I found myself reflecting on cars. I live in LA and cars are oh so very "important". The quotation marks are there because for some people, cars still are very important in a practical sense as a means to get around, even with more trains being built and electric scooters springing up on every corner. But mainly cars are "important" to show other people how much money or coolness you have - or both. Twice last year I was inside a fancy new vehicle belonging to colleagues and I found myself so glad that I'm not that person anymore. I used to dream of being that person, of having the brand new fancy, fast, sleek car. And then I got over it.
I've been lucky with cars. I learned to drive and got my license at 15 in a hand-me-down Honda Civic (stickshift) (the image at left is similar to the one I had but mine was blue). I had been in a carpool up until then and now it was my turn to be the driver of the carpool. The car was small, 2 doors and a hatchback, but you could jam 5 people into it for trips to the beach or camping. I said good bye to it in college and didn't have a car in LA until sophomore year when I got a hand-me-down 1969 VW bug (stickshift of course). The car came with about 3 different colors and a few dents here and there. I saved up $100 and got a cherry red Earl Sheib paint job. It looked like this one except it had a black interior.
It was startling how much camera and film gear you could get in that thing. Or roommates to go to crew practice at zero dark thirty. Or how easy it was to jump start it when need be. I could jump it on my own, no help from extra hands -- one foot out the door to push it along, to build momentum, then a quick pop of the clutch and off you go. I will always have a special place in my heart for bugs. That special engine sound, the smell, the wacky pedals.
After getting a license, there were cars to dream about. I dreamt about sports cars, I liked speed. Magnum's Ferrari and then later the Acura NSX. Had to love the NSX because it was a proper sports car but it was still a Honda. Of course there were more practical dream cars and one of my dreams came true. A few years after college, while still driving the bug, I bought a brand new Honda CRX! It was also read, also stickshift and came through the kindness of a partial loan from my grandmother. I kissed the bug good-bye (it went to a younger family member for more service) and proudly drove my dream car.
It looked just like this:
I got the base model, the HF (stickshift). Oh it was spiffy with 105 horsepower, manual crank windows and no air conditioning! And I loved it. I looooooooved it. I drove it for about 8 years. It got into one crash (an insurance scam crash that I was a victim in, luckily no damage to me and easily fixed damaged to the car) and it got stolen once for the seats. Thankfully I had good insurance for both of these instances. But I was ready for a grown up car to go with my grown up job.
My new dream car would have 4 doors and a trunk. I wanted 4 doors sooooooo badly. And a trunk that no one could see into. I considered some higher end cars but decided to keep payments low and went for a green VW Passat. (stickshift) Fun and new but not anything to break the bank. I said good bye to the Honda, thanking it for all its dream car services in my 20s.
The Passat lasted less than 2 years simply because my dreams started changing. I wanted to be freelance, not tied to a company where I didn't have much say in the jobs I worked on or the teams I was assigned to. I got laid off (which I helped engineer) and smartly sold the Passat right away. I didn't have another car to buy so I drove a Rent-A-Wreck for a month or so. It was a POS Nissan something something, but it was clean, cheap and got me where I needed to go.
Living in LA without a "nice" car was an interesting time. It was a fantastic lesson in what is really important to me: freedom. I shed all the exterior trappings of "what car do you drive" and "how much do you make" and really started to see what was best for me. I ended up buying a hand-me-down Acura Integra (2 doors, hatchback, stickshift). (I can't remember what year model it was....so I can't find the right pic to link to...) I drove that car for about 8 years and it served me well. I got all kinds of props from valet parking attendants who always were impressed that a woman drove a stick and would I want to sell that car. (Even now, when I drive our VW GTI - stick - I get props from the valet dudes who are probably more amazed to see this old lady getting into that car.)
Now we have that 10 year old VW GTI (stickshift) and a 3 year old Subaru outback (AUTOMATIC!!! First automatic I've ever owned). There was Kurt's Honda Accord (also stolen once) and his mom's 2001 Buick Park Avenue mixed into the last 15 years.
People still ask me what my dream car is. And I haven't had an answer for that since 1990 with the Honda CRX. These days its more like "does the bluetooth work, are there 4 doors and is there a back-up camera? I'll take it".
But this morning I woke up thinking about cars (I have no idea why) and realized what my dream car truly is:
A rental car that takes me and the family on new adventures.
2 years ago it was a white Citroen in Lucca, Italy. 1 year ago it was a blue Vauxhall that took us to magical places in England. Those were dream cars.
Now I can't wait to see where the next dream car takes us.