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New car, old issues

By September 26, 2013May 27th, 2015No Comments

Since I was a child, I have always pined for a ‘flash’ car. Grow­ing up with cars that had names such as ‘rust buck­et’, ‘time bomb’ and ‘cat killer’, the thought of one day own­ing a car that was not shame-indu­cing was a lifelong goal.

In the wealthy dairy com­munity where I grew up, being dropped off at school in a car that shuddered when driv­en over 70kph was not much fun. It didn’t mat­ter that our fath­er would drop us off a kilo­metre down the road: the car doors would shriek like a ptero­dac­tyl, not only alert­ing the entire com­munity that we had arrived, but that we were also ashamed of the deliv­ery method.

My moth­er would laugh when we spoke of our dis­may. She found our misery hil­ari­ous and told us not to be such snobs. The last thing any­one could have accused a Harpur girl of was being a snob, yet we guiltily stifled our embar­rass­ment and thought of those less for­tu­nate, if those people exis­ted. We dreamed for the day when we would own a car with elec­tric win­dows. I didn’t care if we had to push the car to school, as long as when we arrived we could cas­u­ally roll down our win­dows without rup­tur­ing a bicep.

Of course, the hor­ror induced by the crap cars of our child­hood was noth­ing com­pared to the abso­lute mor­ti­fic­a­tion dur­ing the self-con­scious teen­age years. It is no acci­dent that I became extremely fit, opt­ing to walk 9km (bare­foot, in the snow) over get­ting a ride from my gig­gling moth­er in the car that made sounds like a drive-by shooting.

As time went on and those hideous teen­age years faded, so did my desire to earn respect through a vehicle. My first car, a 20-year-old Corolla, was my temple to I‑don’t‑care-about-this-kind-of-material-crap-anymore. Each scrape and ding was trophied, a test­a­ment to my lack of snob­bery. The con­stant battle with rust just meant I had to make sure I got my War­rant of Fit­ness late at night when the mech­an­ic was tired, hungry and couldn’t see prop­erly. Of course, the time did come when the rust around the wind­screen of the car was so evid­ent that even a mech­an­ic with no eyes, who hadn’t slept for ten years, and who had been giv­en a dozen cheap beers as hush-money, couldn’t let it slip.

Many years later, I now find myself in a ‘flash’ car, com­plete with wind­screen wipers, a func­tion­ing boot and elec­tric win­dows. I wish I could go back in time and tell eight-year-old Sarah that one day her dream of being in a not-shit car would come true. She would have wept with joy. As for 30-year-old Sarah? She still har­bours the long-ingrained fear of being per­ceived as a snob, or even worse, a ‘rich bastard’.

As I drive in this shiny, rust-free machine, I feel like a fraud. A fraud! It is all very dra­mat­ic, really. I see the glint in the eye of the park­ing warden as I lock my car. He has no sym­pathy for any­one who can afford a vehicle with cent­ral lock­ing and road­worthy tyres. I’m basic­ally an aris­to­crat now. One second late, and he will glee­fully accessor­ise my crack-free wind­screen and mould-free wiper-blades with a park­ing ticket.

The abil­ity to be pit­ied is a power­ful thing. I renounced this power the day I became the own­er of a road­worthy car. But my eight-year old self wouldn’t care one bit.

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