Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Cubist Period

So yesterday, I got a new ride. I did this because there was no room left on my old ride for bumper stickers. That's right. Just like when I gave away the old oven because it was dirty, I gave away the old car when the back space was full up.

Okay, that bit about the bumper stickers was a lame attempt at humor. But the part about the new car and giving the old one away is true. I handed off my 2005 Scion xB to Henry. I'm sure if he read my blog (hahaha!) he would want to correct me and say that he bought the Scion from me for $1000-- that's how much we got when we traded in his '98 Ford Explorer. But we'll get to that story in a minute.

First, about the Cube. I kind of want to write Toyota a letter that says something like this:

Dear Toyota,
I want you to know that I did not switch to Nissan because of the way you accidentally-on-purpose forgot to put working brakes in a lot of your cars not so long ago. I want you to know that, while I have considered myself a dedicated Toyota lover for many years, Nissan just happened to beat you in the ugly-transcends-and-becomes-beautiful department. See, the Scion xB 2005 was SO ugly that it just sang out to me. At first I swore I would NEVER get one, but then a friend who had one said I HAD to get one and he never steers me wrong (pardon the pun) so I listened. And how I loved that big ugly box. My god, the amount of shit I could cram in it was stunning. And the bumper sticker space was unparalleled. Thank you so much for that. But then you had to go and wreck a good thing and make the newer Scions all squatty and faux-pimp and you know, that was just STUPID. Then I started seeing the Cubes out there and OMG they are SO CUTE!! So asymmetrical! And the back window reminds me of the dresses Wilma and Betty wore on the Flintstones-- you know, the one-sleeved numbers? So I just had to get one. Even though the Scion still ranks much higher in reviews. I don't care how it runs. I just want Cute Cute Cute. Cute/Cube. Even the words are almost the same. So, sorry, Toyota, but unless and until you come out with something boxier and cuter, I think I might've just made a permanent switch.


It's true-- from the moment I first saw the Cube, I was pulled toward it. And after thinking about buying one for the past year or so, I finally took the plunge and called a dealership to get some info. The sales dude asked, "Which kind of Cube do you want?" and I said, "The one you can put a lot of crap in," and he said, "I got that one." So then I took the next step, which was to actually drive to the dealership. For some people-- perhaps most people-- that sort of trip would be considered an exploratory mission. Not me. If I'm going to spend the time and energy to deal with car salesmen (and I choose the gender specific term on purpose) that means I'm ready to buy-- to get in and out as quick as possible.

Figuring I was most likely in for an experience with not-so-subtle sexist overtones, I realize in hindsight I made a subconscious decision to keep the buying experience not unpleasant. Rather than turn up my Feminist Self (the Self I lead with 99% of the time), I slipped on my Mask of Faux I-Can-Roll-With-You-Being-Sexist. This, in fact, served me well. Within the first five minutes, Sales Dude asks, "You married?" And instead of saying, "None of your business!" or "Do you ask male customers that?" I simply lied and said, "Yes I am!" (If I'd wanted to really toy with him, I could've explained that Warren and I have a domestic partnership and that we consider ourselves "gay married.")

"Why don't you have a ring?" he asked.

"Because I was at the spa and I don't wear my ring at the spa."

"Well I coulda got in trouble if I flirted with you," he said.

And here I cranked it up, fully inhabited a character I am not. "Oh, I don't think so!" I laughed. "I think my husband would've said, 'How much?' and he would've meant, 'How much can I pay you to take her off my hands?! Har har har!!"

Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever catch yourself becoming the Airplane Version of yourself-- you know, how you can just make up pure bullshit on an airplane because, unless you're flying with someone you know, they'll never see you again. I don't mind that I acted like this-- I amused myself. And I realized that all the sexism I grew up with finally paid off as I played the game, putting Sales Dude at ease.

We took the Cube out for a ten-minute test-drive, about 9.5 minutes longer than I needed to decide I'd be buying it. I was surprised that I encountered fewer protests than I sort of expected from my friends and family when I announced the big purchase. Henry-- who stood to benefit the most-- was perhaps the most cautious, wondering about monthly payments and expressing a desire for me not to go in the hole in the process of outfitting him with the Scion.

I tried to explain to him something I still don't think I can accurately capture. I grew up driving truly shitty cars until I was 40 years old. I don't mean cars that were just sort-of ugly, or Not Brand New. I mean cars with rags where the gas cap should be. Cars that required me to get up early every morning to pump up or change a tire. Cars held together with chicken wire. Cars that broke down as a matter of course every third time you tried to start them. Even the last car I had before I got the Scion-- which was my first ever new car-- looked pretty nice but had 126,000 miles on it when I bought it.

