A lot of people say, “You are what you eat.” I say, “You feel like what you drive.”
Last week was pretty bad. In comparison to really bad things that can happen in a blink of an eye, not bad at all. In comparison to a normal week, oh it was bad.
Monday started out with a car accident. I was pulling out of our parking area, needing to turn left to head west. It seemed like I would never find a clearing. Then, all three lanes of traffic stopped for me, to usher me through as they waited at a red light. We all take advantage of scenarios like this. DON’T. I made my way to the center lane and started to turn left into my westbound lane and BOOM. A small SUV decided he didn’t want to wait for the ushering vehicles, so he pulled away and started driving fast in the center lane when he hit me. He hit the driver’s side, denting the fender under my headlight and scratching and denting my door. I can barely open my door now. We pulled over and he stayed in his car. Didn’t bother to see if I was okay, so I went over and asked him if he was. He was fine, so I called the police for a report. Policewoman I’m Bored to Death With You filed the report, but could not write a citation or take enforcement action because there was no evidence of where he was coming from. What she does know is I was coming out of a parking area. I was at fault.
Tuesday I took my wrecked car to get it re-registered. I was directed to take my car for an emissions test, which I failed. I was given a list of codes that needed correcting.
Friday came, and as I was leaving a meeting, I felt an all too familiar feeling pulling out. My front passenger tire was completely flat. I called a tire guy, who in just 35 minutes time sent my rescuer who came in the form of a man who looked like a biker and smelled like sweet tobacco. He patched my tire. I thanked him for his rescue. That afternoon I became a AAA member.
Next morning, I went to the nearest AAA in Peoria. I needed three repairs for emissions, my front blinker bulb replaced and a possible replacement of my serpentine belt, as my car sounded like it was being run by a band of crickets. I was charged over $100 for the diagnostic, $39 so they could listen to my belt (meaning they charged me for driving in a circle around the parking lot), and $35 for the bulb. Futher tests were needed, but all said and done, I was presented with an estimate that could be anywhere from $1000 to $1700. So, after 3 1/2 hours of waiting, I took their estimate to a local car guy.
Local car guy was astonished at how much they were charging me and even questioned their validity. He did his diagnostic and found that I was initially misdiagnosed. All correct repairs done at his shop were still expensive and came in at $712, but better pay less for the right job then more for parts and labor not needed. In total, I was in car repair lobbies for nine hours. My car, outside of body work and re-registration, is in fine order.
It’s funny, the way we view our vehicles. A lot of men and all “car guys” feel their vehicle is a reflection of themselves. If it runs smoothly, looks good, performs better than other makes and models, then a man has his life in order. He is smart – can decipher mechanics and machinery and the engineering behind them. He is able – can diagnose problems, find solutions and execute their solution. If his car is well, he is well. He successfully steps up to the stereotypically male role of provider and protector.
For most women, cars don’t hold that symbolism. They hold another kind. I can speak for myself, myself only. Knowing that automobiles and their maintenance are largely a male domain, maintaining my car is a reflection of how I can support myself, in short, If I can take care of my car, I can take care of myself. It is a sign of independence, to take care of your car without Dad or Boyfriend. Granted, I do the bare minimum for my car. I do not take particular pride in it. In fact, at this point, I truly hate my car. I appreciate that it gets me from place to place, but I often fantasize of throwing it into the Grand Canyon and watching it fall. Even if my car was different – newer or environmentally friendly, or more of a classic, I would take some pride in my vehicle, but not when it’s in the shop. A sick car shows that I wasn’t taking care. I needed Dad or Boyfriend. I didn’t do it myself. The maintanence of a car is not a reflection of how well I fit into a role, but how well I can break out of it. My car reflects my independence.
I admire women who know their way around a car and know what to do when the car shows symptoms. I hope to one day be one of them. Or at least established enough financially and smart enough from experience that I can take my car into a mechanic who will give me the best deal and make the repairs. Right now, I feel bloody and beaten. You can tell. Just look at my car.
4 thoughts on “My Car, My Self”
I have a very complicated relationship with my car and driving, so I had some extra enjoyment of this essay.
My driving is most definitely lumped in here. I feel like such a fool after accidents! Even if it wasn’t my fault. Bah. Oh, and I haven’t been able to park straight in two weeks! What’s up with that? 😉 I take comfort in knowing my friends go through the same thing. One of my all time favorite stories was my first fender bender (no fenders were actually bent mind you), but I had just gotten my permit (I was 14) and backed into a parked car in the movie theater parking lot w ith my friends. I was so scared and felt stupid! No damage whatsoever done, so I went home and told Mom and Dad. I wasn’t allowed to drive for a bit, so Mom drove me and my friends to the theater and we were walking in when we heard “Boom, scrape.” Mom had hit and dragged a small truck with her conversion van! The parking lot security were with her immediately. Oh, man that was GREAT! Validation!
Wow! All of that stinks! But I don’t think it’s a reflection of your independence. Everyone has car issues, no matter how much they take care of their vehicles. And at least you showed the shrewdness to say, “No thank you. I will take my business elsewhere and not pay that ridiculous amount.” Mostly props to you for just surviving your week.
Oh, yes, I am in agreement! Everyone has car troubles, but the more proactive an owner is in preventing and immediately attending to them, the less they seem to rain down on you. And I’m raining car troubles! Also, I want to note that I not mean to imply that your car is the only reflection of independence – far from it! But as one of a person’s most expensive and necessary assets, it does serve as one. (Necessary is also my opinion. Because of where I live and how often I must drive and how far, public transportation, walking and biking is out of the question for me.) Thanks, Amy! I will take your comment as a point well made – a shrewd and surviving car repair junkie earns their feeling of independence in cases like this. And this spirit will lead to a fixed car (circling back to my point).