Thursday, October 2, 2014

Death of a Minivan

I expected cancer, not a massive heart attack.

The van, when it died, would die by inches.In fact, it had long ago started a slow decay. The CD player didn't work anymore. The light behind the clock had burnt out, so that you could only tell time in the daylight. The left back vent window, if accidentally opened, might stay open for days, before mysteriously agreeing to shut again. I didn't mind. I liked my 2004 minivan.

Years ago I read an article about prioritizing spending. You could divide everything you spent money on in two ways: truly necessary (food, clothing, shelter, transportation, insurance) and frills (travel, horses, books, yarn, golf--for my husband, golf). You could also divide everything two other ways: those that bring you joy (food, shelter, horses, books, yarn) and those that don't (clothing except really cool shoes, transportation, insurance). Everyone's lists will be different. Then the trick is to totally ignore frills that don't bring you joy (for me, I don't know--flat screen TVs? Netflix? scuba diving?) and minimize how much you spend on necessities that don't bring you joy (transportation) so that you can maximize how much you spend on frills that do bring you joy. Which is why, two years ago, I bought a new horse instead of a new car.

I don't love cars. I love having transportation, but pretty much for me it ends there. A friend of mine recently bought a luxury auto in a bright cherry red; she adores it, and I'm pleased for her, but I would never buy such a thing. I'd be thinking all along, "Heck--for that money you could get a reasonable car AND a trip to Italy," and I'd be in Italy, baby, buying shoes. And food.Yet my horse, Sarah, cost about as much as a reasonable car, and to me she's worth every stinkin' dime, even after yesterday's little tussle over the liverpool.

I loved the minivan because it had lots of room. Because the children each had their own seat, and couldn't shove each other. (Ok, they could, but their boundaries at least had strict definitions.) Because I could take five pony clubbers and another grownup to quiz rally, even with all our luggage and snacks and study material. Because for ten years, when I got in it and stepped on the gas, it went. And while it got old and dilapidated and was never sexy, it was reliable and cheap, which was all I ever wanted.

When I parked at my husband's golf club it was usually the worst car in the parking lot, including those owned by the wait staff and cart boys. I didn't care. I had exactly zero ego points assigned to that car. I plan to have exactly zero ego points assigned to my next one.

Because the minivan, rest in peace, is truly dead.

Yesterday I drove to Faith In Action without incident. When I was finished working, I drove to the bank. The van seemed a little funky, but I have to drive very slowly there past an elementary school, so I didn't think much about it. After the bank I had to drive uphill, and at first the van simply wouldn't. I pressed the accelerator and the engine raced, but the wheels themselves barely moved. Eventually I got to flatter roads and was able to achieve speeds of nearly 20 mph. Something was certainly very wrong. As I pondered my options (Did I attempt to continue to the library?) the ENGINE DYING light came on. I'd never had that happen before. So I put on my blinkers and limped to the Honda station. Attempts to resuscitate failed. I held health care power of attorney for the minivan, so that when they informed me that the transmission had broken (cost of repair much greater than value of minivan) I pulled the plug.

I'm going to the dealer today to get all my CDs, books, and horse stuff out of the old van, and to find out what my options are for burial. Meanwhile, I'm in the market for a car--something low-key, probably used. That new car smell costs a couple thousand dollars, and I can go ride in Florida for two weeks for that.