by Tory Butterworth
Lisa's last blog reminded me that I, too, submitted a story to the anthology, "Girls Gone Stupid: Dumb Things Smart Women Do," which never happened. Like her, I thought it was a great idea and, like her, I never found another place to submit it. So, here's my stupid story . . .
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I have a degree from MIT and a PhD on top of that, so I’m not exactly dumb. But when it comes to cars, I’ve always felt really, really stupid. Particularly around car dealers, even those without any degrees.
My seven years of graduate school delayed my independence from my family of origin, and it was in my thirtieth year that I decided to move from Michigan to Pittsburgh, PA to start a new life. I was driving my mother’s Chevrolet Citation then, and had been told by a car-savvy friend that it would probably last until I settled in with a job. “Just don’t expect to get anything for it when you trade it in,” he’d advised. The Citation proved my friend wrong by dying a month after I moved, and I was jump-started into buying my first motorized vehicle.
With a “General Motors family” discount and a substantial down payment from my mother, I somehow managed to wangle a car despite not having a job. At that point, I wasn’t picky. I took whatever was on the lot.
She was a white Chevy Nova and I named her Bonnie. Things officially settled down two months later when I got a job and was able to afford her payments without any financial subsidies from my mom.
Bonnie wasn’t a bad little car. She did have an annoying habit of going through mufflers like nobody’s business. And she gave me a big scare shortly after her last payment, when she needed a new oil pan. I wasn’t sure at the time whether to put her down, but I made the right choice for radical surgery and she lived another four years after that. All in all, she got me there and back again through nine years, 160,000 miles, and sixty small monthly payments.
She did have one peculiarity, though. Her radio reception was lousy. Of course, taking what I could get at the time, I had reconciled myself to no tape deck or cruise control. So I attributed this trait to her inexpensive sound system, manufacturer installed, or perhaps the Pittsburgh hills that made reception difficult.
Still, eventually even Bonnie’s life expectancy came to its end. I was standing in the parking lot of a Subaru dealer with my friend Judy, looking for her replacement, when I complained to the salesman about, “miserable radio reception.” He casually reached over and extended her antennae, which had remained dormant in its black plastic sheath since her christening. No words were needed to express the shock on the faces of either me or my friend.
Judy and I laughed about this incident all the way home. Bonnie’s radio sounded great for the next three weeks, until I traded her in.
Anyone else feel stupid around cars?