Monday, October 10, 2016

Car #3

I've never cared about cars much, aside from the essential function they serve of getting you places.

That is, I don't care about other people's cars; I've always been rather attached to mine.

I bought my first one at age 16, right after my sophomore year of high school ended. It was my favorite color and had a sun roof. It was the car that necessitated my learning how to drive a stick shift. It was also insane. After four years of dealing with its quirks and trying to explain its weird problems to people, I threw the white flag and decided to get rid of it.

This was a 1997 Volkswagon Golf. I can just see my future kids/grandkids exclaiming in awe, "Your first car wasn't even made in this century?"

So I moved on. Car #2 was also a manual, the unique shade of blue that changes colors depending on the lighting, still had a tape player, and wasn't nearly as unique as Car #1. I missed having a car with a personality at first, but I soon came to appreciate it for its reliability. Aside from a few expensive repairs during times in my life when I had no money to spare, it was a wonderfully boring car. I planned on driving that thing as long as it would let me.

And then one beautiful morning in September, this happened:

So long, 2003 Hyundai Elantra. No humans were harmed in the totaling of this vehicle (aside from some wicked whiplash the next day and a small burn on my thumb from when my airbag went off).

Totaling your car sucks, but once I got over the shock of it I started to realize it might be a good thing. It needed new tires and I was about ready to replace it anyway—plus, I didn't expect to get much out of it because despite its reliability, it was worthless by car standards.

Still, I felt guilty leaving it at the junkyard after I had scoured the car for my belongings, leaving it there all smashed up and filthy. It deserved a better end, perhaps at a comfy retirement home for cars.

But as soon as I found out how much State Farm would give me for my totaled car, I didn't waste any time buying Car #3. Only this time it was an entirely new experience, because I'm no longer a teenager or a starving student in college—I didn't have to settle for the cheapest car in the lot. I could splurge on cool features, and finally get a car with a built-in iPod USB port so I would never have to do without my favorite invention again.

A mere hours later, I drove away from the dealership in my brand-spanking new car with 41 miles on it, testing out the Bluetooth car function on my mom.

Introducing my 2017 Hyundai Elantra. I've always wanted a red car, despite its unfortunate connection to a certain rival school.

It was then that I finally understood why we have this commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I've never had a reason to be proud of the cars I drove aside from the pride of ownership, but I'm dang proud of this one. It's shiny and red, no one has ever driven it before, and it has bells and whistles. It's unexpectedly stressful driving it because I've never driven something so perfect before. I think I'll actually be relieved when it gets its first scratch—no more pressure to keep the car perfect.

In addition to bringing about the need to repent of idol worshipping, this car also made me feel a bit like an old codger. I always feel a little guilty letting my obsolete things go, so I cling to them long past the point of sense. Which has only made upgrading to a car that is 14 years newer than the previous one that much more jarring.

For one, it's an automatic, because manuals are apparently pretty much extinct now (I'm still a little bummed about that). I'd been driving my mom's car for about a week so I already had some time to reacquaint myself with the modern world, but it takes time to override 12+ years of muscle memory. I still have the occasional moment of panic when I'm in a hurry and try to turn the car off without putting it in park or try to push in the clutch only to find air, but I'm confident that those instincts will soon be killed off by convenience. It's also strange to have voice commands, a camera that shows what's behind you when you're backing up (I still don't trust it), and a remote lock and unlock function. You know, the kind of stuff people in movies use (and everyone who's bought a car in the last five years). It's weird being on their level now.

But the great thing (at least to me) about buying a new car is that you get to enjoy having the new and hip features for a while, but technology will soon outpace you and you'll once again be the one with the charming, outdated thing. By the time I'm done with this car, I'll probably be the only one still driving on the ground—because everyone else will have flying cars, of course. (Or at the very least, self-driving cars.)

Until then, I'll be over here, trying not to break the second commandment.

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