I bought a new car last week and my life has been hell ever since.
Now every parking job is an edgy experience, every short trip a gauntlet fraught with danger, every foray into downtown traffic a nail-biter. I live in a state of constant dread. How long have I got? A week, a month, maybe half a year? How long until I walk out and find my beautiful new ride sporting a horrible scratch left by an anonymous (and now long gone) donor?
It was bad enough to know that the minute I crossed the dealership's threshold that my new car would depreciate by 30 per cent. Then there's all the flak one gets from amateur car experts: "Why would you buy a new car? Why not buy a used one?"
All I can tell them is, "If you have to ask you'll never know."
Winter looms on the horizon and with it the certainty of corroding salt and careless snowplows. A car is new but once and then for only a brief moment. Still, I cling to the fantasy that mine will be the new model that keeps its pristine exterior.
What did I purchase? What automobile is so close to my heart? A 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan - the vehicular equivalent of wearing dark dress socks with sandals - but I don't care. It's mine and it's new. I am doing my bit for the economy. I could buy a hipper ride but, frankly, why bother? I have kids and I know what they are capable of …
And so, I am beset from all sides. On the road, every car is a threat. When I park in a lot, I drive to the furthest, most-deserted corner to find a spot with three spaces on either side. I, who for a decade has parked his car overnight on a busy city street, now shy away from even the most routine parallel park. After all, what if I were to back up a little too far? Meanwhile, the gremlins sit in the back seat, hands sticky, gluey school art crumbling. It's only a matter of time.
I must even fear myself. Each time I buy a takeout coffee the worry that some may spill on the pristine interior overwhelms me. I went online and discovered I'm suffering from OCD (Obsessive Car Devotion) a condition that involves automotive hyper vigilance. Turns out I'm not the only one. I see them all around: the guy parking his BMW at the far corner of the parking garage, the woman leaving four metres on either side.
Experts suggest treating OCD with CBT (Cargnative Behavioural Therapy). This involves testing core beliefs about driving and replacing them with more rational explanations. I took a shot.
Core Belief: Everyone is out to destroy my new car.
Evidence Supporting Core Belief: Our poorly maintained roads are jammed with the malicious, the incompetent, the stupid, the energetic, and the stupid and energetic. If I can go a month without a scratch I should be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Evidence Against Core Belief: A few years ago a guy once let me merge into his lane when he didn't have to.
Balanced Thought: I should lock my car in the garage and never drive it. Otherwise, all bets are off.
That's an option. Some drivers put their beloveds away and take them out when the streets are empty. I could be like Cameron's dad and keep my car in a glass-walled garage, but even that wouldn't work. His buddy Ferris would come over and I'd find my Grand Caravan in a ravine.
Perhaps it's best to accept the transient nature of new cars. After all, a flower is beautiful because it decays, because it withers and fades away. So too, for the new car. Maybe dealerships should offer a package in which they apply the first dent (at a location of your choosing). At least this would eliminate the waiting.
In the meantime, I'll employ the Five Stages of New Car Ownership.
Denial: "If I am careful enough and only drive on quiet streets between 3 and 5 a.m. then I can keep my car in mint condition."
Anger: "Bastards! They can see I have a new car. They're trying to hit me. They can't stand for me to have anything nice. Well, come and get me!"
Bargaining: "By me, I meant anyone but me."
Depression: "I keep two bullets: one for me and one for the car."
Acceptance: "Time to buy a new car."