“It must feel like you are losing a good friend,” my husband said with unexpected commiseration.
I was surprised and touched. It isn’t fair to say that my husband doesn’t understand feelings, but he expects them to be straightforward. Being angry when someone does you wrong, being sad when someone dies, being happy when you win the lottery - those feelings he can comprehend. Mixed emotions in the case of a happy event are a different kettle of fish.
After all, the conversation had started with him asking, “Are you excited about getting a new car?” I had finally got up the nerve to test drive a Honda Civic at a local dealership. Several prior experiences with sales people had not been happy ones. Most recently, I had tried to make an appoinment online with the service department of the Ford dealership I had dealt with for years. I got a call back, not from the service department, but from a sales person who demanded to know if I was selling my old car, what kind of new car I wanted to buy, why I wanted to buy a Honda instead of another Ford, and when she finally gave me a time to show up at the service department, insisted she would meet me there with someone who would give me a trade-in price for my car. I took the Mustang to another dealership for the repair instead. As I told John, “I know I was filling in a request for a service appointment. The form had a list of items like oil change, front end alignment, and tire rotation.”
My experience with the Honda people was completely different. Allen, the sales person who helped me, was happy to let me test drive several models and go home to discuss the purchase with my husband. My husband would no doubt be surprised to hear the list of things that various sales people around town have been told I am not allowed to do without his consent, especially since he has left for work in the morning and come home to find a new car in place of my old one on more than one occasion. Blaming my husband is the closest I usually come to sales resistance.
When I returned to the dealership on Saturday (Allen’s day off, but he came in to see us) with husband in tow, I thought we would be buying the car, but after looking at the engine, asking a bunch of questions that never would have occurred to me, and getting price quote that was well within the range of what Consumer Reports considered a good deal, my darling, who had been nagging me for at least a month about getting moving toward buying myself a new car, decided he needed more time to think.
So it was the day after Easter when I finally called Allen back, asked if we could shave another $300 off the price (we could) and if the blue 4 door with the navigation system was still available (on the lot of another dealership somewhere near Alexandria, if I remember correctly.) Late that afternoon I got a call that I could pick up my car Wednesday morning.
That brings us to Tuesday night, the night of the conversation that began with “Are you excited about getting a new car?” I was, but at the same time I was sad about giving up the old car. Being the lady with the Honda Civic is not quite the same as being the lady with the Mustang convertible. Allen, ever the salesman, pointed out that at least I would be the lady with the bright blue Honda Civic with the navigation system. I’m not sure it’s the same.
So, yes, it is like losing an old friend, particularly since I used to talk to Car, and she used to talk back. Yes, I know, I was on both ends of that conversation, and that Car is a soulless machine who doesn’t know it is going to be sold and doesn’t care. But the interesting thing to me is that the Car persona I created was a wide eyed child in her early years who feuded with Pearl, John’s car, and who then grew wiser and more reflective over the years, and got along well with Fern, John’s current car. Car also gave some damn good advice. I don’t remember having an imaginary friend as a child, so apparently I entered that stage of development late, very late. I don’t know if childhood imaginary friends are in the advice giving business, but I do wonder why my imaginary friend gave better advice than I give myself when talking as myself.
I didn’t tell all this to John, just talked about my happy memories of taking the Mustang on my solitary jaunt out west to New Mexico one summer when he was busy with a project and I had two weeks off.
I’m enjoying my new car, but so far it hasn’t become a person, and probably never will. John suggested Honey as a name for it (Honey for Honda) and I haven’t been able to think of anything better. Allen told me that it is quite common for people to name their cars. He hears them saying goodbye to their cars by name as they trade them in. I don’t know how many of those people give their cars personalities and hold conversations with them. I didn't ask. I didn’t want him to suggest “the wildly eccentric lady with the bright blue Civic” as my next identity.