G and I had this ambitious plan to work a full day yesterday, meet back at the apartment, hop into the car and drive to Weymouth, Massachusetts for a New Year's Eve party. 'Cause we're fun, crazy kids like that!
Then, yesterday, at around 9am, the snow started falling. Not a blizzard, just a beautiful, steady, white rain. I had only been in the office for a half-hour and I just knew I wasn't going to be there much longer. I ended my day after 90 minutes of work. Teeniest paycheck ever.
Two weeks ago, we had a much worse snowfall up here in "New York's Backyard". The sky was dark charcoal grey, and the rest of the world wasn't much lighter. The snow crashed down on us, a storm of cold wet annoyance. Mother Nature seemed to be saying How DARE you work today? LEAVE NOW!!
I was stupid that day, and stayed until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I had mountains of work to do - like all the other idiots in my office who were there with me - and I knew I wouldn't be back to finish it for over a week. However, unlike most of my colleagues, I don't drive an SUV or other such snow-friendly vehicle. I had my husband's Chrysler Sebring convertible that day.
My 1994 Buick LeSabre Custom Edition (Red! With Dynaride suspension!) has finally reached the end of its life. Last November, my brakes went out at 8:45 PM as I was pulling out of a parking lot in Elmsford. I felt it with my foot - a sort of "pop" under my feet, and a loss of resistance in the pedal.
I recognized it because this happened once before, about two years ago. Back then, I didn't know what was happening. I only knew that for some reason it took longer to come to a stop, and that I had to push the brake pedal to the floor. But hey, this is an old car, I thought to myself, maybe this is normal. I drove around like that for days, in complete ignorance. Finally something caused me to mention it to G. He took the car out for a spin, came back into the apartment and said "That car is dangerous! You are not driving that. You will take my car until this is fixed." Oops... lesson learned.
In the last few years, I am astonished at how much I have learned about cars, mostly the hard way.
So, when this happened in November, I instantly knew what was going on. Since I had been able to drive around for days with shot brakes the last time, I thought I could just drive home, and tell G when I got there. Nope. The minute I pulled onto I-287, the light came on the dashboard and the alarm DING DING DING DING DING DINGed at me. My insides went numb. DING DING DING DING I pulled onto the shoulder. DING DING DING I dialed 911. Thank goddess there there's a breakdown lane I thought to myself. DING DING DING it went, throughout the entire 911 call, while I argued with the man on the line who seemed to think I didn't know what road I was on. "You're on 87, not 287 ma'am, 287's just a service road." DING DING DING DING DING "I don't want to split hairs with you, call it what you like, I'm approaching the Tappan Zee, a few feet before the Tarrytown exit!" I hollered into the phone. DING DING DING DING. asshole, I fucking live here.
After I completed the 911 call, I called G.
"Where exactly are you?" he asked.
"I'm sitting in the breakdown lane on 287, right before the Tarrytown exit," I explained. "I have the flashers on. There's not much traffic. All the traffic is two lanes away from me," I tried to say comfortingly.
"Stay in the car. I'm coming to get you."
"Are you nuts?" I said. "The tow truck is on it's way! What are you going to do, sit there behind me?"
He argued a bit, G-d bless him. He's a rescuer. But I managed to convince him that it would be better if he picked me up at the tow yard.
I was rather proud of myself. This is the third time I've been towed off the road in one year, and while it's always a frightening situation, I haven't once panicked. I simply make the phone call and let the emergency services take care of me. I have Triple-A, and a credit card for the tow. I've never felt that my life was in danger, it's really more of an inconvenience than anything else. Dealing with GEICO after the fact is far more upsetting.
It was determined that my right rear brake line, after years of exposure to heat, cold, rock salt, and other such environmental stresses, has simply disintegrated. Our local repairmen replaced it, and the car now brakes fine.
Unfortunately, it doesn't run fine. The transmission has become sluggish. There are some other issues that G has noticed, but that I don't fully understand, so G declared that from now on, I will no longer drive my Buick. Big Red is now G's commuting vehicle, suitable only for the short milk-run between our home and the Nanuet train station, about a 10-minute trip.
This leaves me driving his rather lightweight Sebring convertible to and from work every day.
He doesn't have snow tires.
It's the Friday before Christmas, and here I am, driving 15 to 20 miles an hour on the highway from White Plains, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, in a blizzard. With, I might add, no rear visibility at all. For some reason, snow accumulates on the rear window of the Sebring as though it were a flat surface. I clear off that car, roof and all, as snow-free as possible, but if there's precipitation, the rear window becomes snow-covered in minutes. The rear defogger does nothing for that. So here I am in this stupid summer car, lights ablaze, crawling along the highways in a blizzard, at the mercy of my fellow drivers, with my rear window covered in snow. I avoided changing lanes as much as possible.
Now, being at the mercy of New York drivers is never a place one wants to be. But on that day, when I was the only person on the road NOT in an SUV or a truck, the New Yorkers surprised me. Hardly anyone was on the road at all - the first sign of intelligence in my community. Those that were, drove sensibly, safely, even considerately. Nobody hot-dogged it at 60 mph, plowing through the snow in a false sense of security, as I have seen people do every winter. Instead, on this day, everyone drove slowly. Everyone used turn signals - and put them on a good number of seconds BEFORE beginning their lane change. Everyone was watching everyone else.
The one time I was forced to change lanes (to avoid being slotted onto the Taconic), I put my turn signal on way in advance, and the guy behind me gently beeped his horn to let me know someone was there. Not an obnoxious "Watch it bitch" blast, just a friendly "I know you can't see me" toot. I slowed down to a snail's pace, and I had all the room I needed. I was able to use my side mirrors and swivel my body around to see in my blind spots, and carefully move where I needed to. There was so little traffic on the road, nobody was pissed off. My few fellow drivers gave me the space I needed.
