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I have eyes on every station wagon and hatchback in traffic. I wonder how long retirees in shiny Crosstreks will live and who I need to befriend to be bequeathed their car.
I am car shopping.
And I’m not happy about it.
Do you know how mad you get when you’re reading Walkable City and trying to buy a car concurrently? Pretty ticked.
I will die on this hill (or, probably, die in a crosswalk trying to walk across 3 lanes of traffic in the suburbs of Sioux Falls).
The only thing that calms me is Jeff Speck (author of said walkability book) gently admitting that a car is a necessity in most cities. Jeff also says that the main reason for hanging on to a car is…dating. It’s helpful to keep a radius wider than the walk to work, with its pool of retirees in jogging clothes and construction workers in sweat-stained neon tees.
I have never felt more seen by an urbanism book.
My biggest filter (for cars, not dates) is that the vehicle be low to the ground. I read somewhere else that we have higher rates of pedestrian deaths now, since giant SUVs strike our vitals rather than our slightly-more-optional legs. I’m mad that auto makers churn out these monsters. If a car is named XL, it’s too big. (Looking at you, Yukons. But you’re not looking at me because your sightlines hit above my eyebrows).
What You Really Really Want
Here’s the thing about me: I judge a car based on general vibes. I’m looking for “I am free to drive to the woods at any moment and also I am creative and interesting.”
This is a stupid way to buy a car.
This is why I send any promising listings to my gearhead brothers, who shoot them down with brief texts.
They also think I’ll want amenities like leather seats, even though I keep telling them all I want is:
It’s easier to rattle off this little list than what I really want, something that doesn’t exist: A city where all my friends live within walkable distance, an affordable grocery store 2 blocks away, my church down the street, and simple public transit and rental car systems on hand for the rare visit away.
Car buying is stressful and in the midst of looking I pray: “God, things, have been gross enough recently. Could you make car buying easy?”
Did I tell you about my old car’s slow disintegration?
The problem with walking most places is that when you do need to drive, it’s for long trips. A car that squeaks by on a 10 minute church commute isn’t going to get you outside of town safely.
On a Friday morning, I see a Toyota Yaris pop up on Facebook Marketplace and send it along to my car consultants. My brothers happen to be driving the 2.5 hours to Sioux Falls for a car swap with our sister Liv.
“We can check out the Yaris while we’re here” they say.
The seller can meet tonight, at a gas station.
The boys have a lot of experience buying cars on Marketplace, and tonight as we drive over, they’re jokingly plotting a new car-buying approach.
(“Testing the shocks” I’m informed later).
After a quick test drive, Jeremiah delivers an itemized list of things that could be repaired, and suggests a good chunk less than the asking price.
“If that’s what she wants to pay.”
That is what I want to pay. We exchange paperwork and cash.
It was easy.
Side Note With Cabbage
The car’s maiden voyage is to HyVee, where the boys buy a 6 pound cabbage to make potsticker dumplings.
This is their second grocery run of the day, because the first time, Jeremiah mistakenly bought iceberg lettuce.
They spend all evening and most of their Saturday making dumplings.
They wash all the dishes and leave me bags of frozen dumplings.
Wonders, those two.
The next week, I drive 40 minutes to my friend Clara’s house with pizza dough in the passenger seat and toppings in the back hatch. I assemble the pies as she and her husband fill me in on new parenthood. I meet their tiny daughter for the first time.
The next month, I drive 4 hours in air conditioned comfort to Minneapolis.
I watch my favorite band perform live. The band I scream-sang to over the deafening open-window untethered-exhaust of my old car all last summer.
I try walking to Trader Joe’s and turn around 10 minutes in.
I don’t feel like making a statement with my tiny body rocketing across wide streets and crossing slip lanes.
I get in my car, have a pleasant drive, find an easy parking spot.
I pop the back hatch open and fill it with way more groceries than I could’ve comfortably carried.
I parallel park all over the city, as if I drive every day.
Weeks later, I meet a friend for dinner.
After, he notices: “New car?”
“It suits you!”
Trying something new! A few things from elsewhere:
Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video. “Come and look at both of our buildings!” Cackling.
Lunchtime concerts downtown (branding by me!)
In another life, I make kids’ books. Loved this peek into book maker Jon Klassen’s process