When friends see -- or experience -- my 10-year-old, dirty, dented SUV without an MP3 auxiliary jack or a built-in TV screen, they often ask, "When are you going to get a new car??!" I usually say, "When this one dies." But then, for a moment, I picture a brand new steering wheel in my hands and a car that doesn't smell like sweaty sneakers and leftover pizza. I think, for a moment, that it would be awfully nice if Grandma didn't have to ask for a towel before she dared sit down on a seat, and if I didn't have to worry about burning my legs on the exposed seat-warmer wires. But then I think about all of the things I would have to give up if I got a new car:
1. Money. Our car is completely paid off. We spend money on repairs, but nowhere near as much we would spend to rent or buy a new (or used) one. It is nice to have money.
2. Food in the car. When you have kids, snacks can save your sanity, especially on long road trips. Let's say a Cheez-It bag explodes, sending orange crackers flying into every crack and crevice. No big deal; the orange crumbs just blend into the scenery. Or maybe I make a sudden left turn and someone's blue Gatorade splashes onto the carpet. C'est la vie. The blue raspberry scent might even be an improvement.
3. Grace and kindness. As it is, I am one of the most forgiving drivers you know. The last time someone drove too close to me, scraped the side of my car,= and hit my mirror, I just shrugged, smiled, and said, "It's your lucky day! I can't tell if you did any damage. Have a good one."
4. Less stress. When you have three boys with dirty feet and dirty cleats, you are almost guaranteed to have dirty seats and a dirty floor. Also... kids vomit. Kids sneeze. Kids do gross things. I don't want clean car anxiety to give me an aneurism. I don't want to spend my life armed with a dust buster, freaking out about cookie crumbs.
5. Sympathy. Car technicians are almost apologetic when they suggest repairs. They probably remember sitting on those exposed butt-warmer wires when they drove my car into their garage and assume I am flat broke. So they tend to avoid my eyes when they mumble, "Well, you need a brand new carburetor... (and then they look up) BUT, I think I can get you a deal."
6. Privacy. Slick, aggressive car wash salespeople give up and leave me alone as soon as I roll down my window. Even they can tell that their "Supreme Royal Treatment" extensive detailing will not make any difference in the way my car looks or smells. I say, "basic wash, please" and they are relieved that they won't have to touch much of my car.
7. Generosity. I provide an opportunity for other parents to feel better about themselves. When a kid's mother opens my car door for her child, sees the crumbs on the seat, the trampled backpack and five pairs of sandals on the floor, she can think to herself, "OMG! What a mess! At least my car looks better than this. I am doing something right in life!" I'm a traveling ego-booster.
Someday I will be forced to buy a new (used) car and give up all of these benefits. But for now, I will just buy a car seat cover for $19.95, listen to FM radio, use a $99 DVD player to entertain the boys on road trips and drive this sanity-saving, dented-up mess until it finally gives out. (Sorry, Grandma! We promise to always provide you with a towel.)