Aspen Princess: Life in the breakdown lane
When I was a kid, my dad left the house one day and came home with a brand-new, cherry-red Porsche.
“Want to go out for ice cream?” he asked when I came running out of the house, squealing like the tween that I was. He made sure to show me how the car handled, downshifting and accelerating around every corner and speeding around the windy roads of our rural neighborhood in a way that probably should have gotten him arrested. He turned up the stereo as loud as it would go, playing with all the dials and showing me all the different speakers.
I remember every little detail about that car: The black leather interior; the Blaupunkt stereo; the smaller, race-car-style, leather-wrapped steering wheel with the thick stitching. The model was a 944, one of the least expensive Porsches ever made, but it still had that distinct purr only a Porsche engine can make, a low but elegant growl. And of course, it handled like a champ.
My dad always had sports cars when I was growing up. There was the Barracuda convertible with an automatic roof that would jack up and then fold into itself loudly, terrifying me as a little girl. There was the metallic-green Mustang, the one that got stolen in downtown Hartford and was found a few days later, dumped on a random street.
Then there was the silver Mazda RX7. It was a two-seater, so we threw a small mattress in the back, lying on our backs for longer road trips. (To think there was a time before car seats.) After that, Dad got into the Datsun 280ZX, black with gold pinstripes and a T-roof. Then came a gold Datsun 300Z and then the Porsche. It was the crown jewel of his car collection.
The point I’m trying to make is it’s my dad’s fault that I have a penchant for German engineering. So it’s my dad’s fault that I was stupid enough to buy an Audi.
In a long-standing tradition of having to learn everything the hard way, I chose a 2004 Audi Allroad from a friend. To make matters worse, it had 75,000 miles on it. You know, the time when anyone who knows anything would get rid of it.
Oh, it’s an awesome car, all right. It has twin turbo and a hydraulic suspension system, so you can lift and lower the car to four different level options depending on the conditions. Need clearance to get up Knight Road after a snowstorm? No problem. Want to burn through Glenwood Canyon like it’s the Autobahn? You got it. Want the best all-wheel-drive ever made so you can go up and down Frying Pan Road all winter long without dying? Check, check and check.
“These cars usually crap the bed at around 150,000 miles,” my mechanic said without hesitation. “These are the most complex cars Audi ever made.”
“You should sell that thing now while it still runs and go get a Subaru,” my brother said.
But we continue to rationalize, telling ourselves that it’s cheaper to fix the car than to buy a new one. “I can’t think of another car I’d want more,” I told Ryan. “So why get rid of this one?”
You might have seen me less than three months ago on the side of Highway 82 with smoke coming out from under the hood. That’s why I was feeling pretty embarrassed when the tow truck had to come to the Shell station in Aspen last week because the temperature gauge started beeping at me and I discovered the coolant tank was empty. I was afraid someone I know might see me as my car was being loaded onto this giant truck with flashing lights and making loud beeping noises as if to bring attention to the fact that I am a total and complete idiot.
The biggest rub is I just paid the car off last month.
“It will be so nice not to have to make payments on this car anymore,” I told Ryan. “Maybe now we’ll finally get some value out of it.”
The only value I’ve gotten in the five minutes I’ve owned the car outright is in this lesson: Don’t buy an Audi unless you can afford one.
My dad eventually sold that Porsche because he decided it was time for a more practical car and bought a Ford Explorer. One day, when he dropped me off at my friend Hope’s house, her mother came out and said, “Oh, hello, Richard. I didn’t recognize you. You weren’t wearing your Porsche.”
See, your car says a lot about you.
When I bought a blue turbo Volkswagen Beetle, my friend Steve said, “You don’t love this car. You love what this car says about you.” Steve was a total jerk, but he was right.
When I bought my white Jeep Wrangler, my trainer Bernadette said, “That car looks like you.” And even though it was kind of an insult, considering the car is short and boxy, I took it as a compliment because I loved that Jeep and it did look like me; it was strongly built and made for the mountains, but it was fun, too. It was like a toy. You could take that thing anywhere. And in the summer, with the top down, it was as good as it gets, even if it was kind of loud and crazy windblown.
Whenever my Audi goes back into the shop, someone says, “You should really get a Subaru.” And even though I know they’re right, I don’t want a dang Subaru. A Subaru is practical and reliable and predictable.
So if your car says everything about you, I’m about as high-maintenance, unreliable, unpredictable and expensive as they come. But when I do run, I’ve got twin turbo, baby.
The Princess has no idea what the heck she’s talking about. email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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