I bought my car 14 years ago — five years before I began dating my wife and 10 years before we had our first child. I was a single guy who lived in a one-bedroom apartment and watched TV on a 19” box.
My little car has two doors, crank windows, and no A/C. Also, it has a manual transmission, which occupies my kid-swatting hand much of the time I am driving. I chose my car because it promised reliable, low-cost transportation for myself, and possibly a date. Those were the only souls I could imagine transporting.
In recent years, it would have been reasonable to trade in my car for something more family friendly. As sensible as this act would have been, there are a few reasons why I have not done it.
- Cars cost more now than they did in 1998. I now have a wife and children. By definition, this means that I have less money than I had in 1998. The gap between myself and a new vehicle only seems to be widening.
- I love my car. It still gets great gas mileage and has been cheap to keep in good running order. Besides, she’s never whispered a peep about where I went, and with whom, during those five years before my wife came along.
- My wife’s car, though not perfect, has been adequate as a vehicle for transporting the children. It transports them far more often than my car does.
Still, there are times when I need to transport the kids in my car. The first time I tried this, it was quite an eye-opener. We were in a hurry, and since my older son’s car seat was already in the middle of the back seat, I put the baby’s car seat in the most easily accessible spot: behind the driver’s seat.
I couldn’t put the driver’s seat back upright without sliding it all the way forward. I’m not short enough to drive comfortably with the seat all the way forward. It made it kind of difficult to let the clutch all the way out without rolling my ankle to the point of a sprain. My elbows extended perpendicularly from my body whenever I put my hands on the wheel. I had to roll down my window to make enough room to get my left hand on the wheel.
It was a short trip, so I decided to bite the bullet and drive all folded up this one time. I didn’t reckon with a difficult parking situation at my destination. Searching out a parking spot in a crowded area is a very active, albeit slow, piece of driving. As I was resting my chin on my knee, contemplating where best to park, this became painfully clear to me.
Fortunately, the throbbing of my clutch ankle was superseded by a cramp, closer to the spine, in the calf of that same leg. The three-year-old asked from the back seat why the ride was so jerky today. I told him to save his questions until he had identified a viable parking spot.
As I was losing feeling in my lower body, I broke down and decided to pay to park in a ramp. It was a bitter decision, taken for the sake of the children. It meant that I would have to carry the baby a bit farther to our destination, but as I limped away from the vehicle, I decided it was a small price to pay to allow the imprint of the steering wheel to start to fade from my chest.