I can envision one scenario – and one scenario only – in which purchasing a car would not be the most unpleasant chore of adulthood.
[Phone Volvo Dealership.]
‘Hi, can I help you?’
‘Yes, I would like the 2012 XC90 in Electric Silver with Calcite Leather interior.’
‘That will be $58,540.’
‘Great, I will stop by this afternoon with a cheque.’
Short of having 60 grand at your disposal to buy the car you really like without having to worry about bourgeois concepts like depreciation, or monthly payments that would cover the cost of a house in many parts of the world, car shopping….sucks. The life out of you.
We are on day five of ‘the quest’ (though it feels like day fifty) and I am almost at the point of purchasing a Smart Car and and leaving everyone else at home. All of the time.
We began last Saturday. With Ian and a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SE. It was a fine automobile, except for the overwhelming awareness that I was riding in the cheapest minivan on the market. The seats slash upholstery felt like those foam flotation devices I once used when I was learning to swim. Did the black nylon-ness look easy to clean? Bien sur. But there was no denying my derriere felt like it was perched upon some sort of barrier, rather than a seat.
I tried to imagine driving the van for 10 years. I could not. Next!
We met Eric and his assortment of Honda Odysseys. ‘What made you interested in the Odyssey?’ he asked. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this was his subtle way of steering me away from the ubiquitous minivan. Instead I said ‘because it has a reasonable reputation?’ Question mark. In the off-chance I had misheard all the minivan owners raving about their Odysseys. Despite his title, Eric didn’t seem particularly interested in selling us a van. Either that, or he really wanted to leave work at 6pm and didn’t want a potential sale getting in the way of that.
And then there was Doug and the 2012 Chevy Orlando. It’s probably just me, but thanks to Weeds, I imagine older men named Doug must be laidback drug dealers. As for his ‘product’…well, I only agreed to test the car as a concession to my minivan-loathing spouse, who’d made up his mind – sight unseen – that he wanted the Orlando.
Weird fact: The Orlando is only sold in Canada. There may be a perfectly plausible reason for this (something about airbags) but all I can think is: ‘if it’s not good enough for Ah-mur-ica, why are we even looking at it?!’
We went for a test drive and I hopped in the back with young Percy. There was one inch (or three) between the top of my head and the car ceiling. And the black synthetic upholstery was eerily reminiscent of the Dodge Caravan’s upholstery.
Seriously, car focus groups, are we so obsessed with cupholders and stain removal that we are willing to entirely forgo a small detail called ‘comfort’?
Doug took us on a lengthy loop around the northwestern part of the city, so we could experience all of the ‘significant’ hills. Or, rather, the Orlando’s remarkable non minivan-esque response to said ‘significant’ hills. I struggled to suppress a giggle each time he said ‘and here’s another significant hill,’ but I failed – utterly – at stifling my laughter when he started demonstrating the bluetooth function.
‘Would you like to place a call, say yes or no,’ the bluetooth voice barked. And Percy responded to this ‘personal’ invitation by yelling ‘No!’ Repeatedly. So Doug is saying ‘Yes!’ and Percy is saying ‘No!’ and all I can think is ‘get me out of this coffin.’
And then we stopped at the Volvo dealer to look at a used XC90, where we met Patrick who, I should say, was the best salesman of the lot. He tried sitting in the back beside Percy, but the three year old had buckled his special pillowcase in its own seat. ‘You can’t sit there, that’s for my ba!’ Percy refused. We convinced him to put his special pillowcase in the CD compartment so young Patrick could have a seat of his own, and entertain the boys by playing thumb wrestling or whatnot, while the professor and I tried to figure out if the car made funny sounds. It didn’t, really, but it had high mileage, and had been in an accident or three. And some of the doors didn’t seem super enthused about opening and closing. ‘That was the best test drive I ever had,’ Patrick declared and we concurred, even if we had to get back in our rusty, smelly, combustible Venture at the end of it all.
And then we got desperate and looked at a used navy blue Dodge Caravan that had in its favor one thing: price. We raced to the dealer in the northwest and took the underwhelming, featureless van for a test drive. I was in the driver’s seat, because the professor refused to actually drive the thing.
The Gort approved because he had plenty of ‘cubbies’ in the back along with two cupholders – just for him. I, on the other hand, had a broken cupholder. And the steering wheel was so thin, I could have steered the car using my pinkies and the gearshift was as thick as a pencil. [I realize there may not be a correlation between thickness of steering wheel/gearshift and sturdiness of car, but…..]
Nonetheless, I was able to overcome all of these aesthetic challenges and talk myself into accepting the old Dodge Caravan, until I looked to my right. There sat my husband with his hand covering his nose and mouth.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Nothing. It’s fine.’
‘No, it’s not fine, what are you doing?’
‘If I have to be in this car for ten more seconds I’m going to puke.’
Yes, apparently professor-bloodhound [the same man who was all ‘what do you mean, our Venture smells like gasoline?] had detected a nano-whiff of dog smell and was unable to cope. [The same man who wants to get a dog – regularly broaches the issue of acquiring a dog – was freaking out because the car smelled of dog.]
And so the fifth day ended and we still didn’t have a car.