June 1, 2022
The first car I owned was a 1973 Buick Century.
I was living in Boston and friends were traveling to England for the year. Their plan was to drive the car to Boston and sell it for whatever they could get for it.
It leaked transmission fluid, had a short that caused the battery to drain, got somewhere around 12 miles per gallon on the highway, and was huge.
If I would meet them at their hotel the night before their flight, they would sell it to me for $100.
By the spring I was teaching high school math during the day in Newton, MA and working as a radio DJ from seven to midnight in Westerly, RI 90 miles away.
That was a lot to ask of that car.
The first problem was that I would get back to my apartment in Brighton at about 2 am and finding on street parking for a car that big was a challenge. The second problem was that I was putting over a thousand miles a week on that car and it just couldn't take it.
That summer I moved back to the Cleveland area and bought an orange 1968 VW Beetle.
This was 1982.
I loved that car.
It was challenging in the winter. The engine was on the back and there were heater boxes that were warmed by the engine and then the heat would try to make it back into the car. But I lived in Ohio and the heater boxes were rusted out so the car remained pretty cold in the winter.
It was so cold that I couldn't wait for the defroster to work - I would press in the cigarette lighter and use the heat from it to defrost the front window.
I was sad to say goodbye to that car but at some point the mechanic said I had to let it go.
My next car was a small brown Rabbit with a moon roof you opened with a hand crank.
Whereas my Beetle had struggled with the hills between my house and the radio station I was working at on weekends ("Please," I would say to the light at the bottom of the hill, "don't turn red."), the Rabbit made it easily with just a quick downshift for more power.
The Rabbit was the only car I named. I called it "Segue" as I was working in radio and a segue was a smooth transition from one song to another. My Segue was a smooth transition from one place to another. I smiled when the scooter later took that name.
The Rabbit was replaced by a VW GTI. It was replaced by a Toyota Tercel. All of these were used and all of them lasted a few years and cost a lot of money in repairs.
I got my first automatic since the Century the summer that I started graduate school. It was a huge, heavy Volvo with over 100 thousand miles on it. My mechanic had worked on it for years for a guy I knew who played the saxophone. My mechanic continued to work on it.
I loved that car as well and it moved with me to my first house when Kim and I got married. It sat in the garage next to her well-used Chevy Cavalier.
And then we were about to become parents and thought we should have more reliable cars.
It had been ok for our cars to break down when we were single - but now we would have a baby in the car.
My Century had broken down once on my way from teaching to the radio station and a listener just happened to be passing and picked me up and drove me the remaining 45 minutes.
But I was young, single, stupid, and didn't have a child.
So we bought Kim a new Honda Accord and my mechanic found a six year old Nissan Maxima that was in great condition. It was the newest and nicest car I'd ever owned.
In addition, I was somehow able to convince my kids that Radio Disney didn't work in that car so they could only listen in mom's car.
Shortly after Elena died it was clear that that car needed replacing and I started buying used Subarus from friends of the family when they were ready to move to their next new one.
It wasn't until I was about to turn sixty that I got my first new car.
I wanted to go electric and test drove a Chevy Bolt and a Tesla Model 3. The decision was close.
Friends warned me to lease not buy the Tesla and I thought that was a good idea anyway as electric cars are getting better all the time.
I loved the ride but was concerned at how often I had to take my eyes off the road because all of the controls were on the screen to my right. Even to adjust the temperature I had to find some area of the screen to tap and then look again to see the secondary screen to tap again.
As much as I loved driving this car, the screen - which others found cool - always bothered me. In addition, I could get in the car one day and the temperature adjustment would be one place and the next day it would be moved.
In addition, when I got the car, the guy who ran the company was a bit of a nut case who was a bit problematic. Over the next year it became apparent that he was more than that. He bullied his workers and enriched himself without concern for others or for those who had helped him get where he was. Now, two years later, we see just how dangerous he is - but two years ago I was concerned enough that I knew, no matter how much better his cars were, I would not buy from him again.
And so, that leads up to my current search for my next car.
My next smooth transition from place to place.
And that is a tale for another day.