Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If You Can Read This Title, Then Read It To Someone Who Can't

April is commemorative for many reasons.  For me, it was Month of the New Car.  The last Month of the New Car was seven years ago.  I think it goes by the lunar calendar.  Or maybe the Julian.  I can never keep track.

The funny thing I learned about buying a new car is that it's much easier to do when you have no money.  The last time (and the time before that, for that matter) I had a finite amount of money, and little prospects of having more money anytime soon.  You take the best you can get for what you have.  I got lucky.  I made a good choice.  I did my research.  And the six-year-old car I bought lasted another seven years, including the year it sat in a barn while I was off having adventures.

This time round was a bit different.  I'm not the only one making use of this car (funny, the things spouses can be useful for), and so I'm not the only one paying for it now.  Meaning there was more money to be spent, potentially, on a car.  I'm not going to say how much more—because, jealousy, and all that—but suffice to say I felt rocketed quite literally into a new world, a new era, in car performance.  Let's be honest, a car with power windows and air conditioning was going to be luxury to me, so I spent most of my time looking for a new car wildly vacillating between ecstasy in choice and the sure knowledge that I was going to buy the worst car for the most money and bankrupt our household for life.  Which touchscreen is better?  Do I want the Bluetooth system that reads text messages to me, or just the one that plays music and lets me talk on the phone?  All digital, or stick with the vintage radial meters?  Color, sunroof, wheels, interior upholstery, manual, automatic, hybrid, diesel, so tiny it doesn't make a difference?  Do we buy the cheap car and pay it off quick (because you know you're going to need a new cheap car pretty soon), or the expensive one and pay it off slow and drive it until the petroleum reserves run out?

And then there's the buying experience.  Being the only driver on the homestead, I did the majority of the test-driving, talking to salespeople, reading the literature.  This wasn't the slick 50s, to be sure, but the gentleman-salespeople who thought they could turn my head with bright LED readouts and vanity mirrors surely didn't have any business selling to me.  Or those who don't believe in knowing actual facts about the vehicles they're selling.

But anyway, that's not the interesting part of the story.

Suffice to say, we bought a car from people who sold cars, for a specified amount of money.

This blog is about me.

For those of you who know, I'm the only driver.  For those of you who don't, ask someone who does.  I don't have time to unpack that right now.

It's a pretty good axiom that the primary driver of a car should be the one for whom the car is bought.  If I didn't like it, it would probably be a bad investment.  But being as the car was bought to transport the family, it's as much ours as it is mine, bought with money from both of us.  But how to do you really get a non-driver excited about something he's never really going to use?  Someone always required to ask others for a ride is going to be much more invested in his own feet than the ins and outs of any car.  Vanity, I guess, to want someone to affirm my choice in an expensive, potentially explosive, purchase.  Or just a different, rarely accounted for, point of view.

Let's take a step back.  The car we had, when we met, was mine.  Found, bought, paid for, driven, maintained, by me.  He enjoyed it for what it was.  But to everyone, not just us, not just the offspring, it was definitely my car.  Let's be honest, when I had to sell the thing it felt like an extension of me.  (But we won't get into that).  Now, depending on point of view, ownership of the car is fluid.  To those for whom money is the be-all, I suppose it goes to the one whose arbitrary market value is higher.  To the offspring, it yet remains my car.  To me, it's our car.  To him, I'd like to say it's also our car.  (I think getting his own key fob [with the cool flip out key] helped in that area).

For some, automobile matters fall squarely in the range of menfolk, irrespective of, well anything else.  I've a feeling this last is true all countries over.  Maybe there's a matrilineal village somewhere in Scandinavia where all the women have grease-stained hands and wear overalls.  I can't be sure.  Some people just want a reason to be proud of, or bask in the collective vanity, of another.  Whether or not it's founded.

But anyway, I got to thinking—as I'm so poetically wont to do—about doing, and ability, and being defined by one's abilities and, yes, disabilities, and the ways in which one deviates from the perceived norm.  Being one of those modern females emancipated on a regular intravenous drip of that feminist drug which we all speak of in hushed tones, I take exception to any suggestion that my car-purchasing prowess is any less than another's.  I of course have been told in no uncertain terms, in many venues, that my ability to buy a car without the significant twisting of any undergarments is out of the norm, and while I firmly believe and state openly that that is just absolute stupidity, I acknowledge that such statements have been made in my direction and that, according to that dubious lore, I can't expect people to make an honest accounting of my abilities based on my accomplishments all the time.

No, I won't go so far as to say being perceived female is a disability.  I of all people know the inanity of that.  But it is known that strangers, and yes, friends, will change their behavior towards you when once they perceive a difference from the accepted norm.  I continuously consulted with my male counterpart about the car we were to buy because—ideas of consulting long-term bonded compatriots over major and/or life-altering decisions aside—though he does not drive, he has fairly lucid thoughts most of the time and is generally one of the few people whose judgment I trust on a regular basis.  In short, I desired his input as an intelligent being.

Some people, upon learning of the disability of another, suddenly find cause to doubt their fitness as a person to go a day without wetting themselves, or walk upright, for that matter.  To be able to consistently tell the difference between a toothbrush and scissors; to comprehend basic English spoken in a reasonable tone.  If anyone else finds the comparison to a drunk all too apt, please raise your hand now.

But where drunks have not lived in this state their entire lives (one is to hope) and will soon pass out and wake up next day without the aforementioned condition, someone with, say, a vision impairment has in all likelihood lived his entire life with it, and is better equipped than all the harassed bartenders in the world to determine where the cutoff point is.  We baby drunks, as they make of themselves children.  We give them special treatment and special passes all the time, and think nothing of it, because they can't help themselves.  But the disabled—oh no, it's almost as though they deserve to be punished—nay, that their disability is their punishment—for being born a certain way, to look at the vast majority of everything we as a society take for granted every day, and be told they can't have that.

Want to get up those steps?  Well, I guess you should've been born with two functioning legs and kept them that way.  I mean, honestly, who do you have to blame but yourself?

Want to know where the hell you're going in an airport?  In a strange city?  In the checkout line at your local grocery store?  Well, why can't you read those signs that are so perfectly sized for my eyes?  It's not my fault you can't see that.

Want to get a decent job that requires more than picking up trash in a parking lot?  Well, you should've been born able to get through school in the usual 13 years like the rest of us.

Ever wonder what people mean when they point at something and say, "look at that!"?  Well too bad.  I don't have time to expend the two words necessary to let you feel as though you're part of the conversation and not just the village idiot who's been let out for the long weekend.

After all, who knows what use you might make of all this special treatment.  If you get ahead of me in life, than I'll have no one to blame buy myself for treating you like a reasonable person asking for reasonable accommodation.  It's not as though I go round getting special treatment all the time, and look where I've got!  You must have bootstraps there somewhere, then start pulling!

Well, that was my story about buying a car.  Remember, it's all about perception.

Oh yeah, April is also Month of the Tax Return.  If you find yourself with an overabundance, please consider donating to something like this:

or any one of these: