Thursday, October 12, 2006

Car talk

Rita Rudner has a joke where she describes the difference between men’s and women’s attitudes about cars. “What kind of car do you have, sir?” she’ll ask a man in the audience.

“A Mazda 626,” he’ll reply.

“Now ask me what kind of car I have,” she’ll say, and when he does, she responds, “A white one.”

That may be a sweeping generalization, but nevertheless basically sums up my own attitude towards cars. When I was in college, my aunt gave me her old car when she bought a new one. I’m better than Rita Rudner, because I at least knew that it was a beige 1990 Chevy Cavalier, but that was about all I could tell you about it. It ran, and I was satisfied.

Brother-in-law #1, however, is about as car guy as they come, and every time I came home for a visit, he would ask, “So how’s your car?”

I was never quite sure how to respond to this question. “Uh, fine?” I would usually say. “It got me here.”

But I don’t think that was the sort of answer he was looking for. I think he wanted me to say something like, “Well, the timing belt seems stable but I think it may be on its way out. The carburetor, on the other hand, is in great shape. I just took a look at it the other day.” Sadly for Brother-in-law #1, he would never hear anything like that from me. “It runs,” was the best he’d ever get.

After I started my first job post grad school, I bought my first ever new car (and second ever car, actually, since I actually sold the Cavalier to Big Sister #1 and Brother-in-law #1 my second year of grad school and then did without). I bought a new one, a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid. I had been waiting on tenterhooks to get my hands on a hybrid vehicle since I first heard about them as concept vehicles in 1999, so I was pretty excited to have the chance to actually buy one. But, other than the fact that it’s a hybrid, to me it’s just a car. Handy for getting me around, but that’s about it.

Which is why I got flummoxed every time my mother-in-law asks me, “So how’s your car? Do you love it?”

Love it? I love that it gets 50 mpg*, yes. I love that it has almost zero emissions, yes. And I am pretty pleased with its reliability; it is, after all, a Honda. But do I love the car itself? No. It’s a car. What’s to love?

I will say, however, that my life is much easier because I do not love my car. For example, when I scraped up the bumper trying to pull into a tight parking spot, my reaction was pretty much, “Eh. That’s what bumpers are for.” My father-in-law, on the other hand, saw that scrape several months after the fact and his eyes widened in shock. “Does she know about this scratch?” he said to The Husband, in the hushed, horrified tone that one might use to ask, “Does she know she has cancer?”

I don’t know. Maybe, if I weren’t so eminently practical and could buy a really hot sports car, I would feel differently. But it’s hard to get worked up about a Honda Civic.

And anyway, I’d rather spend my sports-car money on something more fun, like shoes.

*I do not lie. 50 mpg. Jealous?


Anonymous said...

I am very jealous of your 50mpg. The minivan has been one of the best purchases we ever made (family and all), but the 15 mpg is terrible. It is supposed to be getting better than 15, but not a whole lot better.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I am jealous. Totally.

But that car wouldn't fit my family, so I will wait. Someday I will drive a car that doesn't need gas. Maybe.

at least it won't still be a minivan. I love my minivan because it's big enough to contain my family and all the stuff we haul from place to place. But still... 50 mpg? that would be nice.

Doktah said...

Did it really have a carburetor versus a fuel injector?

Also, my husband and I both walk to work everyday so we will fill up the car's 8 gallon tank about once every month and a half. We only get 25 mpg, but we get 6 days per gallon.

Dr. Maureen said...

That's exactly the sort of thing I don't know. As I was writing the entry, I had the fleeting thought that perhaps I had heard cars no longer have carburetors. But I don't know.

And yes, you win on the gas conservation, but I work 50 miles from home. Which, yes, is my choice, blah blah, but The Husband works 25 miles in the opposite direction, and you can't always live within walking distance of work.

Doktah said...

I'm fine with that. (and I know I'm going to get the nasty replies with this one) But I have a colleague, and he and his wife both work within 1 mile of each other and they commute in 45 miles... separately. They just love to have a big house in the suburbs. Then they have the audacity to complain about gas prices. Americans!

Dr. Maureen said...

It is somewhat unacceptable that they commute separately. They can't work that out? Really?