After a crazy and amazing weekend with my favorite Walkers in San Antonio feeding giraffes at Hank & Kelsey’s wedding at the Serengeti Resort, and eating on the River Walk at the Naked Iguna and other fun things in between, I was happy to have Monday off (Columbus Day).
I’ve needed a more reliable vehicle for some time, and have been seriously shopping for a year. After this summer’s battle with breast cancer ate my down payment for a car, I put off shopping until next year.
I typically set my standards high, but seem to shoot low, or settle. It’s a struggle for me to treat myself to something I want rather than the bare minimum or what I need. I either don’t feel worthy to treat myself or I fear my penniless retirement.
For the past three years, I’ve tried to combat this settle/shoot low trend in my life. I live in the apartment I wanted, in the area I wanted, with the features I wanted (my allergies love these laminate floors). I have real furniture now. I treat myself to a pedicure now and then.
My brother, Scott, who had accumulated just about everything he wanted by age 35, died at age 35. Before he died, we talked about the mystical Land of Retirement – the time period that most Americans dream of – being able to leave the work world behind and play golf every day they aren’t on a plane to their vineyard cottage in France or at the very least, Florida.
Scott told me that I needed to find the balance between saving everything for a day I might not live to see, and not arriving at the Land of Retirment unable to care for myself. He called it the “Retire as You Go,” plan. I assured him that I understood, but I really didn’t.
I continued living on a shoestring budget (but I was highly underemployed) with a really messed up view of money. I’m still paying for my formerly messed up view of money, but I’m almost finished with that pennance. I’m not rich, but my needs are met.
I was thinking about my brother the other day and his, “Retire as You Go,” plan. After my own battle with cancer this summer, and my mediocre earning potential, I realized that I may not be one of the lucky few who truly gets to retire in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.
I also realized that I will probably work until the day I die, so the “Retire as You Go,” plan now seemed reasonable. Retire as You Go = enjoy the journey to the grave.
Before anyone throws their 401K rhetoric at me, I’m not saying not to save for retirement. I’m just saying that living for this mystical day in the far off future and not living life to the fullest now is not the way I want to live my life.
Not anymore. I’ve learned the hard way that life can end in a flash, or even a slowly fading ember, even for people who are young and full of life, even for people who plan to retire…someday.
Now back to car shopping. I’ve only had four cars in 26 years. All used. All old and full of suprises like the water pump pulley shearing off in the middle of rush hour. All of the cars were phone calls to Lynn at the Car Clinic Hotline waiting to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for all these cars. I just knew I didn’t want another used car, someone else’s mess of surprises.
I scoured car websites and priced their cheapest cars and still couldn’t find anything I thought I could or should afford. Still, I felt it was time to start test-driving some cars so I could decide which one I’d buy. Nevermind that I didn’t really want any of these cars. They were just cars I might be able to afford.
I have always liked the Volkswagen Beetle. I’ve often thought about getting one, but never had the funds or the guts to drive it (very girly car!). When I saw the photos of the new model this summer, I really liked it. It was less girly, more sporty. It fit my personality. I did my research and I decided, if I could, that’s really the car I wanted.
I woke up Monday with my brother’s words ringing in my ears. “Do what you want for a change.” I decided then, to go test drive the brand new Volkswagen Beetle. Just test drive.
I had no intentions of buying a car, especially after the dealer slid an impossible number across the table on a sheet of paper. I had no money down, nothing of value to trade in, and I had priced the car online, so this number was not a surprise. I simply wanted to see what the impossible number was, then go to another dealership to test drive a suitcase on four wheels. I just wanted the experience of driving the car I wanted before I had to settle for what reality would allow.
I looked at the impossible number, then back at the dealer. “I cannot do it, unless it’s below this number,” and I told him what payment I could make. He stared at me a moment and I smiled confidently. I was totally prepared to walk away without the Beetle and he knew it. He came back with a couple more numbers, less laughable than the impossible number, but still not below my max number.
After an hour’s worth of wrangling, this man found me a way to drive a new 2012 Beetle on terms I could live with and still eat and have gas to drive it. In fact, it was a team effort. I spoke with several of the people there, picking apart the warranty and features. After we were finished I felt like I’d just arm wrestled my little brother over a pile of Oreos, and if you know my little brother, your arm already feels tired on my behalf.
I sat there a little numb yet about to explode from excitement. I, Sassy, had just purchased my first car, and it was BRAND NEW! When I activated my insurance (which went up very little) the very nice lady on the other end of the line said that the car was so new the VIN numbers hadn’t even hit the database.
The 2012 Beetle is 20 years newer than my last vehicle. Needless to say the gizmos on the dash have advanced quite a bit since the early nineties. I have had to read the manual just to be able to figure out everything this car can do and what all the knobs are for. I can make phone calls through my radio. It does not have GPS or Sirius Satellite or OnStar or any of those bells and whistles, but it does have heated seats (last car had no heat) and a stereo I just finished learning how to use this afternoon. It also has an alarm and one of those keyless entry fobs that beeps when the car is locked.
I went over to Mrs. Walker’s house and took her for a spin around the block and she rejoiced with me. Not only do I have reliable transportation, I am driving a vehicle I actually wanted. And, Mrs. Walker is pretty sure Mr. Walker will fit in the back seat when we go places.
What’s been really fun is watching so many people at work look at the car and tell me they like it, and even more so that “nobody deserves a new ride like you do,” because they’ve seen my two-hubcap deathtrap every morning for the last four years, and seen me roll down my window to let myself out of it.
The best compliment so far was when one of my Danish co-workers said, “A man could drive this Beetle.”
Strangers ask me about the car when I get out of it. People have pulled up beside me in traffic and gawked at my car. I drive through a parking lot and men turn and stare at the car. I’m not a guy who went out and bought a corvette or camaro so other guys would think he was cool for having a cool but impractical car. I do get that appeal now, though, but I just got the car I wanted.
And that was ok.
I decided to name the car, Serenity. Not only was it a ship on a really cool Sci-Fi show that had all sorts of personality and character, it’s a name that describes how I feel when I’m driving the car. I feel Serenity with my choice and my new direction. I also have experienced “fahrvergnugen” first hand (driving pleasure) and know I made a good choice in the vehicle I hope to be driving for the next few years.
My old car, Wynne Dory, is being given to someone who desperately needs a vehicle. I’m thrilled to be able to pay her forward while she still has some miles left in her. I’ve been trying to write down her “quirks” (like having to roll down the window to use the door latch to get out) on a 3×5 card but I’m sure she will figure out most of WD’s idiosyncrasies on her own.