I put my knee in Samson’s carseat. Pressed down with all my might. Heard the sound of ripping. Felt a breeze on my chiseled behind. Yes, I had split my pants. Nice pants, too. Dress pants.
There I was, in the parking lot of a Honda dealership, exposing my backside for all of State College to see. Ladies swooned. Children wept. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.
I took my 2011 Honda CRV to the local Honda dealer last week. The old girl was pushing 120,000 miles. I was only one payment away from paying her off. Free and clear. The luxury of life without a car payment? Maybe.
I figured that, if I were going to be able to get any value out of the car, I ought to try and do so sooner rather than later. Otherwise I’d be stuck with an aging 2011 Honda CRV until the end of time. Drive her into the ground. And I’m nothing if clueless when it comes to maintaining old cars. And I’m nothing if irritable when it comes to taking ’em to the shop. So I drove the ol’ gal down to the dealer, to see what we could do.
Incidentally, why am I referring to my car as a she or a her? Beats me. Gender in this country runs deep. Yes, I’m convinced that my 2011 Honda CRV was a mom car. But that’s no excuse for my gendered language here. Ahem.
Anyway, I walked into the dealership with pants that weren’t split. A salesman pounced on me before the door closed.
“Have you been helped?”
He smelled like weed.
“I have not.”
I told him about my situation. Tried to set a no-nonsense tone:
“I’m poor,” I told him. “I’ll buy a new car if you can get me close to the payment I’ve got now.”
The salesmen’s eyes sparkled. Or maybe they glazed over. He may have been high.
“Come right this way.”
They gave my 2011 CRV a once over. Saw all of its warts. Yellow paint that speckled the underside of the car? The busted bumper from when I hit the deer? The rat’s nest of pretzels and goldfish crackers underneath the carseats in the back? The inspectors saw all of it. I got a fair rating. Better than poor. Worse than good. Fair enough.
I waited for my estimate. That sweet trade-in value.
“I’ve got a deal for you,” the dealer told me. His eyes were as red as a firetruck. “Do you like white?”
“My son wants a purple car. But talk to me.”
A 2019 Honda CRV. Brand new. White not purple. The Honda dealership hadn’t been able to sell it. The new CRV’s were coming in soon. I had him right where I wanted him. The art of the deal.
I’m kidding. Sure, I come from a line of salesmen. My great-grandfather was a merchant in the Ukraine. My grandfather was a junk peddler in St. Paul. My father was a highly successful insurance agent in Minnesota. I even sold long-term care insurance when I was going to college. Still, twenty years as an educator has dulled my capacity for haggling.
I’m lucky to keep my shirt.
The salesmen put the numbers in front of me. Not bad. I could leave the lot with a brand new CRV, and my monthly payment would be about the same. Could I afford the new car? Well, I can’t afford much of anything. Still, I test drove the white CRV. It smelled like new car. It drove smoothly. I gunned it – as much as one can gun a Honda CRV – and the engine purred like a kitty. Meow.
I split my pants as I took all of my possessions out of my old CRV. Did my best to cover my ass. With a sweater. Or a backpack. All told, I spent about six hours at the Honda Dealership last week. Signing paper work. Transferring items from one car to another. Splitting my pants. Getting a contact buzz. Buying a new car.
“Aren’t you excited?” The loan officer asked me. We were filling out forms in her office. “You’re buying a new car.”
“I don’t know,” I said like an old man. “I’m an old man now, I guess. This feels like more of a chore.”
She looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t look very old.
“Okay, old man,” she said. “Sign here.”
The purchase felt more like a necessity than anything else. Sam Tanner is not good with cars. It’s important that he avoids owning an old car that needs love, affection, and a mechanic’s touch. Especially out here in the wilds of Central Pennsylvania.
“I love it!” Solomon howled.
“Why isn’t it purple?” Samson asked.
The boys were over the moon about the new car. Under it, too. They wanted to take a ride. They wanted to pretend to drive. They wanted to touch the wheels. Please, Dad, please!?
I was exhausted after spending the day at the dealership. But I acquiesced. The boys’ energy is relentless. I let them do all the things they wanted to do with the car.
“I love it, Dad!” Solomon said.
“It’s so much nicer than Mommy’s car!” Samson told me.
Mom drives a 2008 Hyundai Elantra. I think it’s a nice car. But it’s aging. We don’t drive that car as much as my CRV’s. So we replaced mine.
“We have to keep the new car clean,” I told them. “Okay?”
The boys nodded their heads. I turned down the upholstery protection the dealer offered. It would’ve added $20 a month to my payment. I’m on a budget.
A few days later, despite assurances they’d keep the car clean, Solomon and Samson got into a water fight in the backseat. They took gulps from their water bottles and spit them out all over each other. It was pure debauchery.
I told them I was upset.
“You are the worst dad, ever,” Samson said.
“I wish I were another boy,” Solomon told me, “so I could have a different daddy.”
They say this thing all the time. A little dramatic. I don’t know where they get it.
We made peace with each other. We always do. The boys agreed to keep the car clean. We’ll see.
My old CRV lasted about eight years. 120,000 miles. Took me from the Twin Cities to State College any number of times. Lots of rides over the mountains on the way Altoona, PA. Lots of trips along I-80 through the desolation of Indiana and the various addictions of Ohio.
The ol’ gal did me well. She never broke down. Handled the winters well. Drove these Pennsylvania roads like a champ. I was sorry to see her go. To put her down. But it was time. And handing her off to a stoned Honda salesmen felt better than taking her out behind the barn.
It’s fun to drive a new car. Smells good. And all it cost me was a pair of pants. Dress pants. Nice pants. Oh well, I rarely buy new clothes. I bet the pants were nearly as old as the CRV. I usually drive most of what I own into the ground. I’ve still got flannels from the late 90’s.
I guess it’s good to get rid of old stuff. Get some new stuff. Especially when it falls in your budget. And this new CRV did come in at budget, albeit barely, and so I bought it.
Buying a car. What an adult thing to do.