New car only means new problems


The way I see it, the problem with buying a new car is that you aren’t really solving any of your old problems; you’re just inheriting someone else’s.

I’ve come to this conclusion in the last several months while getting to know my new car, Dante.

Regular readers of this column—who should be seeking medication—may remember my former car named Max.

Max had the automobile variety of leprosy, which systematically broke, rusted, knocked off and leaked out important fixtures within him.

Max was a wonderful car, but last summer I decided that it was time to move up a bit. That is, moving up in newness.

I am now the proud debt-ower of a 2006 Dodge Stratus named Dante.

Dante is a fiery red color. This almost caused the naming selection to go toward Lucy, making an easy reference to Lucille Ball and her red hair.

My girlfriend, Shelby, was campaigning for that name. But Shelby, being a redhead herself, is fiery enough, and I decided it would probably be safer not to try and handle two temperamental gingers simultaneously.

By reading the car information, I found the exterior paint color was “inferno red,” which inspired the name Dante.

This is testament to what a literary nerd I have become.

When I handed over Max’s keys during the trade-in at the dealership, I was under the impression that I was also handing over a load of current and future automotive problems. I felt relieved, like a giant proverbial weight was being lifted off of my shoulders.

Silly me.

See, what I was really doing as I accepted the keys to Dante was picking up an unforeseen pack of new troubles. (This is quite the ironic statement, since the previous owner was reportedly blind.)

It’s not like I wasn’t picky about the car. I test drove it over potholes and on gravel country roads. I slammed on the brakes a couple times and checked the cruise control accuracy. I rolled down all the windows and rolled them back up. I walked around the car, checking for body damage, and I examined under the hood as if I knew what I was looking for.

(In reality, when a person names his car after literary characters, he has no idea what he’s looking for underneath the hood.)

I even kicked each tire, dually noting the level of rim-shine and darkness of tire rubber wax.

But despite all my precautions, some problems have already arisen. Granted, these problems aren’t exactly hazardous, but they are highly obnoxious.

First, I’m beginning to fall under the impression that I must have very bright headlights.

I’m basing this assumption off of the fact that, while driving at night, oncoming motorists flash their brights at me an average of twice every 30 minutes.

I see myself as a responsible driver—Who doesn’t?—and I am very diligent about putting my dims on when vehicles are approaching. So it’s got to be that my headlamps are just obnoxiously bright.

I wish I could stop and apologize to every driver who thinks I’m being insensitive on the road. But I can’t when we are each passing at 65 miles per hour.

So instead, when motorists flash me, I just flash them right back. It’s not exactly apologizing, but I do feel as if—at least for me—justice is being served.

The other dilemma I’ve discovered with Dante is more of a personal embarrassment.

To put it technically, the audible pronouncement component broadcasts at an exceedingly submissive frequency.

Or simply put: Dante has a weenie horn.

I didn’t notice this specifically until a couple weeks after I purchased the car, but whereas other vehicles honk, Dante—for lack of a better word—whimpers.

It’s sort of a high-strung, feminine “meep,” which causes me to worry that while sitting in the parking lot overnight, the other cars and trucks are teasing him.

“Hey, Squeekers,” they’ll taunt, “cat got your horn?”

Or worse, “Where’d you get your horn, Tweetie? The PetSmart chew-toy aisle?”

What I’m really concerned about is that someday I’ll be in a crowded parking lot, and some giant pickup truck will be backing out with Dante and I stuck right behind. And in a last-ditch effort to save myself, I’ll slam on the horn: “meep.”

But I suppose I can’t blame this inadequacy on Dante. After all, it can’t be the car’s fault that he has a faulty horn.

Only a nerd would assign human faults to an inanimate object named after a character from literature.


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