Archive for Sunday, January 11, 2009

New car must prove itself before becoming family

January 11, 2009


Ol’Blu was a good car and, while I didn’t shed any tears when we traded her for a newer model, the lump in my throat confirmed that I wanted to.

Husband Ray and I don’t just own cars, we bond with them. And you know the bond is tight when Ol’Blu was 10 years old and had 197,873 miles on her odometer. While Guppy Rojo — Ray’s little pickup truck — is a boy, Ol’Blu was of the female persuasion, and a grand lady she was.

You’re likely wondering why we traded her off if we loved her so much. It’s because we were spooked during a Colorado trip when a fuse controlling the air conditioner repeatedly blew. It turned out to be a minor problem, but mechanics in Denver misdiagnosed it as a $1,600 control head and said, “The car is so old, it may take a week to get the part.”

Aware that there are worse places than Colorado to wait on a car part, we became concerned. Still, if the Lincoln Fairy Godmother had promised we’d get another 100,000 miles out of Ol’Blu, who required little but regular maintenance, we wouldn’t have begun our search for her successor. We hate car shopping because the odds of Ray and I liking the same car are slim to none ... except, of course, for Ol’Blu, the car we found after each of us flatly rejected a car the other liked.

I created a flier for dealers stating our desire for a car with all of Ol’Blu’s attributes — dark blue exterior/interior, moon roof and heated memory seats — only newer with fewer miles. Did we get it? Not exactly.

It isn’t surprising that a couple who once bought a house for a row of poplar trees and blue morning glories blooming on trellises — and discovered the range was gas, not electric, only when we moved in — would buy a car for its factory navigation system and back-up sensors. At least that’s why I agreed, though I disliked the color. Cashmere, it was dubbed by someone who didn’t realize cashmere is a texture, not a color.

While Ray loved the car immediately, it has taken almost nine months to grow on me and, yes, I know I could have had a baby in that time (or at least someone could have). The one thing that appealed to me from the start was the navigation system. When not deterred by oceans or time constraints, Ray and I enjoy traveling by auto. So far our new car — as yet unnamed — has visited a dozen states. But Ray has named the voice on the navigation system. It’s a powerful feeling to get into our car in Baltimore, command, “Go home!” and let Aunt Blabby direct us to our garage.

Ray takes delight in fooling Aunt Blabby by purposely doing the opposite of what she says. When she directs him to turn right, he’ll go left and she will frantically recalculate our route and resume guiding. One day, after consistently disregarding her directions, he said, “Listen, you can tell she’s getting ticked off!”

Aunt Blabby recently had her revenge ... on me. I was driving friends Martha and Marian to a meeting in Valley Falls when Martha challenged Aunt Blabby’s route. I opted to follow Aunt Blabby’s directions until she suddenly announced, “Guidance cannot be provided in this area.” After a short tour of Valley Falls, I let Martha lead the way to our destination.

That debacle aside, I’m beginning to appreciate the car’s long warranty. Also 25.9 highway miles per gallon using regular gas (Ol’Blu needed premium) and the safety of riding in a tank. However, I do need to find a fake-wood replacement for the small decorative door panel I messed up when I tried to repair a minuscule scratch (the dealer wants to sell me an entire door for $300).

Hey, Detroit, we bought American. Can you help?

— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”


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