Pretty and Practical

I sat at a bar with two friends the other day taking about new cars.

All of our vehicles have been on life support—two pushing 200,000 miles. One, mine, a youngish 79,000 miles has been ill—at the shop 16 times in the past six months. Towed. Twice. (My husband’s 1992 Toyota pickup truck is also in the near 200,000 club. We plan to have a 20-year, 200Thou Tailgate Party if it gets there. Toyota could use the good publicity. Maybe they’ll chip in for a new bumper. We’ll provide the beer.)

For now, though, we are all grappling with the same question: What to buy?

The two moms in the group were struggling with Practical vs. a bit of Sporty/Sleek/Sexy, i.e. the wagon/minivan vs. . . . what exactly?

The third in our trio that evening was salivating for a Porsche, albeit a pre-owned one. We debated the Sportiness Factor of spoilers (even on a Camry!). We put our heads in our hands, and keened for the unique. It’s not that we are shallow, exactly. But I can’t help but feel you are what you drive.

Am I really a Suburban Minivan Mom? Am I?

My one friend, whose 1992 Acura was just back from the shop, had decided to put another $2,000 into his car to buy more time. He had it detailed recently, and is ordering a bottle of touch-up paint from California.

“What kind of car is it?” I asked.

“An Integra,” he said.

“Oooooh, I had one of those,” I said. “I loved it!”

A beautiful blue 1993 Acura Integra I bought in Florida.

Later in the conversation I asked: “What color?”

I think I knew.

“Captiva blue,” he said.

We both gushed about the now near-historic car (cars qualify for Historic license plates at 20 years in Maryland). The Integra, which has sadly been discontinued, was lovely, with sharp, angular lines, unlike the stubby Ford Taurus look-alikes of today. Yet practical, too—reliable, with a respectable 35 mpg. And, at the time of purchase, when the Honda Civic cost about $11,000, this upgrade was only about $15,000. Today, stepping up to a sporty car means spending tens of thousands more.

So I, like my friends, feel kind of stuck as I look around.

I think it’s okay to love your car. My dad, a rural mail carrier, always named his International Scouts, usually Bessie. And our red Subaru, despite its recent nervous breakdown, is named Rojo.

Still, sometimes I think about that powerful blue car that I sold when we had our first child. It was a two-door. It represented another self.

I never did name it.

Yet it was so blue, a friend of mine once said, it made the sky jealous.

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