I didn't buy my first new car or my second one to excite my ego, keep up with the Joneses, or any other silly reason like that. I bought my first new car because I wanted to see what it would feel like to know a car would start EVERY time, would not break down every other month, would run smoothly. I bought my second new car in part because I knew that the Scion still has enough go in it that it would provide my son with that priceless I-have-a-super-reliable-car feeling. He hadn't had it in awhile since his Explorer had reached that point-- air conditioner dead, repairs running into the hundreds every other week-- that keeping it on the road would cost nearly as much annually as just handing off the Scion and taking on Cube payments.

And I'm here to tell you that after having put a whopping 60 miles on my Cube since I got it, I am just as excited this time as I was when I bought the Scion. I drive a lot-- a LOT-- for my job. Nearly 20,000 miles per year all over the Hill Country. (Yes, I feel horrific guilt about the environment but let's save that conversation for another day.) Let's just say that now I know that for all those hours I'm in my new car, the ride will be uber smooth. And-- check it out-- I have BlueTooth. The whole freakin' CAR is a telephone. Whoa Nellie! I remember back when we had to have squirrels run on wheels to power our Walkmen! When the hell did a car radio turn into a mobile communication device? Technology you slay me!

There were some unexpected bonuses to buying a new car. For one, Hen came with me. Sitting in the little room where they try to bully you into an extended warranty-- and I told them twelve times I didn't want one BEFORE we got to the room but they kept saying, "We still have to ask you..."-- I pointed out to my son that just 50 years ago A WOMAN COULDN'T GET FINANCING ON HER OWN. And when the dude circled back around and tried a second time to sell me "ding" insurance, and when I nearly caved, Henry said, "Uh, Mom? You're not getting that." I'm sure the warranty dude thought an inappropriate mean thought about my son then, but I was so proud of him. It was also just fun to have a witness to the bizarre world of car sales.

It was also delightful to get a little after-the-fact info from Henry. When I told him last Friday that I'd ordered a Cube to be picked up on Monday, I also told him they'd give us $1000 for the Explorer. He's more patient with the sorts of freaks drawn to Craigslist ads for old cars, so he said he's try to sell it for more than that over the weekend. He listed it at $2K and, as I predicted (not meanly, just resignedly) he did have to deal with a few nut cases and he didn't get a good offer. He also talked to a mechanic that offered him $500. When my son explained there was a dealer willing to give him $1000, the mechanic said, well alright then, he'd offer $1000, too.

In the end, we decided to take the Explorer to the dealer just in case we could squeeze a little more than $1000 out of them. When Sales Dude saw it, he said, "It runs rough." And I was like, "REALLY? Our '98 Explorer RUNS ROUGH?! SHOCKING!!" But when he said, "I can only give you $500 for it," I said, "Oh no you don't. You give me $1000 or I'm leaving now. There's a mechanic in South Austin who will give me that much and I'll just come back another day to buy the Cube."

Of course that's all it took to get my $1000 trade-in-- they wanted to make the sale right away. Only on the drive home did Henry explain how he had, in essence, played the mechanic off the dealer and the dealer off the mechanic. What a genius I've raised!

So I handed off the Scion last night and, as he promised, Henry got right down to the task of stripping it of all its bumper stickers. Maybe we can put a rebellion spin on this-- for all the tattoos I have, he's refused to get a drop of ink. For all the stickers I have, he prefers an anonymous car. I went by his place today to watch him peel off six years worth of memories-- Marfa, Hilo, Paris, Big Bend, Galveston-- plus all those lovely slogans about dogs and uppity women and it damn near broke my heart. Except for the fact that I knew he was just as excited with his "new" car as I am with mine.

Now the question is-- to bumper sticker or not to bumper sticker? For now, I am vowing that this will be the first car in my life I keep perfectly clean and bumper sticker free. Can I do it? I'm guessing it won't be easy, but I want to try. And in truth, I'm not going to keep it totally naked. I think this car needs to earn its keep and so I'm looking into having a partial wrap done-- some advertising for my wedding business. Because isn't that where everyone goes to seek out a wedding minister-- the side panels of a Cube? Oh I hope so.


Bobbi said...

I got cubed over a year ago. I upgraded from a VW Beetle (where I could fit a lot of sh!t) to the Cube (where I could fit a whole lot more sh!t) and I LUV IT!

Lindsey Lane said...

Ahhh...a spike story to start my day...perfect.

60schild said...

Definitely a wrap to go with all that silver! I love my VW Jetta diesel wagon with great mileage and a whole lotta ziiiiiip.