I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my mom’s car. The building that houses her foot doctor is just beyond the bumper and she’s inside having her stitches examined. My purse sits on the floor, the top unzipped and items scattered throughout. An issue of Travel & Leisure is spread across my lap. After I read an article about Southern France, I lean my head back and let the sunlight pouring through the sunroof beat upon my face. Then I close my eyes and pretend I’m sitting in a slatted chair on the Nice Promenade.
“Look, PJ!” my mom exclaims as she climbs into the front seat.
“Your boot is off!” I say as I open my eyes and adjust them to the light.
“Yup! I can drive again. Amen!”
“Oh yeah, a-the-fuck-men,” I mumble as I turn the key and steer the car out to the street.
Three weeks ago, Papa Sven died. Or he didn’t technically die. He simply sucked through four gallons of coolant in twelve hours. It all came to a head 40 miles from home, at nine o’clock in the evening, after an OBGYN appointment. Because New Jersey and a pelvic exam aren’t painful enough on their own. Since my mom couldn’t drive due to a busted foot, I abondoned Papa Sven and temporarily adopted her car.
And yes, I know this coolant problem, a leak somewhere in the line, is a fixable issue. So is the sunroof that doesn’t close, the trunk that doesn’t open and the broken filter fan thingy that trips the engine light. It’s just that the cost of fixing Papa Sven has now broken the $3,000 mark. And that’s assuming nothing else goes wrong. Seeing I have only owned the car for five months and already spent close to $2,500 on repairs, those are pretty obvious odds, no?
A week after I offered sexual favors to a Nepalese man at a gas station on Route 70 in exchange for assistance with refilling my coolant, I test drove the Audi A4. It was a bold move seeing I’ve cursed the brand since my youth. For twenty years, that’s all my dad drove. And without fail, there was always a window that was either stuck up or stuck down. The malfunction also typically occurred 500 miles away from home and on a very rainy day. It got to the point my dad kept a spare roll of electrical tape in his trunk. My favorite malfunction was the door that, since the inside handle didn’t work, required lowering the window to reach around for the exterior handle. Except, when that window got stuck in the up position, you had to start exiting on the other side of the car altogether.
Anyway, after dealing with the rapid deterioration of Papa Sven, a seven year old car with less than 40,000 miles, I crossed Saab off the list. My first car, a 1989 Honda coupe, never steered straight. My Acura Vigor was overpowered and underweight, sliding across lanes at minimal speeds. My Jeeps, yes, I had two, sucked gas faster than a frat boy doing a keg stand. My Nissan Altima, while reliable, felt hollow like a tin can. And since I’ve been driving an E-Class for the last three weeks, everything I can afford drives like Spam on wheels.
“You look beat,” my dad said as I collapsed in the chair across from his desk.
“I just spent an hour haggling over the price for a car I think I want.”
“PJ, the Audi’s got a great look. And you raved about the way it drove.”
“It did stop on a dime and rip through turns. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll borrow Michael’s '96 Avalon. He said I could. Since his kids are all out of the house, it’s sitting unused in his driveway.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Car leases make me want to barf.”
“Just get the Audi and be done with it.”
“I don’t even know what color I want. Dad, I test drove it in the dark.”
“You get that from me. On the way back from our appointment we’ll drive through the dealership and you can always borrow my car,” my dad said with a chuckle, knowing full well I’d rather take the bus than maneuver his Edge, a car that has so many blind spots I feel like Helen Keller at the wheel.
After a three hour appointment, I steered my mom’s car onto the Audi lot.
“Is that it?” my dad asked as I pulled parallel to a metallic silver A4.
I just looked through the window.
“Can you take me Saturday to pick it up?”
PS: An hour after finishing this post, my mother came bounding into the office.
“PJ!” she excitedly sang. “I have a C-Class loaner and this is what you need to get. I've gotta run home to meet the heater guy but I'm coming back so you can take it for a few laps around the neighborhood. You're going to LOVE it!” she trilled.
As soon as I heard the back door clicked close, I intercommed Michael and asked him how much he wants for the Avalon.