Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday, MSN.com featured an article called "You are what you drive." Yes, I'm too lazy to look it up and link it. The article talked about status cars, gas-guzzlers and named the traits of those who drive them, but I didn't see anything (okay, so I skimmed) in the article saying maybe people don't need to buy a new car every 15,000 miles.



One of the neat things about visiting the hills in Arkansas is to go to a place that's normal-- a place where 75% of the cars you see didn't just roll out of the factory in the past 18 months. Earlier this year, I actually saw a Yugo there. Running, as in rolling down the road. Apparently of its own volition. When I was up there a month ago, I got a lot of mud on LouLou the babyshoe, and I haven't washed her since, as I consider I'm driving around Dallas hauling a little bit of Ozark real estate with me as I valet park and go to fancy events. Here's mud in your eye, city slickers!


I have no wish for the auto industry to crash, or anything, but maybe folks need to figure out that just because they want something and it would be really, rilly neat to have, doesn't mean they can afford it. Maybe we can all make do with a lot less. Maybe we all don't need a new car every year.


You may recall me saying an off-roady ride is on my short list of future acquisitions, something designed to crawl around on boulders. The coolest Hummer I've seen was an older one, red, with completely oxidized paint, banged-up as could be, driven by a badass, and crawling around on Bardwell Mountain in east Texas. It's like seeing a wild animal in captivity when I see a Hummer in town, too clean and shiny, with a driver taking pains to drive around speed bumps in parking lots. Wimps.

I have a car-proud uncle. We're talking never-been-farted-in, use-the-floorbards-as-surgical-implement-trays degrees of pristineness. My dad's cars, on the other hand, have always been in tip-top mechanical shape, but he's never been one to constantly preen and polish them. Once a relative said "oh, look! You've already got a scratch over here" about a new truck dad had. Dad said "well, you might as well take a hammer and just put a ding in it as soon as you get it home. It's going to happen." That always stuck with me- that he viewed the vehicle as a means of conveyance, and not as a way that he should be measured as a person, and when I think of it, he's never measured others by their possessions, either.


I want to be like my Dad. I want to take other people at face-value like he does, but I do admit to some certain prejudices. I admit I tend to think more highly of a man who drives a pickup truck than of one who drives a prissy luxury car. I admit I wonder about someone who can't check their own oil and transmission fluid, be they male or female. I admit I like the smell of axle grease. I admit that driving down a muddy ditch in a dune buggy is one of the most fun things I've done in my life, as great spraying swags of muddy water fanned out in the air behind me.

So are you what you drive? You COULD spend the diaper money on a sports car, but is that hot and sexy, to neglect other obligations for a status item? Isn't it actually a terrible thing when we confuse a means of conveyance with indicators of personal character? Why the hell would you want to drive something you couldn't get dirty? Come to that, why would you want to live your entire life in a place where there's no opportunity to get your vehicle dirty? I just can't figure it.

16 comments:

Christina LMT said...

My car is very banged up. I feel bad, but why should I get every little ding fixed, when just parking it at WalMart guarantees it'll be messed up again toute-de-suite?
It has an enormous (human head-sized) dent on the driver's side, which was inflicted one Sunday afternoon while the car was parked at the dog-park for an hour. I have no idea what caused it, and nobody saw nuthin'.
My car is paid for. I own it. And I have no plans on having another car payment anytime soon. Though I wouldn't mind a bigger vehicle, mine's quite cramped. Cars as status symbols? Faugh! To me, cars are a means of transportation, that's it. If it gets me safely and economically from point "a" to point "b", I'm satisfied.
Now that I've rambled on aimlessly, I think I'll put us all out of our collective misery and go to sleep.

lainy said...

I couldn't agree with you more. My car is older, 1996, Nissan Maxima. It's big enough to haul groceries and the 3 of us on trip's while, most importantly, great on gas. I admit I baby her, keep the inside clean, but the outside is muddy and I don't care. I take her to the car wash for a bath when I think she needs it, but that car is not the most important part of my life. My family is.

thud said...

Every time I buy a car in England it just kills me.A bog standard runaround here would get me something top of the range in America....it hurts!

Buck said...

I've always had a thing for cars; most guys do... if one can generalize. But I'm a "buy and hold" kinda guy. The current ride is seven and a half years old, and most of my cars have had useful lives that far exceeded the duration of the finance contract. (And they're well-kept, too. Inside and out.)

I love that pic of the brunette leaning up against what I think is a Merc. Thanks for that, Phlegmmy!

Mushy said...

Used to be a Mustang man, but always had an old pickup out back for the garbage and hunting...always felt more at home in it.

