My New Car

I drive a 2001 Subaru Outback. It has 121,000 miles on it and I am the original owner. I bought the car for two reasons. The first is that in late 2000 I worked for a company based in Salt Lake City and you can’t turn a corner in SLC without seeing a Subaru Outback. I made dozens of visits to Salt Lake over a two year period and I guess the thing just grew on me. I saw it as practical-yet-rugged, sporty-yet-humble. Really, I just thought they were cool. (Yes, I recognize I am saying something significant about my definition of “cool”).

The second reason is that in late 2000 my wife and I were hauling our infant son around in a Honda Accord and a Saturn. I drove the Saturn. Nothing wrong with either of those cars but we were ready for something that said “family,” “fun,” and, of course, “cool.” And, there was no way in hell Theresa was going to drive a minivan. (She’s from Portland, after all, the only city in America with more Subaru’s than SLC.) So, it was agreed, she’d keep driving the Honda, I would trade in the Saturn and we’d get a Subaru.

About a month ago, almost 10 years later, I decided I need and/or want a new car. After a recent speaking engagement which I felt had gone very, very well, I encountered someone from the audience as I was getting into my car. And my car was a filthy, disgusting mess. I, dressed in a suit and looking pretty dandy, felt a painful sense of incongruity with my vehicle. We just didn’t go together anymore. We had grown apart and there, under the watchful gaze of someone I was now sure could remember nothing I had said but only how ridiculous I looked next to my car, it was clear we had to part ways.

I rationalized it this way: one of the keys to success is looking like you’re successful even if you’re not. Anyone in sales or real estate knows this. It is ESSENTIAL to invest in the right car, among other things, to create a perception that you are someone who’s made it. Who wants to do business with someone who hasn’t? My goals being what they are, I felt it was time that I look more like “ACHIEVEMENT” and less like “ASPIRATION.” Yes, it’s shallow and, yes, it’s ridiculous AND in this world of utter madness it’s also completely and utterly normal. I just wanted to fit in!

So, I started shopping. A BMW or a Lexus sounded about right. Nothing too flashy and nothing brand new. “Certified Pre-Owned” felt like a reasonable, sensible and thoughtful way to go. Something with about 40,000 miles on it and a couple of years old fit both the budget and my sensibilities. The only thing to do now was to sell the Subaru. Assuming a quick sale, I gave it a good scrub, took a few pictures, posted it on CraigsList and waited.

And, I’m still waiting. A number of inquiries, a number of low-ball offers and one seemingly serious suitor later, I am still the owner of a 2001 Subaru Outback. Yes, I’d really like a new car. That’s what’s true. Forget looking successful, forget any other psychology you can attach to it, I just want one. And, the thing is, I don’t want it that it badly. I’m not going to extreme measures to sell my car. I’m not going to accept less than what it’s worth. And, my worth is not going to be determined by what I drive, by me anyway.

So, I have my “new” car. We’ve reconciled. We’ve agreed to stick it out. It needs a timing belt and a good tune-up. It could really use a deep cleaning and some touch-up paint. The thing is, it’s mine, it’s paid for, and we’re going to keep going down the road together for a little while longer.

© 2010 David Berry

One thought on “My New Car

  1. I think it's a wonderful statement about who you are to maintain your loyalty to this GOOD car. You are being green and saving yourself some money; both of those are positives. I also drive older, paid-for, not so fancy vehicles, and I can relate to your parking lot experience, as I've had many of them. I have two dogs, so typically on top of the fact that my vehicle isn't the latest and greatest, I have remnants of a dog licks and nostril smears on my windows and plenty of dog hair floating around that requires me to always have a roller of tape handy. – Tamara

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