The perils of living with a car guy

My skin-flint-ed-ness (totally a word) is so legendary, that back over the holidays when we sprang for a new television set, everyone I told thought it was a joke (including my own children). Because I don’t spend money like that. Ever.

So when Otto’s mom gave us her car three years ago, I (predictably) said “Oh! Free car! YAY!” and gave up any thoughts of replacing the car I’d sold before I moved down here. Because free is my very favorite price, and my favorite kind of car is the kind with four wheels and a steering mechanism and a working engine.

Now, I’m not a car person. Otto IS a car person, and so the car he drives is important to him as an essential experience. Or something. I don’t really understand. Me, the car is a little bigger than I would like. But it’s no big deal. Handling? Power? Huh? I don’t know. One time one of my grocery bags fell over in the ginormous trunk and I had to CRAWL INSIDE to retrieve the bananas. That was kind of annoying. But whatever.

Otto, though, was worried about me. Or maybe he was worried about the car.

“You hate that car,” he would say to me, periodically. “We can replace it, you know.”

“I don’t HATE it. I just… don’t love it. It’s fine. I don’t drive a lot. I don’t need a different car. We can’t spend the money.”

And he would go into a whole monologue about how driving should be enjoyable, and I work hard and if I want a new car I should get a new car, and I would just put my fingers in my ears and hum a little ditty about how having money in the bank helps to curb my mental illness number, or at least keep it at a manageable level.

It went on like that for a while.

And then one day we went somewhere together and Otto was driving my car and it kind of went *shimmyTHUNK* and Otto said, “Did you feel that?” I affirmed that I had. “Has it done that before?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, busy checking my email on my phone. “It does that all the time, why?”

Otto made a garbled noise. I’m not sure what he was trying to say. But later he told me that cars aren’t supposed to do that. I mean, really, I’m supposed to know that?

According to Otto, the transmission is slipping on my car. Also according to Otto: It’s probably time to start thinking about replacing it, while it still has some trade-in value.

What I heard when he said this was: “Your car could explode at any moment. Might be time to figure out what you’d like to own, instead.”

So the kids went off with their dad this weekend and we started cruising local dealer sites, looking for the perfect car for me. The problem is, the perfect car for me is one that’s free, so we were somewhat hobbled from the start. Once I was willing to entertain paying actual money, well, then I had to PICK SOMETHING. Which is hard when you don’t really care.

“I would like it to be SILVER,” I said, helpfully.

My poor husband.

Eventually we were able to narrow it down to “small 4-door,” and started looking at Civics and other similar cars. Do you have any idea how much those things cost, even used? It’s like it’s a major purchase, or something.

Then Otto came across a Hyundai Sonata on someone’s site and I was treated to a long treatise on how Hyundais are actually great cars, much better than when they first came out, and the build quality and this and that and… I don’t know; I may have dozed off.

“Fine,” I said. “Let’s go look at it.”

We drove to the lot in question and were told to “go around the side to find it” while the salesguy went and got the key. Except… the car wasn’t there, and when he returned his proposed alternate was a Kia Optima, so we said no thanks and left. And then as we drove to the next place, Otto told me all about how Kias and Hyundais are actually made in the same place and… well, you know. I had another nice nap.

At the next lot we spotted a Sonata, but it was priced way too high, so when we said it was out of our budget, that salesguy suggested a Honda Accord. And then a Toyota Yaris.

Understand, it was about 90 degrees out. I was pretty sure I could feel my brains leaking out my ears. Otto shepherded me back to the car and we headed onward to the Toyota dealership, where they had several used Civics.

This was the only dealership where we weren’t attacked immediately upon exiting the car. In fact, we walked around for a bit, took note of a few possible cars, and then had to head inside and ask for some help. The greeter went and retrieved an adorable young man with dimples and eyelashes fifteen feet long who came outside with us and reminded me very much of one of Otto’s students, or maybe even of Monkey. There was no hard sell or doubletalk, just a nice guy who, it turned out, used to teach preschool.

It took a considerable amount of effort not to pinch his cheeks.

We asked a few questions and then asked to take a used (silver!) Corolla for a drive. We drove around with him and chatted, then switch seats so Otto could also drive it and headed back to the dealership. “How do you like it, Otto?” inquired Eyelashes.

“It’s about what I expected,” Otto answered. “You know, it’s got the smaller engine, and the suspension is—” I zoned out, here, as they continued talking specs, until Eyelashes piped up again.

“And how about you, Mir? Did you like it?”

“It has four wheels and a steering wheel and it goes,” I answered. He looked confused, so I added, “And it’s silver!” You know, just to clarify.

