The Loh Life

Car Talk, part 2: Sparkle

Sandra Tsing Loh ponders which model will be her next car. 

My Volvo has died and, unless I plan to keep renting a car at $39 a day. . . plus $25 a day for insurance, plus prepaid gas, plus a $10 mystery fee per day --  which makes one wonder, when they quote you a price, are they just quoting you the idea of a car? 

 Anyway, I need to buy a new car in five days, when I start teaching three days a week at UC Irvine, 100 miles round trip.

 In other words, because I do not have weeks to comb through Craigslist, and to drive to Calabasas or Diamond Bar to hunt down that bargain and test drive it with my mechanic…I am about to make a very bad deal.

 Not that all my friends don't have tons of advice, once you open the "car" door.  In Los Angeles, everyone has a passionate relationship with their car.  Some households have multiple relationships.  I know a married couple who are a tale of two hybrids.  He drives, and of course slavishly loves, his blue Toyota Prius and drives-and absolutely swears by-her new red Ford C-MAX.

Toyota versus Ford.  It's like a Democrat married to a Republican.  Or as Garrison Keillor says about Lake Wobegon, a town with a Ford dealership opposite a Chevrolet one?  Lutherans versus Catholics.

My bachelor friend, Steve, loves his new electric car, but the key word here is "bachelor."  Steve has time for a relationship with his car, which stands in place of a spouse, child, or pet.  I can't remember if his car is a Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf or a Mazda Sparkle. They have such hopeful, fairy-like names.  This is because I fell into a glaze when Steve was describing his life with it to me.

The thing is, Steve only has to drive about 12 miles to his office.  An avid athlete, he could literally bike there, and strap the car to his back.  It's practically what his cute little car needs -- since he has to plug it in like every 30 miles.  One time Steve forgot to and it started running out of juice, so, with his adrenaline pumping, he drove it to a spot where he could coast downhill.

 This apparently recharges the battery, as he showed me on a busy, brightly colored little screen.  "Hey, look what I'm doing now!" the car was chirping, about its extremely self-congratulatory energy system.  Steve was so excited.

 I wanted to say: "I know your car has tested highly gifted, and I'm very happy for you, but please never force me to watch the movie of its life ever again."

Next week: Impulse buy!


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