I was so proud of my neighbors. I felt so blessed. I felt surrounded by friends.
I plodded onto the Tappan Zee, which looked like a road into nothingness, disappearing into the grey fog. That bridge could have been out and we'd never know. Talk about trust. We all just crept along together, me and about 10 SUV's, a snowplow and a Fed-Ex truck. And eventually, out of the fog, Rockland County appeared.
And I was home.
Even when I pulled into my driveway, I couldn't tell where the line markings were for the parking spot. I had to approximate, and hope that I wasn't straddling two spaces, for the sake of my neighbors.
When G arrived home that evening, I told him "I'm ready to get a new car now."
In November, when it became unavoidable fact that we were going to have to get a new car, I wasn't the least bit happy about it. We're planning to move to Westchester in April - moving expenses to plan for. I recently had gum surgery, and our insurance company is still deciding whether or not to reimburse anything - over two grand we just shucked out. The holidays were coming up, with all their related expenses. And I was expecting my temp job to end shortly after the new year, bye-bye additional income stream. And now we have to get a car.
I did a lot of research into automobiles, and was pleased at what I discovered. G and I established a price ceiling, and there are plenty of cars I liked that fit nicely under it. It was simply a matter of comparing features and choosing the best package for our money. That was actually fun. I had several options that I just loved.
The more people I spoke with about my adventure into car shopping, the more I learned about people and cars:
1) Everyone has an opinion, and a strong one, about what constitutes a "good" car. Some people think everyone who doesn't drive a Honda is a complete moron. Others are completely price-oriented and will pressure you to purchase pre-owned, or a Hyundai. Some think anyone who buys a pre-owned must either be poor as dirt, a mechanic, or too stupid to know better than to buy something someone else has discarded. Others say anyone who pays full price for a new car is a pretentious spendthrift, when there are plenty of perfectly good used cars to be had.
2) Everyone wants to you buy whatever they are driving. My neighbor drives a Subaru Legacy and seemed hell-bent on getting me to say I would test-drive one, practically standing behind our car to prevent us from driving away until he heard those magical words. The Honda drivers I know (not all, but most) are goddamn fanatics. The very idea that any other car is worth consideration sends them into a tizzy, ticking off all the glorious attributes of the Honda, low price, fuel efficiency, safety ratings, etc. They have this obsession with making sure the whole world knows their car is the best and EVERYONE should drive one!!
3) Everyone who knows I'm a newlywed starts in with the "oh, you don't want THAT car - you'll never get a child safety seat in there!" And then starts lecturing me on child car safety. They clearly assume that I haven't done any research. Or that I'm just a moron. Or that I'm immature and irresponsible. Even single people who have NEVER HAD A CHILD are doing this to me.
4) Nobody cares about my research, or what I want. Whatever I might say about cars that isn't what they told me, they will ARGUE. Vehemently. There is no respect at all. I can only assume that people are living vicariously through me, and that my car purchase is, in their minds, their car, and they are damned sure I'm going to get what they want... or at least they're going to get me to SAY I will.
I'm 37 years old and have never purchased a car. My first car was the Buick, and it was my Mom's old car. Mom and Dad just gave it to me. So I guess, on top of everything else, people figure since I've never done this before, I must be desperately in need of their advice.
People who give unsolicited advice have always pissed me off. Since I decided to buy a car, I'm getting more of it from all sides than I ever imagined.
I have therefore stopped mentioning it to almost everyone.
When I was in Illinois, I informed my parents that G and I would be making some test drives, and that we had already narrowed down our choices. We did not tell them what our criteria for purchase was, and they were respectful enough not to ask. They were wonderful about it. They helped us locate dealerships in our area, and they asked if I'd be interested in a pre-owned, since we have a family connection with a pre-owned dealer who has a decades-long excellent reputation and track record. My parents have bought several cars from him over the years, and been very happy. But the point is, they didn't say "You should buy a pre-owned," they asked if we were interested. They treated us like adults who were capable of making this decision for ourselves.
We love them.
At this point, G and I have made our decision. We've narrowed our options down to something in our price range, with excellent safety ratings, fuel efficiency, and reliability ratings. I know I can get a rear-facing car seat in the back. I've even found several "Mommy groups" that rave about this car. I'm confident that we're making the right purchase for us.
Unfortunately, we are having a hard time finding a dealership that's open when we are available. So, it may be a little while before I get my car. G says that's ok, Big Red will get him to and from the train station for awhile longer.
And I don't have to worry about driving the Sebring in any more blizzards for awhile. When I returned to work last week, I was informed that next week will be my last week at my temp assignment. As of 5pm December 9th, my 16-month temp assignment will be over. (that deserves a post of its own.) So, unless we get another horrible downpour next week (which would SUCK since I want to get paid for as many hours as possible), one more week of driving the Sebring back and forth over the bridge isn't so bad.
I'm actually starting to get excited about having my own car. Not just any car. My car. My choice, according to my specifications, based on my needs and my wants.
Part of the reason I loved living in Manhattan is because I hated driving and never wanted to own a car. But after almost four years in Rockland County, I'm used to driving. Since 2006, when we got the Garmin, I've actually become more confident, tooling all over Westchester county for social gatherings. Now the prospect of not only having my own car, but knowing I've had the freedom to comparison shop and choose exactly what I want... this isn't so bad. I think I'm going to like this.
I may learn to truly enjoy driving after all.
G certainly hopes so.