July 29, 2003
Learning Curve


The new car is taking some getting used to.

The dashboard clock is in a different spot, for one thing. I keep looking for it above the radio, where it has been conveniently located for the past five years. But now all of a sudden if I want to know what time it is -- if I need to know whether I'm going to make it to The Dirt Company with minutes to spare, or whether I should pull out the cell phone and plead "traffic jam," right about now -- I've got to look below the radio and off to one side, next to the steering wheel. That's a little disconcerting.  The levers that move the passenger seat up and down and forwards and backwards aren't where I expect them to be, either: I spent half the ride to work yesterday morning canted backwards at a weird unnatural angle, staring up at the ceiling. ("Hey!" I said to David. "The sunroof is gone!") Plus the dashboard is round and puffy where it used to be sleek and concave, sleek and concave where it used to be round and puffy ... there is no *panic handle* on the inside passenger door for me to grip in white-knuckled terror whenever David careens around a corner* ... and I now have absolutely no idea how to turn on the overhead lights/adjust the bass control/fiddle with the passenger side mirrors from the inside.

On the other hand,  we have air conditioning now. That ALONE is worth the price of licensing and registration, I'd say.

The weirdest thing about this car -- besides the fact that it still has a very strong *new car smell,* even though it's not a new car: my father-in-law has been driving it to the grocery store and the hardware store and the lawn & garden store every Saturday morning since 1997 -- is how it manages to be both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I suppose it's because it's another Subaru: a slightly newer/fancier/better-smelling version of the Subaru we've been driving around in for the past 5+ years. 

Nothing has changed ... but everything has. It's the same ... but it isn't. I know this car ... but I don't. 

It's like peeking inside your next-door neighbor's apartment. Architecturally, their place may be identical to yours -- same layout, same door and window placement, same icky pink kitchen appliances -- but their floors are hardwood instead of wall-to-wall, or their windows are hung with blinds instead of curtains, or their icky-pink kitchen appliances aren't sputtering and smoking and breaking down every two and a half weeks. (Plus your neighbor has AIR CONDITIONING, apparently, while *you* have been forced to make do with a crappy six-inch Duracraft oscillator, all these years.)

In other words: it's familiar ... but it isn't.

Mind you. I'm not complaining about the differences between the old Subaru and the "new" Subaru. Neither is David. Neither one of us would be so foolish as to look a gift car in the mouth, especially when our old car was teetering on the verge of collapse and we had no idea how we were going to replace it. David's dad suddenly deciding to pass his Outback down to us (so HE can upgrade to a bigger/better/groovier new Forester) couldn't have come at a better time. And neither one of us is afraid of a learning curve, as long as the stuff we're 'learning' doesn't involve catheters or handcuffs, that is. We'll get the hang of the new car in no time, I'm sure.

Besides. It's not like *I* am going to be doing much of the driving any time in the immediate future. Perhaps later this year I'll finally break through the dual barriers of fear and apathy and get my California Drivers License. (Two out of three Tots are now licensed drivers. Next month when I visit them in TicTac, they're going to be driving ME to the mall. Do I really want to live with that sort of shame for the rest of my life?) But in the meantime, my job as co-pilot is to sit here in the passenger seat of the "new" Subaru ... smiling cutely, digging maps out of the glove compartment, offering up helpful commentary ("Are we there yet?") and feeding mix tapes into the car stereo as we drive to the office in the mornings.

If I can FIND the car stereo, that is.


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Speaking of new cars (and the people who own them), check out Daughter #1's very first set of wheels:

my pride and joy with HER pride and joy
beats hell out of a pony, doesn't it?



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* disclaimer! disclaimer! disclaimer!
david has never, in all the time i've ridden with him,
'careened wildly around a corner.'
[i just like to grab stuff in white-knuckled terror for FUN.]