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Philadelphia 4, Our New Car 0

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By Dalyn Montgomery

We are selling our car. We love it. It works perfectly, fits all the kids, and we like how it looks; but it has to go.

We used to drive a 1996 Saturn with 250,000 miles on it.  The ceiling would sag down and mess up your hair, it was ugly, and it would not die.  From the day I made a friend take $50 dollars (he wanted to just give the car to us) it drove us everywhere in reliable, utilitarian style.  The Please Touch Museum, the shore, the aquarium, even to the relatives down south.  The car fit right in.  Our neighborhood is not known for fancy cars.  I always thought it was our blue-collar humility, our being "down to earth", our inner confidence that didn't need to be compensated by some fuel injected metaphor.

door-dented.jpgWe started to worry when fellow Philadelphians would yell from their cars to tell us our car was smoking.  When Philadelphians tell you your car is in bad shape, you should be ashamed.  Inspections came due and it would not pass.  We bid the car adieu.

What an opportunity!

After all these years, we had reason to get a new car.  We imagined turning the key and trusting that the car would start.  We pictured driving with our chins held high, knowing that this was the car we chose rather than the one we were stuck with.  We took our time, did our research, and got a nice crossover SUV, a little used but not too much.

With this new car Philadelphia looked different.  The streets were narrower, parking harder to find.  The mirrors on this car could fold in, so like our neighbors, we folded them in when we parked.  I recall there was a time, living in another place, where I actually thought mirrors only folded in for protection in the car wash.  Now I'm smarter. Not only did we fold our mirrors but we parked on our block with two wheels up on the curb.  We like our car.

Then the neighbor across the street sideswiped it.  She is a nice older woman whom we never had problems with and rather liked.  Her insurance covered everything but since then she seems to scowl when we drive down the block.

Then it got sideswiped again while parked in front of our house.  We don't know who did it this time; they didn't stop to tell us.  Our insurance covered this one but we had no one to scowl at.

Our favorite incident was the crazy man at an intersection who rammed a shopping cart into driver's side door one night.  The lady from the insurance company asked if we got the guys information or called the cops.  "You wanted me to get out and talk to a guy who just rammed me with a shopping cart?" my wife asked.  This was Kensington where you don't just chat with the shopping cart guy and the cops are busy.  We had to cover that one.

A few weeks ago came the final straw.  He had a stop sign, we did not, and neither of us stopped.  The car is in the shop as I write this, getting the passenger side doors replaced.  It isn't worth it.

All those years that ugly Saturn never got a scratch.  Well, maybe it did, but we couldn't tell which scratches were new because it had so many old ones.  It's as if the city hates new cars.  William Penn stands atop city hall, angry that he is no longer tallest, not only punishing our sports teams, but also cursing our cars.  His hand is outstretched in a downward fashion as if to say "take the subway".  It makes perfect sense considering his pedestal is the biggest traffic obstruction ever built.  Come to think of it, even our favorite son Rocky had problems when he got a little too full of himself and bought a hot new Trans-Am. 

So, you win Philadelphia. We have had that new car one year -- one, stinking, lousy year -- and have taken four trips to the body shop.  We had budgeted out car payments, insurance, even gas, but not quarterly deductibles and rental cars.  So after our short stint with vanity and self determination, we have thrown in the towel and will be buying a beat up rattle bucket; the kind where dents and scratches are called character.  Our car won't shout "look at me" but rather "whaddya you lookin' at?" We will drive it till it dies, only carry minimum insurance, and when we hand the bent up key to a valet, we will walk off, chins held high.

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