Sunday, September 29, 2013

A compact experience

So the oldest Huffman has disappeared to her new college, leaving behind enough old clothes to start our own Goodwill, 4,582 art pens and several half-eaten boxes of cereal in her room.
Then there’s her car. Well, it’s not exactly her car. It’s a “family car” that she happened to drive. The car, unlike the girl, did not leave for college.
After she left, I wondered about the car. It’s parked on the street, where a car can only remain for so long, lest the police or neighbors think it abandoned and one of those orange stickers gets plastered on its windshield. Not that it’s a junker — it’s a 2000-something Scion, and all its bumpers are in place. Sure, it has 108,000 miles on it, but who’s counting?
The little compact came preloaded with a bike rack on top, a Coldplay sticker on one window and a Giants sticker on the other. Inside there’s a USB plug and a button to choose the color of the inside dash lights — turquoise, green, yellow, red or purple.
This car definitely says 20-something. It does not say “Mom or Dad of 20-something.”
But that didn’t stop my husband from driving it one day. Might as well get some use out of it, he said. The fact that he was missing her had nothing to do with it. Not at all.
He came home that night with a look of wonder on his face. I drove the Scion to Lodi and back; it got 41 miles per gallon, he said, awestruck. Forty-one, he repeated. This is a man who for the past 10 years has driven an SUV the size of a small house. He knows gas mileage.
I’m taking her car again tomorrow, he said.
I like good gas mileage, too. I decided I should drive the car to the next school volleyball game in Santa Rosa. Sure enough, 90 miles later, the gas gauge had barely moved at all. It was like driving a Prius, but without the attitude.
Here’s another nifty thing about the little car. Some cars think they’re a compact. This car really is a compact. It’s so compact that when you have a passenger in the front seat, you can practically hear his or her heartbeat next to you. There’s no sharing the armrest in this car. There’s only one, and there’s only room for one arm on it.
Driving a real compact means you get to choose from a whole world of parking spaces. Compact parking here, compact parking there, compact parking everywhere!
It’s no show car, so I don’t worry about where I park it. Someone dings the door? No sweat. Wayward shopping carts, pooping seagulls, trees that drip sticky berries — I fear them not.
The little car reminds me of the last time I owned a real compact — before children moved in along with their strollers, car seats and jumbo boxes of diapers. Now the kid paraphernalia is gone. And I’m back in a compact car.

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