Throughout my young life, my father drove Buicks. The first one I remember, just vaguely, was black with red seats. It was huge, wide and tall, to my small self and I remember having the back seat all to myself. My brother was in the front seat—held by my mother or in a tiny “car seat” with its own steering wheel. Amazing that all my siblings who sat in that tiny seat grew to adulthood. I could sit or lie or play with toys in the big back seat. Unfortunately, I have always been one to get very motion sick. A short ride to church or school, got me dizzy. A 20 minute ride to grandma’s house ruined half a day, and the ride to the Jersey shore would slay me. My father stopped on the shoulder of the road, I got out and threw up everything in my stomach. Even when I didn’t eat or took the dreaded dramamine, which I may have been allergic to, I was wretched.
But this is about driving cars, not riding in them. Only once and in my adult life have I ever felt sick driving and that was in a big, empty school van.
There was a yellow and white boat of a Buick that may have been my father’s favorite car. By then there were three of us, the back seat was full up and we were rowdy. My brother and I each claimed a window and my sister was stuck in the middle—completely unfair but she was smaller and caused less trouble, so she was always in the middle.
In the early 60’s, my father bought a fawn grey Buick Skylark. I loved the name of the color. I loved that car. It was smaller than our other cars. I remember it as the size of a Honda Carolla, but looking at some pictures now, it was bigger. It fit the six of us although it was a bit of a squeeze in the back seat, but then, in the next few years, the six of us would ride together less and less. It was the car that I should have been taught to drive. That car inspired my own desire for smaller cars. I’ve driven bigger but I’ve never been comfortable. I was always comfortable in that car.
That Skylark was the last of the every-4-year cars. Was it every 4 or every 3? I am not sure. Up to that time, the old car was traded in and a new one bought on schedule, but the 60’s began a hard economic time for my parents—my father lost his job, quit, actually just as the NY printer’s strike was sending hundreds of NY printers into Jersey for work. My father, “boss of the back of the shop” which was everything about putting out a weekly newspaper after the writing was done, could not find steady work for more than a year. My mother went back into the workforce, they borrowed on their life insurance, we stopped going on vacations and Christmas gifts became practical, no more mountains of toys, but boots or a sweater and the dreaded underwear. It took years for them to dig themselves out of that hole.
Caveat here, this is my middle school kid memory, which could be skewed or just plain wrong.
So, the Skylark was a car they drove for a long time. It was fixed and eventually looked worn. Still, it was my favorite.
Years went by and other Buicks were bought and then one day when I was long out of the house, my father bought a Cadillac. I was shocked. By that time I had a rotary engined Mazda and was on my way to Hondas and Toyotas with a long interlude in a Dodge Horizon, bought because it was really dirt cheap. But a Cadillac? When I asked, I was told that it was my father’s dream to own a Cadillac. I had no idea. Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals were cars for those with too much disposable income (I knew nothing of Farraris, Corvetts or Beemers). They had equipment that Ford and Buick owners never dreamed about—power everything and standard air conditioning. And the Cadillac was a boat! It almost didn’t fit in the modest driveway of my parent’s house. It guzzled gas and there was only two of them riding in it most of the time. It seemed like a completely irresponsible waste, a folly.
I seem to remember my father almost agreeing with my arguments against that car, but it had been his dream to own a Cadillac. There is no rebuttal to a dream. And I found out once again something I had forgotten during those harder years. A car meant more than transportation. A car announced who you were. The guy who had traded in cars on a schedule wanted to get back to having a cool vehicle. Admittedly, I still did not understand.
At least, not until now.
I have always had practical cars. When it was necessary to buy something new, David and I did our research and bought the most economical and long lasting vehicle that we could find. And apart from one bad accident which totaled a car, we kept them until they were ready to die. Our cars, cheap and practical, the last to be air conditioned, some had manual transmissions (until manual transmissions cost more than automatics) and they were whatever color the dealer had on hand for the lowest price. My code was that I wanted a car to be dependable and last a long time, modest in its use of fuel and with no connection to my (or David’s) ego.
My 2006 Honda Civic is all of the above with the exception that it was my color choice—blue. And after 14 years and 179,000+ miles, it is still running but its days are numbered and the last repair was not insignificant.
And so, I’ve been shopping.
I wanted a hybrid for all the right reasons. I still wanted small. And—I blush to admit—I wanted a bit of luxury. I’ve been promising Julia heated seats in our next car for years now. There is a small nest egg in the savings account from months of quarantine—my largest purchases bi-weekly grocery runs. And also from a much smaller than expected wedding. I struggled with the idea of spending the egg. Call me cheap or thrifty or still worried about what the future holds for Julia. But the Civic has begun to make noises that I don’t recognize. I’ve been assured that they are not serious but at 14 years isn’t everything serious? And so, I’ve put out feelers, asked for recommendations as to where to shop, visited dealers and test driven. I’ve argued with myself about the desire for luxury and the thought of ‘do I deserve luxury?’ surfaced. That was an interesting consideration. The way that I keep cars I have at best 2, including what I’m purchasing now, new cars in my future, and possibly only this one if the gods are not kind to me.
Big contenders: Honda Insight, Toyota Carola and Toyota Prius. Both the Insight and Carola had recognizable rides. I’ve owned both Hondas and Toyotas. Both were absolutely fine. The Carola didn’t come with much luxury and the Insight was pretty nice. But the Prius felt undoubtedly luxurious. After about a month of dithering, talking myself in and out and in again of the options, I took the plunge yesterday.
Still suffering a little guilt about spending more than I absolutely had to and thoughts of letting go of the last big thing that David and I bought together, I decided on the Prius with the heated seats (and some practical options like all wheel drive) and plunked down a small deposit. And if I don’t have incredible buyers regret in the next week or so, there will be a new car in my driveway.
Whew! Does anyone else suffer decisions like this?