Eleven things you learn from owning your first car

Eleven things you learn from owning your first car

1. Owning a car makes you feel like you’re finally a real person. You can just go to places whenever you feel like it. You don’t need to ask anyone, or wait for a bus, or walk. You can just drive there. In your own car.

2. Owning a car makes you a stud. Your carless friends will be almost embarrassingly grateful when you give them rides places. They’ll buy you drinks. You’ll see them being uncertain whether or not to offer you cash. Dates suddenly become much less awkward because hey, it’s cool, you can pick her up. In your own car.

3. Cars are expensive. The gas, you were ready for. The payments, you budgeted for. But when you own a car, one day it will start doing something funny—and not funny ha-ha—and you’ll realize that it’s your problem, because it’s your car. When the mechanic calls to tell you what’s wrong and what it will cost to fix, you’ll realize that you’ve now entered a stage of life where large sums of money will suddenly and without warning be required to simply maintain your current standard of living. You may not have budgeted for that.

4. You’re participating in a constant demolition derby, whether you like it or not. Prior to owning a car, you may believe that if someone were to hit a car while it was parked, causing significant body damage, they would leave a note with insurance details. That’s what I believed—until I was proved wrong not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. Basically, people can just hit your car whenever they feel like it, and then drive away. You may not have budgeted for that.

5. You’ll develop a relationship with your car. Whether or not you make a Facebook profile for your car, like I did, you’ll find yourself talking to your car. You may thank it for a good ride, but you’ll probably address it—like God—most often when things are going wrong. “Come on! Please. Please start! Don’t do this to me! I’ll change your oil tomorrow, I promise.”

6. Your car will become cluttered. I can say this with confidence because I’m not a guy who likes clutter—this has been a point of contention in relationships—and yet my car became cluttered. “I’ll just grab that stuff out of the trunk next time,” you’ll tell yourself. Bullshit.

7. Winter sucks. Let’s talk knowing and obeying snow-emergency rules, let’s talk parking restrictions, let’s talk parking in the snow, let’s talk getting out of parking spaces in the snow, let’s talk getting stuck in the snow, let’s talk needing a jump, let’s talk sliding through stoplights, let’s talk the nasty filth winter leaves all over your car and the difficulty of washing it off. If your head’s not in your hands yet, you’ve never owned a car.

8. You will live in perpetual fear of getting ticketed and/or towed for breaking a rule no one told you about. For example, your city may have a law against parking within five feet of a driveway. You won’t know about this law until you park four feet from a driveway, allowing easy access to said driveway, and nonetheless get towed for “obstructing traffic.” Then there are those situations where one sign, brand-new and clearly printed, tells you that there’s one-hour parking from 10 AM to 4 PM. Seeing this sign, you may not properly attend to the old, faded sign immediately below it saying that there’s no parking from 8 AM to 10 AM. Nice job obstructing traffic—you can collect your car at the impound lot for $145.

9. Oil changes are guilt trips. There are a lot of things that you should do to keep your car in peak working order and prevent future problems, and then there are additionally those things that your oil-change provider would like you to pay him or her to do. Not doing those things? Well, you don’t have to, but…[darkly foreboding head shake].

10. Cars are fundamentally mysterious. Say your car starts dying at stoplights. Say you get it towed to one mechanic, then the next time it happens, a different mechanic. They may not know what’s wrong with your car. They may just return your car to you and tell you to bring it in again next time it dies. How can they not know? Because cars make no sense.

11. The death of a car is eerily similar to the death of a person. First it will develop a chronic issue, which you just deal with. Then another, and another. As your car ages (if it’s your first car, it probably wasn’t a spring chicken when you bought it), you’ll find yourself having to give detailed instructions to other people who drive it. “Give it a little gas immediately after you start it, or it might die. The radio panel doesn’t light up, but the radio still works. Careful if it rains—the left wiper sometimes goes askew.” Then something will go seriously wrong, and you’ll find yourself getting a grim call from a mechanic, asking if you want to take extraordinary measures. Then it’s time to say goodbye, and take it for one last drive. You may cry, and the car, by this stage, will probably be crying too, dripping coolant and other visceral fluids as it rolls to its final resting place.

Jay Gabler