We went back to the dealership and Otto and I went off to have a little talk. The talk basically went like this: Hey, this car is newer and has fewer miles. It’s not fancy but it’s fine and it’ll get better gas mileage. It’s priced at this number but maybe we could get them down to this number. Okay, let’s do it.

So we sat down with Eyelashes and basically said “We don’t care how you do the numbers, but if you get our cost down to this number here after the trade-in, we’ll do it.” Eyelashes nodded and assured us it was no problem. Then he left.

This was amusing to me, as our number required them to basically give us twice the high end of the trade-in value on the other car. I waited for the “Sorry, guys, I really tried, but my manager says…” schtick upon his return. We sat there and chatted as he took our car for a quick drive, pulled the CarFax on it, and talked to the manager.

And then Eyelashes came back and sat down and showed us a number and said “How about that?”

And that number was a few hundred bucks UNDER what we’d offered to pay.

So, uh, we bought a car. (“It’s possible they’re really desperate to move stock right now,” Otto reminded me, as I sat there in shock.)

It’s silver, did I mention that? It has wheels and a steering wheel and an engine and… ummm… air conditioning. That’s about it, for features. “This is the base, base model,” Otto reminded me. “It’s a complete stripper.”

“Perfect!” I said. “I shall name her Trixie. That’s a good stripper name, right?”

Otto made a funny noise. I’m not sure why.

Otto is picking Trixie up for me this afternoon. I can’t say I’m going to miss the boat I drove for the last few years, but I will miss the remote keyless entry. Apparently Trixie has to be opened with a key, like, IN THE LOCK. Have you ever heard of anything so crazy?

Moral of the story: It’s a good time to buy a Toyota, apparently. Also, my husband is a bad influence. Or a good influence. I’m not sure which.


  1. Half Assed Kitchen

    Car shopping is its own kind of hell. Especially if you care. Or maybe it’s worse if you don’t. But I’m glad you got something. Congrats!

  2. elizabeth

    have agree, car shopping is hell. but my car-guy husband seems to love it, I think it’s the “let’s make a deal”-ness of it he finds compelling.

    I’ve had a few civics and they were very, good reliable cars. I hope Trixie doesn’t disappoint.

  3. Anna Marie

    I’m sort of a car person, so I empathize with Otto on this one…but it sounds like you are going to be happy with the car so Yay for Mir!

  4. Lori N

    Trixie — love it!

    Sounds a lot like my conversations with my sometimes car guy husband — the only drawback is that he can’t drive (medical reasons) and so buying a car is additionally painful…for both of us. :)

  5. Missy

    I believe you can get the keyless entry put in by a customizing shop, but it’ll run you a few hundred bucks. Totally worth it, I say. Congrats on the new stripper car!

  6. Garnigal

    It is a very good time to buy a Toyota, and those things will go forever. I drive an 11 year old Tercel and my boyfriend drives a 15 year old Camry and, as much as we’d like new cars, the damn things won’t die. Our roomate’s 7 year old Pontiac Sunfire on the other hand…

    Enjoy the Corolla!

  7. Jess

    I hear you on the whole keyless entry thing. When we got my car (a few years ago), that was the one thing I wanted.

  8. Leandra

    It actually sounds like your car shopping experience wasn’t that bad. Which is a miracle in and of itself!

    My husband bought his stripper car last summer. You even have to manually roll down the windows — oh the humanity! I actually don’t mind that one, but having lean WAY over to lock or unlock the doors in the backseat is kind of a PITA. Oh well, it was cheap. And if we keep up with “The Plan” it will be paid off in two years!

  9. Jen

    you know that Brian’s gonna be mad that you didn’t buy a Ford product. ;)

    but congrats on the pretty silver car!!!

  10. el-e-e

    I’m sure you’ve already thought of this — not that you’re ready to think about this — but in about four years when Chickadee is ready for a car of her own…? BINGO.

    And then you can have this exhilarating experience all over again for yourself! Wheee!

  11. Rachel

    Do the windows have the old fashioned cranks to roll them up & down, or are they “fancy” and electric? Remember the good old days, cranking down the windows & cranking up the volume on the 8-track tape player? Ahhh, childhood in the 70s! = )

    Enjoy your new car! = )

  12. Colleen

    It’s definitely better that you’re not a car person. I am. I love cars. I have a classic muscle car. My husband is restoring one. When I wanted a new car I wanted a Jeep and nothing else was going to make me happy. I saw one, I fell in love with it. I paid too much. End of story. See? If I could’ve just walked out of that dealership until they got the price down, but no. All I could think was, someone else might get it!


