Husband and I, we are a rental people. Or we were, until last week.
While friends were working on a second house, or a vacation house, or a condo somewhere spiffy, we were renting an apartment in Manhattan (which we moved out of when we left for Abu Dhabi: now we got nuthin’). We felt vaguely smug about it, too: instead of lying awake at night wondering which creak or drip was going to cost us a fortune in repairs, we knew we could just call the building manager and someone would show up to fix the problem. Equityshmequity, we figured.
Other people had a car, maybe two cars if they lived in the ‘burbs; they had mechanics and garages and lube jobs. (Is there any way for that not to sound obscene? Methinks not.) Long before Husband was Husband, he owned a succession of incredibly beat-up cars, each more decrepit than the last, but by the time he became Husband, we were firm Manhattanites: car-less. We rented cars when we needed them and–again–felt smug when we returned them to Messrs Avis and Hertz. A few years before we moved out of New York, my mom “sold” me her old Subaru for about a dollar: it had more than 100K miles on it but it got me back and forth to my job in Westchester, and in a way that perhaps only another mother could appreciate, I started to think of my drive home in thick traffic as “me time,” even if those precious private moments occurred while I sat bumper-to-bumper on the FDR.
When we moved to Abu Dhabi, we tried to go car-less at first: taxis here are easy to find and not very expensive, but after a while it got tiresome trying to flag down a cab while hauling a week’s worth of groceries. So we rented a Toyota Yaris, which was a bit like driving a golf ball. Fuel efficient, sure, but puttering down the road while the Armadas and Land Cruisers and Denalis thundered past made driving a white-knuckled, sweaty-backed experience. So we went up a size: Tiida, or Tilda, as I liked to call it. Tilda made us a little bit more visible, but she accelerated about as quickly as you might imagine someone named Tilda would, and she wasn’t very big. I got tired of craning my neck around the wheels of the huge SUVs that rule the roads.
Driving, you see, has become a part of my life. I have to drive somewhere almost every day; the errands that I could get done on a long walk in New York are impossible here. It’s sort of like Los Angeles in that regard, except that gas is a helluva lot cheaper–and there’s only one brand of gas: the government-owned Adnoc. As a result of all this driving? I know the names of cars–I can distinguish between an Armada and a Land Cruiser at thirty paces–and my ass has come to resemble the seat cushions of the Rav4 that we started renting after a near-miss in Tilda.
The Rav4 at least got us into the sight-lines of the lumbering SUVs; I felt a little bit safer as I carted children hither and yon (mostly yon, alas), as I shlepped groceries around, as we went up the Zayed Road (aka the death highway) to Dubai. True, the sightlines for me were crappy–I had to constantly hitch up in my seat when I wanted to change lanes–and, of course, there were all those car-rental dirhams sliding out of our bank account into Mr. Thrifty’s coffers.
So we did it. The grown-up thing.
Dear reader, we bought a car.
A Serious Car. An Officially Fancy Car.
Seems there was a fantastic financing offer, seems there was an amazing warranty offer (five years: everything free, from oil to brakes to, I don’t know, touching up the highlights in my hair? Who knows). Seems that the car salesman, a lovely man named Alaa (pronounced like…yep, that’s right: it’s as if I bought my car from god), really really wanted to make us happy; he wanted to treat us like Very Important People (to which I wanted to say “gosh, I bet you say that to all the customers”) and my friends? His blandishments worked, although I like to think that my talk about being immune to Prestige Cars and the fact that I started to walk out of his office when he wouldn’t meet our price, may have had something to do with things. Husband also invoked his dear departed mother, who, when hearing that Husband had declined law school in favor of a literature PhD, bemoaned the fact that he’d never drive a nice car.
Her ghost is smiling now.
This car? It does everything. It does everything so cleverly, in fact, that the day after we bought it, I got in to do some errand or other, stared at the dashboard for a while, pushed a few buttons, and then had to call Husband to ask how to turn the damn thing on.
Well. It doesn’t do everything. The German engineers forgot to install a bicker button, which would silence backseat bickerers by sliding a piece of soundproof glass between the drivers and the squabbling passengers.
I tootle along feeling pretty near invulnerable, I have to say: I can see everything; I can stop instantly when the guy in the far-right lane decides to make a left turn; I can see to change lanes as the Armada comes barreling up behind me, flicking its brights and honking because it needs to get to the red light up ahead really really fast.
After a few days on the road, however, I have to say that I don’t feel quite so fancy: when you’re flanked in the parking lot by one of these:
and one of these:
It puts things into perspective. My fancyshmancy is someone else’s Lumina.
Nevertheless, Husband and I are settling into our new life as owners. When we leave Abu Dhabi, we’ll sell the car, but until then, the half-hour drive out to the boy’s soccer practices seems a little less painful.
Husband, in fact, has been exploring a solution to the missing bicker button in this car. “I was looking at a convertible the other day,” he said. “A two-seater.”
Liam indulging in a little automotive fantasy at the car showroom