Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flirty car lover surrenders to "wandering eye syndrome"

UPDATE: Within hours of this column being published, I became the proud owner of a new 2009 3.3 GL AWD Hyundai Santa Fe. Very happy!
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Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

I don't know why, but it's painful for me to keep cars until the end of their lease. I always get the urge for a new car long before I need one.

My current vehicle, a 2005 Hyundai Tucson, is the car I've kept the longest. The lease is up next April and it's taking every ounce of discipline in me not to get rid of it early, even if it means taking a rather substantial financial hit.

To soothe my urge, I drive around car lots on weekends to drool over their shiny offerings.

The large black SUVs are my current desire, although that could change tomorrow if my mid-life crisis kicks in and I decide I'd rather have a sports car that requires me calling 911 every time I want to climb out: 'We've got you all greased up with shortening, Mr. Cormier. Now hold your breath and the firefighters will try to pull you out! Suck in that belly! Here we go! Pull!'

I'm not the type of guy who does well in sports cars. I need a ladder to climb down into one. Getting out requires emergency assistance.

No, I think I'll go the non-environmentally friendly SUV route.

My first car was a 1981 white Chevette I inherited from my mother.

It needed a lot of repairs when I acquired it, but it was a decent little car for booting around town in.

Besides, when you have no car, any car is a good car.

Next up was a 1986 Volkswagen Jetta turbo diesel. This was a great car, but the front seat broke, so I was constantly forced to lean forward so as not to fall into the back seat.

A new seat cost a fortune and I had zero money when I owned that particular car, so repairing it was out of the question.

Because it was a diesel, it got amazing gas mileage -- to the point where I often forgot to refuel until it was practically too late.

It was also the car in which I experienced my one and only big accident when I got hit by someone who ran a red light in Fredericton.

Ironically, it was another Jetta, which was totalled in the accident. In fact, he bounced off me and rammed another large (and very expensive) Toyota truck, which was also totalled.

From what the insurance company told me, I had the dubious distinction of being in the car accident with the highest dollar value of damage in the history of the city at the time. My car wasn't totalled, although the doors never shut correctly after it was fixed and it would snow inside the car during blizzards. It was the other driver's fault and he got ticketed. Eventually, I sold the car and went without a vehicle for a year or so until I bought a new 1993 Plymouth Sundance.

I bought it on a winter evening after seeing it under the bright lights at the Chrysler dealership.

Thinking I'd bought a blue car, I was horrified to find out that the lights had played tricks on my eyes.

When I showed up to actually pick up my new vehicle, I discovered that it was actually turquoise.

By then, it was too late, so I was pretty much stuck with it. It didn't matter, though, because I was just happy to have set of wheels again -- and brand new ones at that!

On the way back to Fredericton, where I lived at the time, I stopped at a store, got out of the car and the wind took the door and slammed it into the car next to me, chipping the paint on my car, but leaving no damage on the other one.

The first scratch or ding is always the worst. I didn't even own that car for an hour before it got its first injury. Within a few years, I leased a 1996 Dodge Neon, which was great, actually. I really liked it... until the shiny new 1999 Toyota Corolla caught my eye and the Neon got dumped.

The Corolla has always been a great vehicle and is ranked consistently high in satisfaction and quality surveys, but of course within a few years I was calling it my 'grandpa car' and felt the urge once again to trade, this time for another Toyota -- the new 2003 Matrix.

I got one of the first ones sold in Moncton, and the only white one. I was in love with it and paraded it around like I'd found the Holy Grail.

Within a few weeks, I saw another one on the street... and then I didn't want mine anymore. Before my lease was even close to being up a couple of years later, I once again needed a new vehicle (at least in my head) and ended up going to the Hyundai lot during an afternoon off from work in April 2005.

The visit was, you know, 'just to look.' Within two hours, I had a new vehicle -- the Tucson, a small SUV that has served me well. I picked it up on April 19, 2005, the same day Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

My lease is up in April 2010, but of course I'm dying to get out early.

I drool over every new car I see on the street, no matter what it is.

I must be addicted to the smell of new cars. It's so intoxicating.

The Chevette and Jetta are likely scrapped by now.

I saw the Sundance around town for a few years, as well as the Neon, but not lately, so they may be scrapped by now, too.

The Corolla was sold to a friend and it's still going strong. I haven't seen the Matrix around, and the Tucson will likely be sold at auction when the lease is up.

I always feel a tinge of melancholy when I get rid of a car, but the Tucson's time is nearly up and it's time for a new four-wheeled lover -- this time a black four-wheel-drive SUV that I'll love forever... or two years, whichever comes first.

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