  13. Brian

    I’m not going to be mad. That would be petty. My dad had a Corolla for the longest time and my first car was the 2 door rwd version.

    I’d been happier if it was a used Focus. :)

    Just make sure you don’t drive behind me, I don’t want it to accelerate and hit me in the rear :P

  14. Jamie

    Congratulations on the new wheels! LOVE that it cost less than you were willing to pay!

  15. Jamie

    Oh, and you could add an “aftermarket” door unlock remote thingy to it if you really wanted to. Hubby’s 4Runner has a short of some sort that was causing the alarm to go off at 3 a.m. when it rained heavily (it wouldn’t turn off until you disconnected the battery. In the rain. With the neighbors staring at you.). Needless to say, we’re using the key to unlock the vehicle now, but hubby talks about getting a new aftermarket alarm/door lock system at some point.

  16. Otto

    For the record, Rachel, I still have a car with an 8-track player, actual vinyl seats and windows that crank down and flip open – my favorite kind.

    And, though the pretty Mir will grumble as I say this, it does run but it does not stop … maybe it’s the 1966 Ford equivalent of a modern Toyota?


  17. mamalang

    You will regret not having keyless entry. It sounds so spoiled, but we also have a jeep, and it’s the one thing I hate about the jeep (unless it’s nice and the top is down, cause then who cares.)


  18. Colleen

    Congrats on Trixie! That is hillarious. I like my cars to get from point A to point B without hassle or incident. Sounds like Trixie will do the job.

  19. elz

    Pretty please Mir, won’t you get name plates that say “Trixie” or better yet” Trixieeeee.” My husband says similar things about cars/trucks and pulling capacity, blah, blah, blah. zzzzz, ooops, dozed off a bit there.

  20. Hally

    Trixie! I love it. Mir, your writing is perfect enough to put us in your pocket and travel along with you & the family on adventures. I love the way you & Otto operate together. My first car/clunker was an ’85 Jetta named Oliver that I loved SO much I shipped him across the Pacific to come to college with me. (sidenote: old cars DO NOT love the Hawaiian climate…sigh)


    ps…how did the letter writing/printing go?

  21. The Other Leanne

    Congratulations on your new car. I gotta say, I’m a tiny bit disappointed that you didn’t get a Sonata–I have one and just love it (it’s black! and shiny!), definitely more car for the money. Well, at least with a Toyota you have an excuse for speeding.

  22. Headless Mom

    ““Perfect!” I said. “I shall name her Trixie. That’s a good stripper name, right?””


    I really need a Trixie of my own. I have a feeling it will take a whole lot more ones where I live, though, Toyota or not.

  23. Aimee

    What is it with this week and stripper names? My cousin Lisa’s going to be a grandmother soon, and she told her daughter that she wants the grandkids to call her “Gigi” to which her daughter replied, “Stripper name for Grandma.”

    I don’t think Gigi’s much of a stripper name, though. Trixie’s better. ;)

  24. Mom24@4evermom

    Congrats! Very cool. I’ll be excited for you. It’s a heck of a time to buy a Toyota, which makes no sense whatsoever to me. The vast majority, if not every single one of them, are awesome, very dependable cars.

  25. Chuck

    I have a very old car. I’m kind of attached to it, though, because it’s the last car my father owned before he passed away. Recently I had to get the AC fixed and some other work done on it…expensive bill, I really paid more than the car is worth. But when I was pondering not fixing it I glanced at new car prices, had kind of a heart attack, and decided to keep my old Chrysler for a while longer. Even if it doesn’t have a CD player. As for not having many features…remote keyless entry is nice, but as long as you have air conditioning and cloth seats, you can survive in the South. I don’t know how people managed before AC was common here.

  26. Dawn

    I am SOOOO not a car person. After I was in an accident that totaled my car, we went looking for a replacement. Husband decided we needed a minivan. We drove onto the Honda lot, I said “ooh, I like that color blue.” and two hours later we owned a blue Odyssey. That I couldn’t even test drive because my foot was broken. So yeah, I really didn’t care about it much at all.
    Congratulations on Trixie!

  27. Theresa G

    Yeah, I with you in the “it’s silver!” type of non-car person. My husband has been talking nonstop about cars ever sense we determined that we’d move out of Manhattan and into Queens, where a car is more important to own. I told him that it had to have four doors, fit the baby’s seat and stuff, and be reliable without costing us an arm and a leg. And preferably not black or white, because that seems to be the pick for everyone else here.

