I just took out a multi-thousand dollar bet that my lungs won’t give out in the next 5 years. I bought a car.
More accurately, I financed a car. I’ve bought plenty of cars in my day—10 by last count—but nothing that I couldn’t take the plates off and walk away from. I’ve never spent more than $1000 on a car, which isn’t to say that I’m an expertly deal finder, but that most of the cars I’ve bought have been worth every dollar and not a penny more.
The car I was driving last week was a 1995 Volvo 850. It had 222,345 miles when I got it and as far as anyone call tell, it still does. The odometer’s been frozen as long as I owned it. I bought it from my father for $500. He bought it from a lady down the street for $100. I intended to drive it until it died, but in the end—even when the check engine light started blinking—it just wouldn’t go gentle into that good night.
It also wouldn’t stop. One of the rear brakes had developed a tendency to get stuck, which shredded the brakes pads and filled each press of the pedal with primal metal screams. Saying it didn’t stop at all is an exaggeration: it stopped, but it fought the whole way. The screams would give way to a final shudder as the wheel finally seized, only to start up again when the gas was hit and the metal parts were forcibly separated.
Though I’m pretty much an expert at driving vehicles with catastrophic equipment failures, that feels like more of a young man’s game now. I take enough chances just by going outside. So even though I probably could have dropped another $200 to squeeze a few more miles out of that white stallion, sometimes you gotta know when to fold ’em. That’s how I ended up at the car dealership last week. I’m still not handling it well.
The process was as smooth as something like that can go—a family friend works at the dealership—but I still found enough downtime to run the numbers on exactly how hard I was fucking my future self. Prior to last week, the most I have ever spent on any one thing was the $1900 I spent on Pulmozyme when my health insurance lapsed. I financed that too.
At the end of the day, I was the owner of both a 2009 Toyota Camry LE and the worst case of buyer’s remorse I had ever experienced. This was not the fault of the car—it runs great, I like the color and it has an aux input jack. But goddamn, was I depressed about it.
Though I do feel selfish spending thousands of dollars on something, accumulation of debt never bothered me before—in western society, it’s the ultimate rite of passage. I couldn’t place why buying his car—one of the more useful things I’ve bought—bothered me so much. And then it hit me:
Buying this car means I can’t get sick.
I’ve been driving/working for 12 years now and in that time I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck and car to car. It’s just now that I have a job that I would almost classify as an “adult” job. It’s not quite a career, but what I would call a “training career”–something you wear when your career buds start to poke through your shirt. I’m turning the corner on 31 soon, so it’s high time I get my shit together, but I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s a timebomb in my chest. Mostly because there’s a timebomb in my chest. I feel the fucker ticking.
I seem to have graduated from worrying about my cars dying to worrying about me dying. Or almost dying. Driving shitbox cars was stressful, but as terrible as they were, I owned those cars outright. If my lungs turned to stone and I stopped working, I’d still have the car. Now if I stop working, Barry Darsow is going to show up at my house and return the car to it’s rightful owner: the bank.
Because of this, I thought it was important to find something with enough trunk room that I might live in it. This way if I stop working and can’t scrap together the monthly payment, I can put down the backseat like a murphy bed and they’ll never get a chance to repo it, because I’ll always be watching. All I’ll need is a power inverter for my Vest and I’ll be good to go.
But maybe I need to be challenged. That’s a theory I’ve used in the past to justify superfluous purchases. About six years ago, I started at a job that I absolutely hated. And even though I had already racked up a fair amount of credit card debt, I bought a Playstation 3 with cash, just to ensure that I’d keep showing up to work. So I did. Even on days when my body weight was roughly 30% mucus. Maybe this car is actually my first giant step towards financial solvency and adult responsibilty.
Or maybe this is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever done.