The Loh Life

Car Talk, part 5: Seeing Red

Sandra Tsing Loh names her car.

My stomach churns.  Skin crawls.  I wake up in night sweats.  It's not menopause, no.  It's the used Prius I just bought for $10,000!  Or, to be more accurate, $10,999!

Sitting in the driveway next to my 13-year-old 2001 Volvo, which - while permanently beached - I can't bring myself to ditch - ?  Compared to that, my 2007 Prius doesn't LOOK bad.  And, it's much younger than the Volvo - just SEVEN.  It's shiny red and has sporty wheels.  In many ways, it resembles a GOOD Prius.

But it has 101,000 miles on it!  What was I thinking?  "Oh, I've seen these Priuses go 300,000 miles," the salesman.  "These hybrids are high-mileage cars!"

I'm sure they are, but lying in bed at night, I feel this creeping mortification.  100,000.  73,000, or even 92,000 would be fine, because any car with 99,999 miles or less comes with at least some guarantee.  But, once those zeroes flip over, Toyota dealers don't even OFFER a warranty.  At 100,000, like a slot machine, that odometer flips over to lemons.

But, I was so taken with the relatively low price - which was still $300 more than the Kelly Blue Book, which I only checked AFTER having bought it, so bedazzled was I over the car's RED color!  Oh, God.  The engine is going to fall out any minute, and I'm going to be starring in a very special REUNION edition of Car Talk.

"The thing doesn't go in reverse!" I scream at my partner, trying to back out the driveway.  I am anxiously tapping the gas and revving it and pumping the brake, and now I can hear the engine.  "Aren't Priuses supposed to be silent?  What's wrong with this car?"  On a Prius as old as this, the little screen doesn't have anything useful like navigation.  It just shows a Hanna Barbara cartoon schematic of the engine and turning wheels and power flow arrows, and also an EKG of a small elderly hamster furiously pedaling.

"I think you need to give it gas!" he yells - And I realize, my own doubt and flop sweats are starting to affect the car.

My teen daughters help me, though.  As opposed to the dead Volvo, which they call Dethadrius, the outwardly pert red 2007 Prius, to them?  "She looks like a Jackie!" cheerfully declares my 13-year-old.

Jackie!  A middle-aged - but determined - lady in a sun-visor and shape-ups who has a lot of fight left in her.

So, I tell myself, don't just look at her numbers and write her off!  I mean, at 52, I too have high miles, but I certainly have another 100,000 to go.  I deserve frequent washing and waxing.

And I love the sporty red.  And my new tiger-striped floor mats.  Just don't ask me if my Jackie needs a bra.


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