paulak_rumin8: Austin and speck (alien)
The first time I sat behind the wheel of that 1993 Grand Am, I was in love, and let's be honest, completely stupid. I had the salesman sitting shotgun, talking up that sporty little sedan with sparkly eggplant-purple paint, orange dash lights, low seats. I turned the key for the first time. The engine wouldn't turn over. The salesman stammered a little, smiled apologetically, gave it a try himself. Ah, there she goes. Turns on like a charm. Musta been a fluke there. I smiled the vacant smile of a twenty-two-year-old with too much money and not enough obligation to claim it. "Let's take her for a spin." We did. I bought it that day. Son of a gun, I did it. I spent a solid 2 years with that vehicle, and like many a flaming love affair, it gave me more angst than joy, but I hung on like a trooper.

It had, let's say, a bit of an electrical problem. The odometer was touchy. Sometimes it simply didn't turn. One time it turned very rapidly as soon as I shifted to reverse. The speedometer was unreliable. The needle would dart to 120 as soon as I hit the gas, then it would zigzag between 20 and 100 a number of times as I accelerated, and after a spell it would finally settle back on zero. How fast I was actually going was anybody's guess.

Every time that car acted up, I would consider dumping it and finding something better, something more reliable. But, oh my, it was soooo pretty. How I loved that orange-lit dash at night. And how swank I looked getting in that car, still young and thin and trendy enough to pass for a Cosmo girl. It fit the image of the age: stellar university performance, professional employment, Victoria's Secret card, big-city boyfriend visiting on weekends. The car fit, until the day the spell was broken.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, late summer or early autumn, cruising up Lakeshore Drive and merging from six lanes to two onto North Avenue in Chicago. The sun was dazzling on the glossy waters of Lake Michigan, and the traffic was horrendous. There, right there, the car utterly betrayed me. That entrancing devil of a car dropped dead right on the spot, in lane three. My big-city boyfriend was sitting shotgun that day, and he and I looked at each other and said, profoundly, "Uh-oh."

It was the first time I ever used a cell phone. Just so happened, Boyfriend's dad had given him his old phone, a boxy thing in a leather case. We kept it in the glove compartment, intending to activate it or whatever you do with those things, eventually. That day, we found out it could be plugged into the cigarette lighter and would actually call out. Got a hold of a tow in twenty minutes. That was good, although for twenty minutes we sat there in the heat, enduring honks and heckling from fellow drivers who wanted us to push the car...somewhere. I'm not sure where. There was no shoulder and no turn-off for probably quarter of a mile or so, and I sure as hell wasn't getting out of the vehicle in thick, ill-mannered traffic.

The tow driver was very kind. The garage mechanic was also very kind. He called me after a couple of days and said he was sorry, but the car was behaving perfectly and he simply couldn't replicate its misbehavior so as to correct it. That day, I picked up that sorry lemon, drove it back out to my little hometown in rural Illinois, and I did not stop at home first. I went straight to my dad's favorite Chrysler/Jeep/Plymoth dealership, where I could depend on honest service since that was where my folks had purchased their last five or so vehicles. I stepped inside, locked eyes with the first salesman who greeted me, and told him that I was looking for a reliable 4-door vehicle with under 50,000 miles and what I was willing to spend depended on what he would give me for my trade-in. He made me a wonderful offer, and I left with a putty-colored sedan that met all the specs and had a traditional green-lit dash. I never looked back.

Is there a moral to this story? I can't say absolutely. At first glance, it would seem to be, don't buy pretty-with-issues. However, this is an excellent story. It would not have come to be without a measure of irrationality on my part. In how many circumstances in life have I knowingly dismissed a flaw, a quirk, or a side-effect and charged ahead full of qualified or unqualified hope that the good would ultimately outweigh the bad? I've built an entire existence on a series of intuitive and occasionally illogical decisions, with far-reaching ramifications, most of which I cannot regret. To this day, I'm not sorry I bought that ill-fated car, and I'm not sorry I traded it for its mundane successor. To this day, I'm not sorry I purposely drank a lot of beer one night and became the unabridged version of me, and I'm not sorry I have never since revisited that state of dis-inhibition. I could recount a great number of similar analogies.

What I do regret are the times I did nothing, either stupid or intelligent. I regret the times I simply closed the door and walked away without acting at all. I am sorry for the times of cowardice, times when self-doubt trumped my sense of adventure, when preservation of familiarity defeated trying my limits. In all, these ideas give me more of a philosophical view of my most impulsive purchase. It certainly was impulsive, unwise, irrational, kind of dumb. But honestly, I can't call it regrettable.


paulak_rumin8: Austin and speck (Default)

August 2017

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