  28. dad

    You’re going to drive a stripper named Trixie?
    You are some won-ton woman.
    Congratulations wild thing!

  29. Amanda

    We just bought a used Toyota Prius! I agree that it is a great time to buy a Toyota.

    My sister-in-law loves her Corolla – they run FOREVER and the gas mileage is really good. But hers isn’t silver :(

  30. Sheila

    Just remember, most Trixies work best if you keep them well lubricated. Heh.

  31. Wendy 2

    I sincerely hope you have better luck with your new to you car than we did. Our car that we just purchased less than a month ago, is now in the shop basically needing the engine taken apart and put back together. Which will cost more than what we paid for it. Grrrrrr, not sure what we are going to do with it at this point. Maybe we should have bought a Toyota.

  32. Lady M

    Congratulations on Trixie!

  33. Wendy

    it is an excellent time to buy a car from toyota. I did the same thing with pretty much a very similar story. lol. although I think I would have duct taped Eyelashes wrists together and threw him in the trunk of my car as a “bonus incentive” or something. because he sounds adorable and I could use the childcare he would provide when we got home…. those nice southern boys are so handy to have around.

  34. Lucinda

    Adding to those who say you can get the remote keyless entry installed. It is a few bucks but totally worth it. Totally! We did that when we bought a CRV several years ago and I never regretted it. It was the one feature I simply couldn’t live without.

  35. pam

    Trixie is a fine name. I think Trixie Fontaine.

  36. Kat

    I think Trixie Belden!

  37. karen

    congratulations on your acquisition, they are great cars, great gas mileage, last forever..and a day probably. Love the name!…lol.. mine’s Emma… do you think Trixie and Emma frequented the same bars when they were young?

  38. Ingrid

    Ooh – a Corolla! I’m so jealous!!

  39. Katie in MA

    BWAH! Mental Illness number? Is that like a sleep number? Because I don’t seem to have a handy-dandy remote to adjust mine and I’m thinking that maybe that would be handy. :-)

  40. Frank

    And my oddball 2 cents for the day…. lets hope that since you have come up with such a cool name and matching imagery, that the car doesnt become the subject of blog posts so often that she deserves her own Caregory… though the impending contest would be HI-larious for us… not so good for your search engine hits…

  41. Kelly

    Yes, a new category name contest for Trixie. Hmmm….

  42. Parodie

    Hooray for new cars! I just got a new-to-me Corolla (beige) and am also thrilled. Three cheers for Otto!

  43. Melissa

    @Kat – Trixie Belden was the first thing I thought of, too! Mir, I learn so much from you AND your readers – I didn’t know you could install remote keyless entry.

  44. Em

    It doesn’t seem like good business sense to offer to sell it to you for LESS than you offered to pay but maybe that is that “honesty” and “friendliness” I hear is epidemic in the south.

    My father-in-law sells used cars and you are right about one thing – sales are down (and have been) which is probably a great time to make a deal. Thanks to his job, we drive one wholesale car after another which means I have never had a car payment but it also means some of the windows don’t roll down, no cup holders, cracks in the dash, etc. Generally, if it gets me there and I don’t owe anyone anything, I don’t care whether it is pretty or has features or anything but what I wouldn’t give for a cup holder!

    Congrats on Trixie!

  45. Emma

    That sounds like my kinda car shopping….erm I want a black one is about as technical as I get!!! Enjoy Trixie!!

  46. Kristin

    Even if you don’t have keyless entry, Toyotas have a feature that if you turn the key in the lock twice it unlocks all the other doors too.

  47. Heather

    Congrats on the new car! My silver car (my “satin silver metallic” Civic haha) is named “Angelina”. I’m quite convinced that all cars should have a name.

  48. Nic

    Kristen- seriously? I just inherited my mother’s Camry and had no idea about the double key turn trick. Thank you! That car is 12 years old and I just know I’ll end up being buried it- gotta love a Toyota!

  49. Kelly2

    Hope you have many happy years with Trixie. Also, when asked what kind of car I want, I say blue.

  50. Megan

    snerk. Recently we were looking at houses – like to live in houses, like home-move-bedroom-kitchen type houses. And what was I looking for? One that meant I didn’t have to replace my very old indeed car and could, instead, continue to drive my oh-so-loverly-and-a-little-wimpy SCOOTER. Note it down: house hunting should totally be done on scooterable factors alone. Works for me.

  51. Dawn

    I drove a Toyota Corolla for 12 years and only got rid of it because the body was falling off. I live next to the ocean and car bodies and the sea air, they are not a good combination. It was still running fine, though.

