Pretentious: according to The Free Dictionary, this means “making claim to distinction or importance, esp undeservedly.” A large portion of my adult life has been spent trying to avoid looking pretentious. Pretentious people tend to make me mad, and pretentious people tend to show exactly how pretentious they are by the clothes they wear and the cars they drive… sigh.
This past weekend, the wife and I came to the conclusion that it was time to replace my car. “My car”… as if I own anything of my own anymore. Once you get married, you enter into a socialist state in which everything is community property. However, in the state of my marriage, I have always tended to get the crappy car. You know, we head to the dealership with my old piece of crap as the trade-in, we get a nice vehicle, the wife gets the nice vehicle, and I get the next piece of crap that used to be the wife’s. This has always been my choice, because I don’t mind driving a good car that looks like a piece of crap… what’s pretentious about a beat-up Taurus station wagon? Nothing, that’s what; so I drove the Taurus for a few years. It was a good, non-pretentious car.
Then, all of a sudden, the head gasket on the Taurus goes out. Well, that sucks. It’s gonna cost like $2000 to get that head gasket replaced, and the Blue Book on a 1996 Taurus wagon with a physical condition matching ours is like $1500. Doesn’t make sense to fix it, does it? So, I limp the thing along. I get used to it wanting to die at stop lights, and I get used to adding oil and antifreeze. No big deal. It’s all so un-pretentious, you know? Well, a few months later, I notice that the tires are looking a little ragged… as in, they are all completely bald at exactly the same time. Crap. Well, I just drive the thing around town, and I tell the Scoutmaster that I can’t haul the scouts in the Taurus anymore (which is a relief… ’cause hauling those kids around gets a little pricey when most of the parents aren’t kicking in for gas moolah). No big deal right… except, I notice that there is actually metal showing through on one of the tires.
Is metal supposed to show through on a tire? I’m kind of doubting it. I know the tires are “steel-belted”, and I know my “belt” shows most of the time (except when my belly is hanging over it… oh, who am I kidding, my belt never shows; but I know on normal people, belts show). I know next to nothing about anything auto-mechanically related (which the actual mechanics in our area seem to love), but I’m a figurin’ that metal fiber showing up on the outside of the tire ain’t a good thing. Crap.
Ok, so I’m justifying in my head how I can keep driving the Taurus around for a bit longer. I am, after all, just driving the thing in town. If the tires actually blows, I’ll probably be going less than 50 mph, so all is well, right? Sure! Until, all of a sudden, every time I step on the brakes, I hear the horrid sound of metal on metal. What the… aren’t the brakes supposed to squeal before you get the whole metal on metal thing? Again, a mechanic I am not; I know you are supposed to hear a stinking squeal before you hear the brain-gnashing nails-on-chalkboard-esque metal-on-metal horror-fest that all of a sudden I am experiencing. Crap. I am beginning to realize that it’s about time to call it quits with the Taurus.
The wife, for like the past six months, has been telling me we need to get a new car. I am finally at the point where I can agree. So, we go looking for cars. We will, as our main intention, buy a car on Saturday. So, Friday night, we go through some of the local lots to see what is available. One thing we learned by driving through the local lots: if you, as a local car lot dude, do not display the prices you are asking for your cars either on the car itself or, at least, on your website… I will not buy a car from you. There is absolutely nothing more exasperating to me when trying to make a multi-thousand-dollar purchase then not to be able to weigh your options before being assaulted by the onslaught of commission-based sales representatives. I will not do it. We saw plenty of cars that we really liked at several of the smaller lots, but we had no idea how much these things were selling for. We were looking in the $5000 range. We would have felt stupid asking about a car that we thought might have been in our range and finding out that car was being sold for $12,000 (which is what we expected to be the reality). Needless-to-say, we avoided all lots with no published prices. My duty was to myself and my family… not a salesman who was going to try to sell me more than what I was looking for.
After doing a brief bit of browsing, the wife and I had narrowed it down to one lot in particular (that had at least one non-pushy sales person and obviously-displayed prices… and the lot we bought our past two vehicles at). Now, we just had to decide on a vehicle.
Great time to interject that the wife finds my blog… this blog… a little disturbing. Through this blog, the wife has discovered that I feel kind of old and that turning forty really sucked for me and that I am kind of going through a mid-life crisis. The wife knows that I love her and I would never trade her in for a newer model… because, you know, I don’t sense a blown head gasket and she keeps her tires pretty well rotated. However, the wife is constantly looking for ways to improve my libido and self-esteem at this precarious point in my life ( if anyone has potential winning Power-ball numbers, please forward them to my wife). So, as we’re looking for cars, she keeps saying, “Make sure you pick something you are going to be happy driving.” I think she is messing with me, you know, just playing with my esteem so if I end up picking something I end up hating she can come back and say, “I told you to pick something that would make you happy.” Well, a Jeep Wrangler would make me happy, but there was none of those in the $5000 arena. However, there was this nice little Pontiac Firebird with funky orange paint.
