I bought my first car in 2016. Well, allow me to rephrase: I leased my first car in 2016. I chose a Subaru and named her El after my favorite television character from the Netflix show, Stranger Things. At the time I thought a three-year lease was a safe bet. My plan was to remain at my same job as a graphic designer for a magazine company, pick up freelance gigs along the way and build my resume. At the end of the lease, my dream was still to move to New York City, where I would not need a car.
Obviously, things change, as they always do. Now, when anyone asks about my five-year plan? I answer that I honestly do not know but I will work as hard as I can where I am right now to be the best version of myself. In reality, a year after signing the lease I was packing up my car to move across the country. El has safely carried my dog, Zooey, my plants and I all over the United States. I joke that she is my third arm at this point. El and I have driven through the deserts of Utah, up the Grand Canyon in Arizona, across more deserts and plateaus in New Mexico, through the lush evergreen and aspen mountains of Colorado, across the plains of Kansas, through the green hills of Missouri, the farmlands of Indiana and Illinois, to a music festival in Tennesse, to more concerts in North Carolina, across Virginia for stories for Prerogative Magazine and finally through the green mountains of West Virginia to my latest home.
This car feels like a home for me. It seems like I have lived in my car for the better part of two years. I have also spend a lot of time crying in this car with my music blasting. It was the only safe space I had when I had roommates. She safely carried me back home on a three-hour drive after dropping off a boyfriend at the airport after a break-up, one of the most heart-wrenching drives I have ever had. My car feels like a part of my personality at this point. We are easily recognizable. The friends I have left behind in those states and cities tell me they still get a twinge of recognition when they see a car like mine.
Now that I have bared some of my soul, you will hopefully understand why it is such a difficult decision. I have to decide whether to actually buy my car, my third arm, or take the plunge with a new one. I have done some research and the payments would be about the same for a better, newer model. My car insurance might even go down with all the added safety features on the new models. It seems like an easy decision, right? But I am sentimental. When I was a teenager, my family had a 2000 Subaru Outback (yes, we are a Subaru family) named Lulu the Subaru. When we had to trade her in in 2011 my mother and I both sobbed as we drove away from the dealership in our shiny new car.
The decision seems simple, buy the newer car, right? So I started trying to convince myself and thought of the worst problem I have had with El: she has had three flat tires in three years. The first was when I hit a pothole on my way to cover St. Albans City Council while I was freelancing for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. I made it to the meeting but my tire was flat and I had never changed a tire before. Luckily, those meetings took place at the city firehouse. I felt like a NASCAR driver as the firefighters used the jack they used for the firetrucks to lift my little car up. They had my tire changed in about five minutes. Thanks, guys!
The next flat tire was in New Mexico. Again, a pothole, but in a very different environment. I was driving through the desert on a back road, on my way back from a photography assignment. I was able to make it to a shop in Durango, Colorado and they assessed that this time it was not just the tire, it was the wheel. The real kicker to this one? I planned to drive to Denver that weekend. Thankfully, a friend let me borrow his car for that trip.
The last flat tire was on the drive out of Colorado when I was moving last summer. Through a thunderstorm, I had gotten ahead of my father in the Uhaul so I pulled off at Sand Dunes National Park to wait for him to catch up. Out of nowhere, the low tire pressure light lit up. I made my way to a gas station in the pouring rain and tried to fill the tires to no avail. My father caught up with me and we put the spare tire on. It was 5 p.m. in the middle of nowhere. We were trying to make it to Kansas that night for our hotel reservation. I frantically called every mechanic shop in a 50-mile radius. Finally, out of desperation, I called the local Auto-Zone. A man answered and I told him my situation. Luckily enough, he had a friend that worked at a garage not even 10 miles from us. He gave me his friend's number and I called and begged him for help. This angel of a man came back to the shop and opened it up after hours, took every single tire off my car, checked them all, re-sealed them and still only charged me the price of a regular tire check. Finally, we left at about 8 p.m. and did not make it to Kansas until 3 a.m. Someday I will write a full story about my mine and my father's adventure driving across the country because there are so many stories just like this.
Now that I have regaled you with three flat tire stories, I feel a sense of nostalgia. In hindsight, I do not think the flat tires were El's fault. She was driven by me and while I count myself a good driver, I can't avoid every single pothole. I will update you at the end of the summer of my decision. I can assure you if I make the financially smart decision, there will be tears as I pull away in my brand new car.