I Bought a New Car After 22 Years of Driving the Old One

and it was a huge fucking deal

Maria Shimizu Christensen

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Gratitude, terror, relief, worry, joy, embarrassment: I spent 22 years on an emotional rollercoaster in a car that could fly off the rails at any moment. I was always grateful for the ride, but it was exhausting.

22 years ago we were all living the emotional aftermath of 9/11. That aftermath also had a financial side that a lot of people don’t remember very well. From Investopedia:

“Stock markets immediately nosedived, and almost every economic sector was economically damaged. The U.S. economy was already suffering a moderate recession following the dot-com bubble, and the terrorist attacks added further injury to the struggling business community.”

By the end of 2001 things were back to nearly normal, economically, but the short-term pain led to my long-term gain.

In October I found myself in a car dealership purchasing the cheapest car money could buy with 0% interest. Yeah, zero. A car priced under $10,000. Brand new. It was a Suzuki Swift but it had the exact same body as a Geo Metro. Yeah, I don’t know why.

At that point, my kids were 8 and 10 years old and to say I was a struggling single parent would be to understate things. This was all I could afford, and barely, at that. But hey, I was driving a brand new car for the first time in my life and I thought that things would be better in the future, and in a decade I could get another car.

Life had other plans.

It was a good little car for several years. And then it did all the things that cheap little cars tend to do with age. By the time I traded it in I could tell the CV joint was about to give up the ghost, it desperately needed a new fuel pump and despite the fact that I never once got into an accident, other people had run into my parked car several times. The air idle control valve had been stuck on open for a decade, so it sounded like it didn’t have a muffler. It was a total beater.

I spent a lot of years giving the poor thing pep talks and praying it would hold together. Those prayers never had an end date. I’d already spent one year taking the bus everywhere because I couldn’t afford to get the car fixed…

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Maria Shimizu Christensen

Writer. Maker. Featured in Medium’s 2021 list of Stories That Started Conversations. I write about life. https://www.mariashimizuchristensen.com