Monday, February 20, 2006

Smells like new car

I haven't bought a new car off the lot in 16 years, so I was a little rusty when I went to the dealer yesterday.

My first thought was to do what my grandfather used to do: Stuff a few $100 in my shirt pocket and do business with the first salesman who licked the heel of my shoe. I was short a few items.

No $100 bills. No shirt pocket.

All the same, car salesmen are as obsequious as another profession which I shant mention here. I just happened to run into Big Al, who puts Chuck Swindoll quotes on prominent display above his cubicle and happens to be looking for a church.

I gave him my short sales pitch, and plan on closing the deal on a new tithing church member tomorrow night. Turns out we were both selling something yesterday.

Big Al -- a name by his own choice -- was with two other customers who he had been babysitting in financing when he broke away to help me. He ran between them and delivering keys to me as I drove a few different models of PT Cruisers. Big Al was well onto sweating his way into becoming Medium Al in the hot Arizona sun.

I've never been a vocal fan of the PT Cruisers, but the Touring Signature model I drove yesterday seemed like a sweet ride for the price. Or maybe I just haven't driven a car that wasn't somehow broken for the last umpteen years that a boat with the Dodge Neon drivetrain seems like a Cadillac. Just getting in that car and driving it around the block made me feel like a better man, legitimate, not unworthy -- not unlike the way men feel when their wives put their arms around them in any social situation.

Take my Nissan. Please. I mean, take it for example. This 2002 model 4-door Sentra came to me under the best of condition, and in three years we've put 50,000 miles on it. It shakes like a heroin addict on a week-long dry run. The acrid smell of burnt oil pours through the air vents. I'm sure it knows its owner has not been a very helpful partner. It's treated like the crazy uncle grandma keeps locked up in the basement. We're too embarassed to park it up front. We're too embarassed to take it to nice places. It sullies us somehow just getting inside of it, although it's our fault it's in its current condition.

I've often mentioned my father's old church and how the same people needed to be "saved" from the same sin every so often. They'd backslide every 6 to 8 weeks, disappear for a month, then come back to church for that salvation experience once they'd overcome their shame. I don't get that mentality as a Christian. As a degenerate car owner, it makes perfect sense.

There is something about a new car that makes every mechanically disinclined schmo like me want to become a better car owner: weekly scrubs, regular oil changes, regular maintenance. If you've ever been stuck on the side of the highway looking in despair as other people who take care of their cars drive by at warp speeds, you realize this is a brief moment of automotive salvation. You want to be regenerated, redeemed, renewed as a car owner. You're going to be a better driver and owner this time around. No more late-night trists to the drive thru for a messy burger on the way home. No more orange slushees in the back seat.

I've already started making the promises, taking the steps to walk the straight and narrow again. I'm even thinking of joining Triple AAA, and getting insurance beyond the state requirements.

I can only hope and pray, by the Blue Book, I do not stray. I do not want to be hiding in the garage in my shame three years from now because I did not keep my promise.

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