Sunday, January 30, 2011

Das Blood-Sucking Auto

I have had my convertible New Beetle for just over a year now, and we have a wonderful relationship.  It is a relationship of equals…I make her car payment, and she gets me where I need to go.  Her name is Serenity, and she does bring me peace and joy.  But there was The One That Came Before, and she was evil.

She wasn’t evil when I purchased her, however.  Like any other batterer, she came into my life like Prince Charming, or more accurately, the stallion he rode.   She was also a red, convertible New Beetle, tantalizing and alluring.  Even though I was aptly warned about falling for a fast little hottie that had been around the block a few times, I was in love with Christine at first sight.  She represented all I felt I wanted in my life at the time: youth, a fresh start, a little preppy rebel.  The relationship was great for the first year.  Sure, we had our ups and downs.  I would forget to have her oil changed. She would blow a tail light.  We had the usual little bumps all car/car owners experience at one time or another.  Overall, we were happy; a perfect match. 

The road became rocky, though, when she went in for her 80,000 mile service visit.  The appointment took much longer than I expected.  I had taken the shuttle to the mall, and was so immersed in my shopping experience that those six hours just flew by!  When I finally arrived back at Volkswagen Vehicle Spa and Retreat, a service technician brought Christine to the pick up area.  I was receiving the bill at the counter, when I was told she “needed” an $800.00 belt.  What?  Excuse me?  What do you mean “need?”  Then, our first big fight erupted.  I looked at her complimentary-and I use that term loosely-freshly washed and waxed body, and said to her, "'need' as in 'like fuel to run?' or 'need' like 'all the other Big City Bugs have a fancy belt and I need one too?'"  She did not answer, but I could tell, she was running hot.  Even though I didn’t have $800 for her gold-encrusted, designer belt, I made a follow-up appointment for the fitting.  I admit I felt I had no choice. 

A few months later, trouble reared its ugly head again with a check engine light.  So, I took her to a local mechanic, not the haughty VW service provider, where she met all those country club, double garage-parking, valet-using whore Beetles who were such a bad influence on her.  Tim the mechanic was much more affordable, had a great reputation, and he “knew people” that worked at an authorized VW service center.  Little did I know at that point that Tim would end up becoming a close friend, actually his whole family would, for I was getting ready to spend A LOT of time with them over the next YEAR.

It turns out that the check engine light’s source would remain a great mystery for several weeks.  Meanwhile, I was fortunate to have my trusty back up Camry to drive…Oh what a feeling, not.  My heart hurt for Christine.  Many warm days passed, and I longed to be with her…her top down, my hair blowing in the breeze…ahh, kismet.  Looking back, I was just idealizing our relationship by convincing myself that things weren’t really that bad between us.  A month later, I received “the call.”  Everyone at work knew that if Tim called, I was to be summoned immediately.  Whether I was working against a deadline, in a therapy session, or in a meeting with the Board of Directors, I was to be interrupted.  The source of the check engine light had been identified…the turbo doohickey.  This time, the bill was $1500.00.  Deep Breath.  Okay.   I just got my tax return money, so I don’t guess I will be paying off my Sona MedSpa balance.  I will have her back, though.  That’s what mattered.  We were going to have a second chance!  I immediately went to touch up my rouge and fluff my hair, then to the bank, and on to pick up Christine.

For the next couple of weeks, we were on again.  She was sensitive to my need to travel back and forth to work, and I, in return, took her through the no touch car wash.  We were in the honeymoon phase.  But as everyone who has been in an abusive relationship knows, the cycle will continue, and I soon felt the tension between us building.  She began to occasionally jerk when she was pulling a hill, and I had a sickening feeling that this may be the beginning of the end.  As we all sometimes do in bad relationships, I lied to myself, and made excuses for her.  “That wasn’t a skip in her transmission; her tire just hit a pebble.”  How many pebbles can one car hit?  Reality was setting in…I asked her what was wrong, and she just shut me out.  Finally, after many sleepless nights with Christine sitting obstinately in my driveway unresponsive to my pleas to tell me what was wrong, I realized I could not trust her to even get me to the grocery store, much less work anymore.  I had to call Tim. 

