I hate driving my dad’s BMW X5. I can press the key, and the seats and mirrors adjust exactly where I need them to be. Another flick of the button rolls the windows down on a hot day. It has plush heated leather seats, keeping my tushy warm on the coldest mornings. It takes turns so tight and gathers speed so fast that I can merge into traffic on a dime. I have 15 preset radio stations for FM alone, though I mostly take advantage of the CD player. The sunroof has two options: keep the sunroof window open and let the sunlight and breeze in, or leave the window closed and just let the light shine through.
Alright. I don’t really hate driving it. I love it. I really, really love it. I love the feel of it, the look of it, the power that exists as I pull onto the road and let the car soar. I now understand the relationship some men have with their cars when I drive this machine. This car demands respect, other cars move to the side and yield to me. I am important, look at me, I am driving a BMW X5. What I hate is giving it back after my dad is finished borrowing my vehicle, a 1994 Ford Aerostar Van XL, the car we use to get hay for my dad’s horse, dubbing it the “hay van” with the entrails of alfalfa that it leaves all over town. It’s the machine with the power to get from 0 to 60 in 125 seconds. What was naïve bliss in driving a crappy car, having the understanding that I am very fortunate to have a car without a car payment that works almost all the time, turns into heightened awareness at every one of the van’s flaws once I’m done driving the X5.
What is wrong with it, you ask? Well, let me tell you…..
The steering wheel leaks some sort of black goop that gets all over my hands when I drive it. I put a cover over the steering wheel to help alleviate this problem, yet the goop is still coming out. I have no idea what it is, or where it is coming from. It’s like it’s spawning and multiplying all on its own. I’m not entirely unconvinced that its alive.
The horn does not work. It hasn’t worked in probably 10 years. This is extremely irritating when someone does something stupid in front of me when they are driving. I have had to create “The Idiot Button”, an invisible button that I press on the dashboard that pulls up an invisible sign that says “You’re an Idiot” (I’m not making up that we made this up. I promise!). It keeps me from yelling things that my kids probably shouldn’t repeat, it keeps the road rage down to a minimum, and it entertains the kids every time I touch the dashboard. When a driver cuts me off (and it’s done so often when I’m driving the tin can), I just tell them, “Here, let me give you some of this,” and push the “button”. It’s working so well that my mom is thinking of having one installed too.
The sliding door is stuck. Once it fell off, hanging only by the bottom hinge. We got it fixed, thank God! But now it gets stuck. The kids have built up their arm muscles pulling the thing open and closed. But then, guess what? It doesn’t align properly with the button that lets the car know that the door is closed. While I drive, the door ajar light flickers on and off. That wouldn’t be so bad except that it makes a clicking noise as well. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick…….. Over and over and over. At first it was torture to listen to. Now I just turn up the radio loud and use my imagination that it’s a drum beat. A really fast, annoying, hyper drumbeat. By someone with no rhythm.
The heater blows out cold air that is wrapped up in warm air. Oh, and it only works in the front. Any kid in the back wraps up in a blanket to stay warm in the winter months. In the summertime, same deal, but warm air wrapped in cold. And did I mention that the passenger side window doesn’t roll down?
The hinge for the back hatch has broken off. This was fixed too, and it worked beautifully three whole times. And then, when I opened it to put groceries back there, it just snapped. Again. So now when I go get hay, I get out of the car and hold the hatch open, trying not to feel too much like an idiot as the human hatch hinge while the rancher loads two bales of hay into the back. And when I need to get groceries, my daughter holds it open while I quickly load it up before she loses strength. It is amazing how a little hinge can seem like such a luxury, one of them rich people gadgets to keep their arms from getting tired.
The car, without exaggeration, gets 12 MPG. It constantly smells of alfalfa. As clean as we try to keep it, we will never be rid of years of coffee stains on the rug, scuffs, rips in the ceiling, wiggly armrests, and some sort of white goop that is still sticky in the (get this) cassette tape storing drawer. It is too big for any normal parking space, including the space I park in at my apartment. Cars pass me right and left, cutting me off to not be stuck behind the “slowmobile”.
Driving the X5 with its smooth suspension and graceful road manner, and then getting behind the wheel of a gawky oversized van, the transition is painful. But keep me from the X5 for awhile, these problems are all just minor nuisances. The van works. It has enough room to hold all our sports gear on game days. It’s the most requested vehicle when it comes to moving someone out of their house or hauling a trailer to the dumps. It’s not too fancy to allow a little (a lot) of sand to get in the carpet after a trip to the beach. It’s beat up enough that any hell my kids give it absorbs into the abuse it’s already received. It’s a good old car that has served us faithfully as we’ve needed it.
Do I want a fancy car like the X5, or like a Lexus, or even like a VW Jetta? You bet I do. I would give anything to get behind the wheel of a clean smelling brand new car and be able to call it mine. Being in the driver’s seat of an X5 makes that dream even sweeter. But it’s not in the cards right now. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this single parenting life is the game of stepping stones. One step at a time. One achievement to get me to the next. One obstacle after another to conquer and get past. I came from divorce a broken woman. I emerged from that over time to start earning my own living. I got my own apartment, a job I love, and slowly built up a life that the kids and I are proud of. The car stepping stone is ahead of me, but not right in front of me. I cannot jump from the van way of living immediately into the X5 way of living. I have not earned it yet. I still have more time to put into it. And if I jump too far too fast, I’ll fall and everything will crumble. Yet, be assured, this Aerostar is not where I am landing. I’m just resting for a moment behind it’s goop filled steering wheel before I leap again.
What is your Aerostar, the constant in your life that you want to make better?