My birthday is this Saturday, so it’s officially my birthday week. Yes, I get an entire week. I have often been heard to say that my favorite holidays are my birthday and Halloween, and that order is entirely dependent on which one is closer.
I always get myself something for my birthday; usually it’s something small and purely for enjoyment. But this year, I went for something a little more practical.
That’s right. I bought myself a car for my birthday…In fact I think this covers all of my birthday presents to myself for the rest of my life.
I’m sure you all remember the infamous story of my burglary and car theft last year. I didn’t go into a lot of detail about what happened with the car, so here’s an update for those of you who haven’t heard me tell this story in person many, many times:
When I got up the next morning after the burglary, I suddenly realized that my keys were gone. In the adrenaline and terror during the preceding night, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that my keys—car and apartment—had been prominently displayed on my plant table where I’d placed them every single day since I moved in. So when I went to grab them, I was dismayed to find them missing. I then realized the implications of this and ran out the still broken front door to the parking lot and confirmed my fear: the bastard(s) had taken my keys, gone outside and pressed the buttons on the fob until they found my Saturn, and stolen it.
I spent most of the morning on the phone, calling the police again to file another report for the auto theft, the insurance company, the bank who loaned me the money to buy it, the nearest rental car company to take advantage of my rental coverage, my uncle who used to be a cop with HPD—the list goes on. My insurance immediately started the process of paying me off, since we all assumed the car, being out of production and therefore hard to come by on parts, was either already in bits and pieces or on its way to the border.
This process went on for about 28 days. I had all my paperwork done and sent off within a week, but the bank kept dragging their feet about getting the loan payoff info sent to the insurance company. I had done my car shopping, made my decision and was just waiting on the check. The bank had promised to have everything completed in a couple of days when I got the call: the police had found my car…in an apartment complex parking lot about two blocks from my apartment.
I am still mad that they didn’t wait around and see if anyone came back to try to use it, because when I went to the impound and looked it over, there were jackets and other personal items in the car that didn’t belong to me. The stupid burglar-turned-car-thief hadn’t taken it to a chop shop or sold it in Mexico; they’d been fucking driving it around for almost a month! They’d also backed it into something, from the denting and horrible paint scrapes on my rear bumper, as well as ripping down my OnStar capable (though not enabled) rearview mirror and shoving it up into a hole they’d torn in the ceiling lining. And that’s just the beginning of the damage. On top of all that, we had no idea what they’d been doing with my car for the last month, and I’d already sent my extra keys off to the insurance company with my paperwork. Before they could even start on it, the body shop had to send off for a new key so they could crank it and find out if there was anything wrong with the engine. And later, when I went to pick it up, they hadn’t fixed everything like they said they would and it took another two weeks to get the bodywork done right.
It was maybe two or three days after the car was found that I ran out of rental coverage. You never realize how much you depend on your own independent transportation until it’s taken from you. I had to get the friends I was staying with to drive me to and from work; I had to carpool to dance rehearsal; I had to ask someone to drop me off at the apartment so I could finish packing my stuff; I had to wait at the apartment until someone could come get me and help me move my stuff into storage. If my friends weren’t already going somewhere, I generally just didn’t leave their house. I have always been the independent child amongst co-dependent siblings. I don’t like not being able to take care of things on my own. That whole time was a lesson in allowing myself to ask for help when I need it. Luckily, I have surrounded myself with good friends who are good people, and the help was there.
Once I got the car back, I realized I hated it now. It was no longer my trusty old Saturn, the first car I’d ever bought by myself, Old Reliable. It would be forever tainted by that sense of violation.
And on top of that, a few months ago it started falling apart. I got up one chilly morning this winter and the car just wouldn’t start. I turned the key and it made a single click sound in the ignition and nothing else. I went back upstairs to my new place and made some calls to try to figure out what I should do, and went back to try it again a little while later. And it cranked up perfectly. This happened a couple more times, so I went in and got my starter and battery checked. It seemed to be the battery, so I shelled out the money for a new one. A week later, it happened again. I took it to the store where I’d bought the new battery, and it was fine. They referred me to a mechanic, where I paid $78 to find out that it was a short in the ignition switch. If it got below 55 degrees outside, the switch would short and the car’s internal security system I didn’t even know it had would think the car was being stolen (which might have been useful when it ACTUALLY WAS BEING STOLEN). And because of the type of switch I had, they’d have to replace the computer as well. The full estimate was more than $1100 on a car that was only worth about $3500.
It was getting warmer out, so I had some time to figure out what to do. I knew I didn’t want to pour money into a car I hated and didn’t even want anymore. So I started thinking about buying another one. The plan was to earn some extra money for a down payment this summer and go car shopping in the early fall, before the temperature started dropping again.
And last week, the brakes started making a truly terrible sound. My inspection was due at the end of this month, and I was convinced that the screeching alone would keep it from passing. But I didn’t have the money on hand to fix it, and it wasn’t under warranty since I’d bought it used. Coincidentally, a letter from my bank came in the mail declaring me pre-approved for an auto loan with a dealership up in Conroe, so after several days of serious reflection, I decided it was time.
I am now the proud owner of a Toyota Yaris. I now have a car that not only works like it’s supposed to and drives like a dream; that will retain its value really well, gets spectacular gas mileage, and has an awesome maintenance package (and is tiny and super cute!); I have a car that I love. A car I have wanted for more than a year. A car where the only negative thing I can say about it is, “Well, they didn’t have a blue one.”
Getting used to the payments is going to be an adjustment, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. (I’m the type that would rather starve to death than miss a car payment anyway.) And I’ll save a lot on gas and maintenance costs. And I’d rather pay a little more than I really wanted to for a car that I know is going to work than pay half as much for a piece of junk that I have to cross my fingers will start when I put the key in it.
Just as important (to me anyway) is that driving is fun again. I don’t dread having to go somewhere; I don’t put off errands as long as I can. I’m excited to open the blinds in my apartment or walk out to the parking lot at work and see my new car’s tiny little smiling face.
I think I’m going to call it Happy. Because happy birthday to me. 🙂