Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Van-tastrophe

Vehicles are kind of a sensitive subject for a lot of people. You have your Ford people, your Chevy people, your Jeep folks and then, the really amazing ones who are Dodge people. (Yes, we're Dodge people. Why do you ask?) There are some who are brand-loyal and some who drive whatever Consumer Reports says is best. Some drive beaters that are so environmentally unfriendly they are on the EPA's Most Wanted list and some, like my parents, who drive those hybrid ninja cars that make no sound and I never know they've driven up my 1/10 mile driveway until they knock on my door, scaring me to pieces and making me holler "Wait a minute!" while I scurry to find a bra.

Now, before I start this and you all immediately think I'm a whiner, please know that I truly do recognize my blessings. I really do. I know that there are a lot of people out there without homes, much less vehicles, but please indulge me a moment if you will.

When we got married in 1993, myself on the verge of turning 20, I was still driving the car my parents had given me at age 16 - a 1986 Chevy Cavalier that was still sporting the badly crackled paint job, the dent in the rear driver's side door where I crunched into Jerry Friend's pickup bumper in the school parking lot my Senior year and there was literally a brick holding the driver's seat in an upright position. I ran her out of oil once and still she kept on doin' her thing. She was a good car. When it got to the point where I had to put a quart of oil in her every single day, we decided to let her go. A family friend who owned a car lot gave us $2000 trade-in on her and boy, was that generous.

We traded the Cavalier for a 1989 Ford Tempo. A two-door Ford Tempo. And for a Ford, it was a good little car -- until we had our first child in 1996 and crawling in the back seat to buckle in a carrier carseat got real old real quick. We made do until  May 1997, then we drove to Tulsa to the car lot where my cousin worked and he finagled us a decent deal on a 1993 Mercury Sable. It was a spunky little car with a ginormous motor. That motor meant nothing to me, personally, but it was always a topic of conversation with Paul who took great joy in showing people how much space the engine took up under the hood.

In December 2001 we had our third child. The formerly spacious back seat of my car suddenly shrunk. Trying to get a forward-facing car seat, a rear-facing car seat with a base and a booster seat all crammed safely into that car became something requiring just short of an engineering degree. In March 2002, after literal tears from me, we decided we needed a minivan.

It was hard on me. It didn't bother Paul very much at all. Of course not -- he had just traded off the fancy new truck he had driven off the lot with 17 miles on the odometer for a big ol' honkin' Chevy pickup with dual exhaust that would rattle the fillings in your teeth. He wasn't compromising his manliness, his youthfulness, for a.....a....minivan. I found myself at 29 years old, a mother of three and sentenced to an eternal life of carpooling, chauferring and hauling. Granted, I'd have done all those things in a car as well, but there was just such a stigma attached to driving a minivan.

We found a 1998 Chevy Astro Van, a gigantic box of a thing, built on a truck chassis and capable of hauling approximately 742 people. Okay, I kid - it seated eight. I think it could've hauled a regular minivan around in it, strapped next to one of my kids in their carseats. It was a monster and definitely NOT a minivan. It took me about two days to fall desperately, madly in love with that ugly monstrosity. And I drove it until the back door would no longer open, the driver's window would no longer roll down (made ATM's and drive-thru's always fun) and Paul was worried the transmission was going to shift so hard one day we'd leave it behind us on the highway. I mourned the loss of the Astro before it was even gone, because I knew he  meant business. He was bound and determined to get me a new vehicle. I whined. I bulled up. I pouted. I griped. I begged. I pleaded. He wouldn't budge.