Ahhh… a true lower-middle class mid-life crisis car. Thing is, no matter what we looked at, the wife kept saying, “Don’t forget about the Firebird.” I think she was serious! It was a little more than we were looking at spending, but we could have swung it. She either really wanted me to have the Firebird, or she knew that my reason would kick in and I would come to the conclusion on my own that a sports car is not a realistic option for a 40-year-old with a wife and two young-uns. Damn, I wanted that Firebird! But, the reason kicked in and I knew it would make more sense to drive something like that when I turn fifty… you know, when the senior discounts start to kick in… and the hair is completely gray… and the chances of actually losing that belly are ZERO… slightly less than 10 years from now…
… and she is still going to be able to say, “I told you to pick something you would be happy driving.” I married a pretty bright dame 🙂
Okay, so the Firebird is postponed for the next 10 years or so. We are seriously down to two cars within our range. One is a 2001 Cadillac Catera, the other is a Chevy Aveo. The Caddy has less than 100,000 miles and is in great shape… and is about a grand less than we were looking to spend.
The Aveo is a 2009 with less than 8,000 miles and in about a grand more than we were planning on spending.
I’m immediately leaning toward the Aveo. It’s low-mileage, it will last almost forever, it gets great gas mileage, and it is so stinking ugly that “pretentious” would never a word to describe it. The wife seems fine with my choice of one of the ugliest cars since the Vega, and I am ready to take her for a test drive… the car, not the wife.
Handles like a dream, pretty punchy for such a little piece of crap, rides like a cardboard soap-box derby car, but, hey… it can’t weight more than I do. It starts to get a little warm in her as we’re taking her around town.
“Turn on the AC,” says the wife.
Travis, our awesome little sales dude, looks kind of sheepishly at us from the back seat and says, “Uh, this one doesn’t have AC.”
Stardate: 2010. We have encountered an alien life form known as the Aveo. On her world, they still make cars with no AC. Hers is a dying world, but one on which we are momentarily trapped. I am quickly sending our coordinates to Spock so he can beam us the hell out of here.
“I could live with no AC,” I say. “I’ll be the one mostly driving it, it gets like 40 miles-per-gallon, and I don’t mind sweating a little… it’ll help me keep my weight down.”
“Having a car that gets 40 miles-per-gallon would make sense if we could take it on trips… but I will not ride in a car with no AC.” The wife doesn’t even smile as she makes her assertion.
“We could roll down the windows,” I smile, still hoping to avoid any chance of looking pretentious. After all, there is nothing I can imagine that would be less pretentious than my sweaty-ass driving around in this little piece of crap with all the windows down and me justifying at the top of my lungs to any passerby who looks my way, “I’m getting 40 miles-per-gallon, so screw you!”
“Can you imagine how cranky your boys will be if we’re taking a trip to Denver in this thing in the middle of the summer with no AC?” She has a point. The boys are barely bearable on any kind of lengthy trip when the climate is perfect. Hot wind blowing in our faces as sweat pours down our faces would not add to the delight of any of our outings.
“So, I guess it’s the Cadillac,” I surrender.
“There’s always the Firebird, ” the wife reminds me.”
The Cadillac, of course, drives like a dream… and has AC.
So, we head into the offices so Travis can help us figure out which car we want.
“Which car have you folks decided on,” Travis asks.
“Well, I guess we’d like the Cadillac,” I say.
“You don’t sound so sure,” says Travis.
“There is still the Firebird,” says the wife.
“Does the Firebird come with the blond?” I ask.
“No, I’m afraid not,” says Travis. “You wouldn’t believe how many 40-year-old-looking guys ask that, though.”
“…sigh… I guess the Cadillac it is.”
Here we are, a few days later, and I love the Cadillac. It really does drive like a dream… considering the thing is almost 10 years old. The Bose sound system is amazing, and the thing has more buttons than a person can push on a relatively lengthy drive. There is still the pretentious-factor. I still feel like the only people who drive Cadillacs are snotty people with money and posers. The wife insists I’m wrong, but I still have a vague recollection of an ad I once saw…
… maybe it’s just my imagination. I guess being a poser ain’t so bad… not when the tunes sound so flipping good on that Bose…