Sold my last one in '99 and got a 150 with leather, now I've got a 2004 King Ranch...much more room for the boys...even started wearing jeans again since I can spread out.

Myron said...

That fender looks awful much like the fender of our first new shiny. It were a '62 Mercury Comet. Same color as the leavins on that fender too. It lasted 8 years. I've had a Ford pick-up and an '84 Toyota SR-5 4 wheeler. The last year they put a live axle under the front end. That was a bunch of fun in the California deserts and mountains. But I figured when we bought our last shiny why not reward us as we enter our dotage. Gots us a Towncar. We've had it 7 1/2 years and with only 33,000 on it, they may drive it in the funeral procession for the last one of us.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

To me, the only important thing about a car is that it works reliably. I really don't care what it looks like or how old it is. And although I clear the windshields and the lights, I rarely wash mine.

DirtCrashr said...

For a good off-road vehicle alternative to the HumVee check out the International Scout - they should not have a top and look like somebody put wheels on a shoebox.
My old F-150 had choked a couple times and became unreliable for any long trips, and with my wife's car teetering on a similar edge I had to go fiund another pickup - used with only 22K on it.
Not too scratched-up and nice but the damn thing has electric damn windows and locks, it's a pussy-up (excuse me) truck not a real pick-up truck, but it has the extra-cab thingy so groceries don't get wet or slide all around in the bed.
I just have no interest in cars.

phlegmfatale said...

christina - I think you are more wonderful than can be expressed by a mere automobile, anyway!

lainy - You're my kind of gal!

thud - and it would suck to be limited by those narrow roads and parking spaces - I feel for you! At least you get to spend part of the year Stateside.

buck - you're a solid guy. Yeah, that brunette is hot, isn't she? Rockabilly mamas are my idols - wanna be one. She kind of reminds me of a thick version of Pat Benatar. Sexy.

mushy - it's nice to have a little extra space, innit? King Ranch = best of both worlds. Plus, I love hauling shit, so the bed is a wonderful feature.

myron - you came by your man stripes honest, and you'd be a compliment to anything you drove. Plus Mrs. Myron deserves a bit of comfort as you squire her about town.

barbara - Hear, hear! Yeah, you get actual weather up there, so a car would get dirty!

dirtcrashr - will check out the IS. Am going to try to keep an open mind. I have decided that the proceeds of my change jars will henceforth be dedicated to that purchase. With all your outdoor stuff going on, I couldn't have envisioned you in anything but a truck.

schnoobie said...

Well I tell you what!!
I picked up my first ever (and prolly last) brand spank me new F-150 (94) on my 30th birthday. I almost peed my pants driving it home.( daughter of a let's have em but not USE em car owner..) you should see that sad old thing now.
The last misfortune incident involved half of a very large willow tree ( both trucks in driveway) and THEN 2 days later ( yeas while I'm driving it) a very well placed escaped walnut fell exactly in the center of my windshield .Looks like a chrismas tree now. I'll drive it till its Found On Road Dead!!!

JR said...

V's Jeep is a '94. Don't tell her, but I'm buying her an '08 for her B'day. I've never bought someone a new car before, and I'm a bit excited about it.

My truck has 140k on it, the dings keep it from getting stolen.

DirtCrashr said...

If the Scout doesn't appeal, an upscale dune-jumping rig is an old Deuce-and-a-Half, especially with the top down and the windshield folded forward. That'll put Popeye muscles on your arms! Put in a loud sound system and cross four-foot deep jungle streams. :-)

Anonymous said...

I know of an ol' boy back in '92 (a prominent attorney and future mayor of Grapevine at the time if you care to know)who kicked a dent with his boot in to the side of his brand new, never even been test driven Chevy pickup.
Knew another ol' boy who had grass growing in the floorboard of his truck.
Not everybody's a pussy, just most of 'em.
Oh, go to Youtube and search 'Hummer HX'.
It'll be out in '10.

D

Anonymous said...

love my 03 grand cherokee. 2 reasons: (1) runs well (2)*****paid for*****!!!!!!!!! scratched all to sh-- from parking lots but oh well. I still love it. You can fit a lot of crap in there!

Buck said...

Yeah, that brunette is hot, isn't she? Rockabilly mamas are my idols - wanna be one.

Did I ever tell ya you're MY kinda gal, Phlegmmy? ;-)

If not... then here's yet another box...checked.

Lin said...

My first REAL car was a pick-up truck (the old '33 hot rod didn't count). It had everything to do with junk collecting. But I learned very quickly not to lend my only vehicle to some schmuck who would only own a priss car - they'd treat my truck like a Sanford shit box and without apology or repair.