Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Thank God for that New Car Smell

“Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars…”

—Gary Numan, Cars

Bryce kicked the back of the new seat in front of her. Then Beatrice followed suit.

"Girls, stop kicking the seats right now!" the Mama cried out.

The salesman kept on with his final checklist. "So, when you press this button here, then you'll be able to..."

But I could no longer hear him. His voice trailed off like a commentator during a stressful playoff game. I knew he was telling us important last-minute things to remember, yet it was too late in a game that had become a nail-biter for us all.

The girls were throwing their small stuffed animals at each other. They rocked in their seats behind us and kicked at our seats, squealing with crazy glee.

"I said stop kicking the seats!"

" can see how your phone connects to the car here..."

I'm sorry, what?!? The entire time the salesmen spoke he kept a well-balanced disposition as if he were a flight attendant talking to the passengers on his 1,000th flight about flotation devices and emergency exits while parents rocked wailing babies in front of him.

"Sweetie, we have to go now," the Mama said to me.

"...congratulations again, and now I just need you to sign here to acknowledge I walked you through these items..."

"Great," I said and signed the form. "We gotta go. Thank you!"

"Thank you!" the girls and the Mama echoed.

He thanked us again, I shut the door and we drove away.

Three and a half hours earlier...

We were ready to go. Cars evaluated and research done: best value bang and family safety for the buck and all that. We'd briefly considered hybrids and all electric in the past, but they still didn't pencil out for a family car. Then we reviewed our negotiation prep: don't lead with your number or the monthly payment -- get them to serve their best price first. Plus, it's Memorial Day weekend and it's the end of the month, and all that other car-buying jazzercise. Which, according to online car-buying sites, no matter when you go, says plan on being at the dealer marathon for up to four hours. Or more. Mercy me.

And then there's the meltdown-card prep. Yes, the part where you keep your kids in your back pocket for leverage. As in, "Listen, just so you know, once our kids start melting down, then we have to wrap things up. Just so you know. You know?"

Because the last time we bought a new car was before Beatrice was born, just over eight years ago. We'd been putting off getting a new family that last two years, even though we entertained it because our trusted family car was no longer trusted. So much so that the multiple repairs from this year alone were enough for us to cry out, "We need that new car smell!"

Blech. Nobody wants a new car payment, though. Especially for those like me who only see them as a means to an end, a way to get from point A to point B, and unfortunately a depreciating investment that can sink you quickly like wearing concrete shoes. The last time I truly loved cars was when I had my first car in high school -- the only manly muscle car I've ever owned and actually cared about as a status symbol and means to identity -- a 1972 Chevy El Camino. Sigh. Good times.

We were certainly ready for the buying experience this time. And we did pretty well in the overall negotiating department. The girls played the entire time with their coloring books and iPad and spent a lot of time in and out of the new showroom cars, pretending that they were taking their imaginary stuff animal families on road trips and into traffic jams. We didn't have to play the meltdown card. They only got squirrely during the last long hour of the buying process and us waiting to transfer our stuff from the old car into the new one and sign off on the final checklist.

"Great," I said and signed the salesman's form. "We gotta go. Thank you!"

"Thank you!" the girls and the Mama echoed.

He thanked us again, I shut the door and we drove away.

...later that same evening...

The new car hangover had settled in and I went outside to sit in in for a few. Not because of buyer's remorse, but mainly because I needed a little melancholy Rocket Man action, to sit in my new spaceship after a few glasses of wine and float through outer space to clear my head (counterintuitive with a few glasses of wine inside you I know, but work with me here). I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife and kids. I knew they were all right there with me, just inside at my sister's house, who was finally home from the hospital. All good news. Amen.

But I had been gone on so many back-to-back trips of late, more travel that I usually do, I avoided the thinner emotional atmosphere of everything going on and where it's much harder to breathe. I'm usually pretty good breathing up there. Usually.

Lately though, not so much. The why of it all still keeps me gasping for air, a precursor to panic attacks of old, which in turn makes me grumpy as hell. Not a proud combination to say the least. Thank God for that new car smell.

And family, too. Yes, thank God for family wrapped in that new car smell.

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