what a crappy car taught me about crappy people

Not mine, but just like it.

Not mine, but just like it.

When I was in college, my mom bought me a car. It was not a fancy car, it was meant to be my college commuter vehicle. It was a 2001 Daewoo Lanos, a car that doesn’t even exist anymore. There weren’t that many of them anyway. When I would see other Daewoo owners, I would nod or try to make eye contact with the driver like we were in some solidarity. We were fighting a good cause, in a lower ranked Illuminati. Instead of meeting in mansions, we got together at Target and said, “So what’s on sale today?”

The Daewoo is far from fancy. Fancy is on the top of Mt. Everest and the Daewoo is in the darkest depths of the Marianas Trench. It was really just a metal shell with a engine a little bit stronger than if I had shoved my feet through the floor of the car to power it the way Fred Flinstone moves through the town of Bedrock. It’s a car no one has ever heard about unless you’ve also purchased a Korean made microwave and thought, “Oh they make cars, too?” or watched Bobby Lee on Mad TV yelling at hot women walking by: “DAE WOOOOO!”

When I was hit in a major car accident back in 2010 and totaled my husband’s Nissan Altima, we decided to just go with one car. It was inconvenient at times, but mostly manageable.

What I learned about having a crappy car is that people can be utterly shitty about it. The worst. There’s something about cars that surface the most judgment, the most racial, socio-economic biases people hold and usually keep quiet until they’re in the passenger seat and I have to explain that you have to crank the window’s lever to lower it. You have to turn a knob to adjust the seat. But there’s aircon, or A/C as people here in the U-S-A call it, and guess what, YOU ARE IN MY CAR, NOT ON A CARIBOU SO SHUT IT.

I learned that a lot of people equate a car with someone’s worth. You are a bad person because you drive this car. You are a good person because you drive that car. You are a murderer because you drive a windowless van that says MURDER on the side. Well that one is true.

One thing I love about comedians and the circle of comedians I am very happy to call friends is that no one ever said shitty things to me about my car. I had a car and they weren’t on a bus. And I would drive them to shows and we would tell jokes and talk about the jokes on the ride home, not what part of Korea was this car built? North Korea? Is that why the stereo only plays, “TO OUR FEARLESS LEADER!” on repeat.

Even though my car wasn’t fancy, it was cheap to fill up. When I first bought it, it cost only $15 to fill up the gas tank. OH HOW I MISS YOU 2003 GAS PRICES. I could park it anywhere. I could parallel park it into tiny spaces that even regular sized sedans had to pass on. And it was glorious. I wanted a parade every time I did, fist-pumping World Cup cheer for me, excellent wrangler of a small Asian car.

Eventually the car started having some problems, like the check engine light staying on despite doing everything to fix it. One shop mentioned something like a broken head gasket which google pretty much said, “GOODBYE FOREVER.”

We finally did buy a new to us car, using the Daewoo as a down-payment. We have a 2012 Nissan Altima. It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned. It drives smoothly, revs ups when we need it to and I don’t have to always drive on the far right side of the road in case it breaks down and I need to pull over.

It’s been an incredibly sweet upgrade for us, but the memory of our other car still remains. When Mike brought the kids over to daycare, another dad said to him, “What happened to the ghettomobile?” which I of course told Mike, would he go in and say that in front of the daycare teachers, two African-American women? No he wouldn’t but he could spout off some stupid joke while drives a very expensive car that rhymes with BUMMER.

What I want my kids to know is just because someone drives a nice car, it doesn’t mean she’s a good person. Assholes can be behind the wheel of every car, including the one that drives you around.

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  1. Amen! I once got into an argument with a former boss who insisted that a person’s car “tells the world who you are,” so you should buy the very best. My response was that some people aren’t shallow jerks and buy a sensibly priced car simply to get from point A to point B, not to serve as a stupid rolling billboard advertising their egotistical desire to one-up everyone.

    We agreed to disagree. (At the time, he drove a BMW, I drove a Chevy Cavalier.)

  2. I have found that it seems (to me with the people I interact with) the nicer/fancier the car the shittier/thinks-they-are-better-than-you the person. I drive a nice car. It’s a 2002 Mazda Protege, which was my mom’s car and she gave me to me when I moved up to Portland. I’m so grateful that I never had to make car payments while struggling through college. I got into an accident a couple years ago and the front passenger side is a little crunched. The paint is peeling in places but I’d rather drive that car than a fancy new Mercedes. A car is a way to get around, that’s it. It’s nice to have a nice car but people always use things to equate worth and it’s such crap. Personally if it meant I could go to Hawaii over having a nice car, I’d drive a shitty car every time.
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