first week in North Carolina before we had even moved into our apartment. Rock hit the windshield. Crack had traveled all the way across within 3 days.
Inside door handle broken. A fairly new development (I think since April.) I went to open my door and discovered the plastic surrounding the handled had cracked off. I was still able to get the door open with some careful maneuvering of the handle, but a few weeks later Jonathan drove my car, yanked on the handle like normal, and pulled the sucker right out. I now have to roll down my window and reach over and open the door with the (broken) outside handle. This is especially awesome when showing up at work in my nice work clothes, arriving at an interview, or when trying to bring in groceries in the rain.
Giant dent in side plus yellow paint smears. My newest addition. This one is a little my fault, but also this idiot woman who I guess works in my building. My building is sort of unique in that it has a parking garage underneath it. The ground floor has restaurants and then floors 2-7 are the parking garage and the all of the offices are on top of that. So, anyway, when you turn into the parking garage from the road you make a sharp 90 degree right turn and then immediately start going straight up a steep ramp. So I was turning in a couple of weeks ago, swinging a little wide to get in because there is a bright yellow post a couple of feet from the wall right at the entrance. As I pull in, a woman in a suburban comes barreling down the ramp towards me way across the center line. So I pull further to the right and my back door clips the yellow post at the entrance. And she looks at me like “ Oh, sorry!” and waves before flooring it out onto the street. So now I have a post-shaped dent and post-colored paint all over my back door.
Blue book says that even in “Fair” condition I should be able to get $5,600 for this car if I sell it privately. But even though the car has no major mechanical issues (though it does need new brake pads, but how important is that, really?: ) ) and has been well-maintained on the engine-side of things, I can’t imagine anyone taking a look at this car and wanting to spend more than say $5 on it. Even my Christina, who I can count on to encourage me in all things, has told me there is no way in the world anyone would pay that much for my car. It’s not junky enough to be cool, but too gross for anyone to really want it.
It seems old Rupert and I are linked for life. (I am hoping to outlive him, but the way things are going, probably not.) Sure I find him annoying. Sure I am super-embarrassed whenever I have to roll down my window and reach out of the car to let myself out. Even in the rain. But you know what I keep telling myself? It runs. And I can get from point A to point B. And I can even listen to a choice of 5 radio stations while I’m doing it. And even if my new employer makes me park it out of sight behind her house, I will resist the urge to hide my face in shame. Because this is America, dang it. And it’s not that easy to have the ghetto-est car in America.*
*I do actually realize that there are a few things that could make my car ghetto-er. I just was a little afraid to mention them before.
-Losing a window and replacing it with a trash bag
-Replacing a door, hood, or bumper with a part from a different colored car.
-One jillion bumper stickers
-Gluing trolls to every available surface like this poor (slash awesome) fellow in the great state of
Colorado. Just give me a few more years…