Then one day he called me and with an excited tone in his voice told me he had found me a minivan. I was less than happy. I said, "Fine. I'll come drive it, but I refuse to like it. No matter what." It was a shiny red 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan. A little old couple had driven it to and from the grocery store and church (sounds so silly, but it's true!) and it was in immaculate shape. I scoffed at the light tan interior, imagining the McNugget crumbs and melted suckers that would soon adorn it. I grumbled at the leather seats which were cold on my rump. I grumbled more when the salesman flipped the switch to the bun warmers, thus promptly toasting my backside, certain that I would end up with 2nd degree burns when they shorted out. I said I hated the dual sliding doors. I said the Astro only had one, why would I need two? Hmph. We took it home for the weekend to drive it. We ended up selling the Astro over that weekend, so ..... yeah, that next Monday we bought that stupid Caravan.

And now, here I am nearly five years later, pre-emptively mourning the loss of her. She's got new creaks and thumps, the air conditioner/heater is tempermental at best, she's got 160-some-thousand miles on her, she's 12 years old now, she smells like sweaty socks (probably because for some reason the kids like to leave sweaty socks in her overnight when she's all shut up).....I guess it's time. I hadn't fully admitted to Paul it was time, though, until last week. I have been quietly contemplating a new vehicle, mostly because with a new (to me) vehicle also will come a car payment and after three years of being totally debt-free, this causes me stress. Dave Ramsey himself says car payments are unacceptable debt. I know this. But we haven't really stuck to that whole "pay yourself first" thing because heck, we're doing good to tithe, pay the bills and clothe the kids these days, much less set aside any for an impending vehicle purchase. It's totally our fault. We know this. So we'll have a car payment and we'll survive. We just won't like it.

So, the other day, when I saw a brand spankin' new, probably 2011 Grand Caravan in the Walmart parking lot I nearly wet myself in excitement. THAT WAS THE VAN I WANTED! It didn't look like a traditional minivan, heck, it doesn't look like the Grand Caravan I'm driving now. It's lower profile, boxier shaped, looks more like a longer SUV than a van.....I call them SUVans. And I want one. So I parked close to it. Mosied over by it and gave it a look-see. Paul scoffed. And proceded to tell me it was a $40,000 vehicle and I couldn't have it.

SAY WHAT??? For one thing, I was pretty sure it wasn't a $40,000 vehicle and for another, he drove a truck off a lot with SEVENTEEN MILES ON IT, eleven of those put on by us on the test drive! Why CAN'T I have a new vehicle? I've never ever gotten a new one, never even gotten one less than four years old! He drives a 2004 Ram right now that is simply gorgeous and we paid wayyyyyyy too much for because he saw it and he wanted it and he got it.

Well, his laughter just infuriated me on the spot. I ignored him and went on into the store. We shopped. We checked out. We stopped by my Mom's office and I had her look up a 2011 Grand Caravan online.

HA! $26,000, BUCKO!

He grinned and said, "Okay, let's go find one and test drive it."

I crossed my arms and firmly said, "No. I will drive the one I have until parts start falling off of her. And then when the parts do start falling off of her I will just duct tape them back on. Because I'm not getting a new van. Period. I simply refuese."  His reply: "Okay."


Yeah. I showed him.

I turned on the air conditioner yesterday and the sound that came out of the vents was, I'm pretty sure, the van's signal to the mother ship, to beam it up, it's tired and wants to go home. Paul made a funny face, looked sideways at me, grinned and crossed his arms across his chest.

" got any duct tape?"

I so do not find him amusing sometimes.


Mommy Needs a Xanax said...

As you know, we just bought a Honda Odyssey. Not new, mind you, but we did pay cash and have no car payments. Anyway after we bought it, they had to replace the torque converter and a torn armrest, and we got a rental-- a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan. It was very nice. We had a bad experience with a Dodge Magnum and the Dodge dealership in our town is notorious for sucking, so we didn't even look at them, but I have to say there isn't much on my Honda Odyssey that wasn't on the Caravan.

Congrats on the impending new ride. New cars are fun. Car payments, not so much, but we do what we have to do.

Anonyvox said...

My next car absolutely, positively HAS TO have bun warmers. I'm going to have those suckers on all year 'round and then turn the air conditioner on higher in the summer.

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