    You know what they say about Toyotas. They’re not properly broken in until 150,000 miles. :)

  52. Kate

    My car has crank windows and manual door locks and you can’t even push a button to pop the trunk, you have to use a key. Oh, and a tape deck. It’s a 2001 model, so it’s not THAT old, but it’s pretty bare-bones.

    I just think of it as fewer things to break.

    And I once convinced a friend that was making fun of my car that, when he asked for the dome light on so he could read something, he would have to hand-crank the light to make it work. He thought about it, he really did.

  53. jess

    Welcome to the world of Corollas! We just purchased one from my in-laws (it wasn’t free, but at least we knew where it had been almost all its life and knew its history was the true history we were told) around Christmas. Ours isn’t silver, it’s “sea green” (but it pretty much looks silvery gray unless it’s in a very particular light and then you can see the “green” in it. But hey, it has four wheels and a muffler (a bonus point over our old car) and no leaks in the engine (triple bonus points over our old car) and it doesn’t need new brakes (another added point over the old car) or any of the other work our old car needed that wouldn’t make it worth anymore and would only serve to drain our savings account but leave us with an old, old car that still didn’t run quite right (ding ding ding! We have a winner!)

    We don’t have keyless entry either, but we do have the thing where you turn your car key in the keyhole and it opens all the doors at the same time, which is nice. And I can fit in our trunk, which is also nice. Oh, and the only thing it needs on a weekly basis is gas, which is a huge improvement from the car we used to have. Whoo-hoo for cars that work! (I’ve had a car where the transmission went out, and I lost 2nd gear only of an automatic 3-speed, which was a bit odd. I had the transmission rebuilt only to have the speed sensor go out on it a couple years later and… okay, that’s too long of a story. We no longer have that car.)

  54. Jane

    Welcome Trixie!

  55. Lynda M Otvos

    My 2000 silver Echo, today would be named Yaris, has over 140,000 miles on it; she had eight thousand when Hubby brought her home to me. I had said, I need a car by three today so I can be to work on time. The bonus is the CD player!!

    The locks and windows are hand operated and I wouldn’t have it any other way; I can reach all four cranks and locks from my driver’s seat; cup holders, stash cubbies, small compartments and door pockets thrill me beyond mere words and did I mention the CD player?

    Mir, your writing cracks me up in the wee hours of the morning when I usually read you. This particular bit of genius wings its way to several like-minded buddies. Thanks.

  56. Brigitte

    Hee, my car requirements are about like yours (minus the color, I’ll take cupholders instead).

    We started to look into replacing our all-manual (not even a cassette player!) ’93 Taurus, but as the last time either of us bought a used car, you could get decent ones for under $2000 . .

    Well, needless to say, we were completely freaked. Sure, the Taurus stalls at every stop sign, but she’ll be good for a few MORE years, right?

  57. Amy

    Sometimes I read the comments just to see what your dad will say! And he did not disappoint today.

    But alas, welcome to the world of Toyotas. I think you’re going to love it!

  58. Tiffany

    our last car buying experience went ok. We were looking for a suv and we had went back to dhs home state of sc and started looking at carmax. we bought a camry from them 5 yrs ago and had an ok experience. well they had lots of suvs but 4wd was hard to come by(it is the south ya know lol) I could have cared less, I didnt want a 4runner i wanted an expedition so My heart wasnt into it. We went to a couple of toyota dealerships in town and since I didnt care one way or the other I had no problems walking out every single time. We even drove to atanta one day to buy a 4runner to find out it had been smoked in when we got there and that made it a no deal.
    We came home and I started to search out the 4runners an insanely long list of have to haves and found one in ok city.had it shipped to dallas and bought it. was the most painless experience. I love having all the bells and whistles I got and I have to say That Toyota has some great customer service. I only have them do my oil changes and whatnot on the cars.No more walmart oil change headaches for me.

  59. Therese

    I’m not sure what’s worse–going to the dentist or to the car dealership. Hubby and I bought one new used car for me, helped Son #3 buy his first car, and now hubby wants a new truck. Three trips to three different dealers in one year is way too much for this girl!

  60. SillyMe

    Silver is my favorite kind of car! -although since I’ve seen the new Camaros, orange is ranking up there too! (with the stripey things down the middle, Otto will know what they’re called)

  61. EmmaC

    I also live with a car guy…and I understand completely. (Trixie!)

  62. Flea

    Huh. Trixie. Aren’t you lucky, having a stripper in the garage!

  63. Cele

    Trixie, va va voom!

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