I took the seizing VW to Tim’s shop. This time, several months passed.  Christine would not give up the secrets of what ailed her.  Numerous calls were exchanged.  Many possible solutions examined, but to no avail.  The bill was now mounting to yet another grand.  I was actually so deep into her that I thought, “Wesley has $900.00 in his savings…No, what am I doing?  How desperate have I become?  Sacrificing my child’s well being for her?  Stealing from my child?  What has she given me but two years of pain and upheaval?”  I needed an intervention, so I called my stepfather Bill and asked him to meet me at Tim’s.  I had to end it. 

Tim confirmed that it was time to cut my losses.  I was so glad Bill was there.  I needed a supportive, auto-savvy person.  Even though I knew it was over in my heart, hearing someone say it out loud was tough. 

Some decisions now had to be made:  Let her continue to control me by replacing her transmission for $2,000 plus (Tim still wasn’t sure the replacement would alleviate her issues); Let the abusive cycle continue by selling her to another unsuspecting, life-transitioning, forty-something woman struggling with situational self-esteem issues; or force her to face her abusive behavior by trading her in on another more reliable mode of transportation.

Tim agreed to keep her at his shop, knowing it would be easier on me to make sounder decisions if she weren’t in my driveway eliciting emotional responses. So, I spent the next couple of weeks reviewing the facts, which were:  I still owed close to $3,000.00 on her (although it is in this area that Christine got her final punch); money was tight in my single income, recession-crippled, oblivious-to-a-budget world; Christine was still beautiful; and no other vehicle would make me look as perky and youthful as Christine.  After several more sleepless nights and a refill on my Lexapro, I decided to trade her sorry ass in.  Nobody puts Ballerina in the corner.  Nobody.

Now, more decisions had to be made…trade her in for what?  I polled my family, friends, and professionals.  Here is what I heard:  My son Wesley said to buy a Jeep, for it was still a convertible (too manly); Mom said perhaps a Mini Cooper, because it was cute and sassy (possible); Tim said I needed a Ford Fusion, for it was affordable to maintain (WTF!).  Bill and Fiancé Tom refused to give me their opinions.  I also did research on vehicles, a lot of soul-searching and an honest self-inventory.  The final decision was reached—I would call VW Sales, be completely honest, and see if the company would right ITS wrong.  You see, being cruel is a learned, programmed in this case, behavior.  The source of Christine’s tirades could be traced back to her origin, and that was where I was going to remedy MY problem.

At the protests of all my consultants, I called Flow VW in Greensboro.  Connected with sales, I began to pour out my heart to David, the Sales Person fate chose, about my vehicular woes.  Sensing my sincerity and desperation, David ran the numbers, spoke with the sales manager, then called me back, and said, “We are going to help you get out of the abusive relationship.”  Thank you, baby Jesus, and Jonathan Browning (President and CEO, Volkswagen of America.)

Christine and I took our final ride together on a nippy November afternoon, she was jerking and I was crying. 

 David and I went over the particulars of the sale for my new New Beetle, Serenity.  The only thing I was concerned with was the warranty…I needed a hefty one for peace of mind.   I call the warranty my pre nuptial agreement, and I keep it in my safety deposit box.  Christine got her final jab in as David called for her payoff information.  Apparently, counting the number of little coupons left in your payment book and multiplying it by the payment amount is not indicative of what you have left to pay…at least not in Christine’s case.  I owed double what I thought.  It turns out that on the last coupon in my book, in very tiny print, it says that a new payment book will be mailed if more money is owed.  My monthly payment on Serenity increased by $100.00.  Bite me, Christine!  I am glad I trusted David because after the payment increase, I really wasn’t listening.  I had a major math headache.  Just show me where to sign.

David helped me transfer all my stuff from Christine to Serenity, and we left.  I took one last look at Christine in Serenity’s rear view mirror.  I love the way you lie, I whispered.

A. Ballerina

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