My father said I should think about buying a new car. My current one was seven years old, and according to dad that was old enough. However, my current car was the first car I had actually paid for with “my own money” and I had never envisioned getting rid of a perfectly drivable vehicle. Prior to this car, dad had provided us with what he called “kid cars” – old clunkers that got passed from sibling to sibling until they eventually died.
But he was right. I bought this car when I was 23. It’s time had come. But like many Renaissance Souls I was overwhelmed with all the options. Do you have any idea how many types of cars there are out there?
At first, I was practical. I didn’t want a gas guzzler, so trucks and SUV’s were crossed off the list. I didn’t want anything too expensive, so I eliminated those fancy cars. I knew friends that had some bad experiences with certain makes, so those were out. However, I still had a large list.
Then I recalled a trip I took with two girlfriends a few years back. We all met up in Miami, rented a convertible, and drove it to and around the Florida Keys for a week. It cost extra if we told the rental agency that all three of us were going to drive it. So we just didn’t tell them. But we all got to try it out, and I thought it was fabulous.
What about a convertible, I thought. My heart jumped in with one word, “Perfect!” I tested the idea out on a few friends and some relatives who knew cars and got some suggestions. Then I did what any non-married Italian girl would do – I consulted with dad.
“Impractical,” he said. “Why would you want a convertible?”
The only answer I could come up with was just because it would be fun.
“And what are you going to drive in the winter?” he asked.
“Convertibles can be driven in the winter!” I argued.
“You should get something more practical. Like your sisters. Get a Honda. Nothing ever goes wrong with them.”
The logical part of me said, “Your dad knows a lot about everything. Including cars. He’s right. Practical is the way to go.” So I pushed aside my heart telling me to get a convertible and started to think about a Honda.
I debated between the two options for months. I even called the guys at Car Talk and left a message asking if I should go with a practical Honda or an impracticable Beetle convertible. They didn’t call me back. But I knew what they’d say. It was the same thing my heart was telling me. “You’re thirty. You have no kids to haul around. Why not?”
I realized that for my father a convertible was impractical. The man carries more junk in his vehicles than could fit in a convertible. Papers would be flying out of the car as he drove down the road. And you can’t fit a couch in the back of a convertible. Between his five children moving and his wife’s love of finding antique furniture when they’re on road trips, he needs a car that can fit a couch. That’s why mom has a Honda Odyssey even though her youngest child is 24. And that’s why dad drives a Chevy Silverado.
I also realized that, though I liked to have his support, I really didn’t need it. I was the one that was going to pay for it and drive it and going to live with the consequences if I made the wrong decision.
My mother had listened quietly to the debates between me and my father. One day when dad wasn’t around and we were looking for something to do she asked, “Why don’t we drive down to the VW dealership?”
“Sure,” I said. In all of this debate about cars, I had yet to actual test drive a single one. However, the whole concept of a test-drive is a little odd to me. You get in the car and drive it around for a few miles. And that’s supposed to tell you if you like it?
Well, mom and I drove down and did our test drive. A car is a car. I wasn’t buying it for its “smooth handling” or “anti-lock brakes” or whatever else they say on car commercials. I was buying it so I could put the top down! It’s true I could have test driven other convertibles, but the fact is I wanted a cute one – not a sporty looking one. And everyone knows that the Beetle is just about the cutest convertible there is.
The sales guy quoted us a price. I said I knew nothing about prices, but I’d consult with dad. Back at home, dad couldn’t believe the price I quoted him. “No – can’t be,” he stated simply. “It’s last years model, they’re trying to get it out of the showroom,” I explained. “Well, I’ll just have to go down there with you and talk to the guy. They wouldn’t sell it for that.”
As dad and I drove down to the dealership later that week, he told me to let him do all the talking. One day, I know, I will have to buy a car without my father around. But while he’s still here, I’ll watch and learn. As I was showing dad the car, the kind sales guy from earlier in the week came out to talk to us. I introduced them and dad hardly even greeted the guy. “I understand you quoted my daughter a price on a car yesterday,” my father boomed, his arms folded, his head held high. “Yes, sir, I did,” the sales guy replied. “What was that price?” dad asked. The sales guy told him the same price he’d told me and mom. Dad didn’t let on his surprise that I was right. In fact, he started negotiating lower!
And an hour later I was the owner of a Beetle convertible.
I might also note that every time I pull into mom and dad’s with the top down, dad says, “Man am I jealous.” “It’s so impractical, though,” I’ll mimic. “Yeah,” he says, “but that’s one cute car.” With the excitement of a child asking for a trip to the ice cream store, he asks if he can drive it to run errands while I visit with mom. I’ve even been woken up on Saturday mornings with a call from dad: “It’s gorgeous out there – do you have your top down?” “I’m not even out of bed yet,” I’ll reply. Some days I wonder who’s more excited about the car – me or my dad.