By Candice Hightower
The truth can set you free, and don’t I know it. If you’ve ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory then you may have met me (in part anyway). I’m the quintessential Violet Beauregard. You know, the grape girl that goes pop. Only my inflation followed by an all out burst fest is usually brought on by holding back. That’s right—your very own preservative. But I figure new year, new pop-free beginnings. So please excuse me while I let a little air out one conscious zip at a time. That said, I’m going to admit what most women won’t: I’m jealous of my best friend. Okay, I didn’t expect to hear a deep sigh of shock (especially the kind heard ‘round the world), but just hear me out.
First things first, BFF and I have been an item since the 7th grade (admittedly the 80s). And true to fashion, she was the initiator. She passed me a discrete note in social studies that read, “Do you want to eat lunch with me?” I responded with an unenthusiastic nod of consent (again, true to fashion) and the rest is history. From middle school and high school to college and real adulthood, we managed to remain best buds even after a failed attempt at being roomies in our early twenties. So what is the source of this friendly envy? She’s a free woman and I’m not. We’re not talking single vs. married or housework vs. house arrest. The reason I’m green all over is simple: just recently she wrote the last and final check paying off her smart little SUV.
By Candice Hightower Taylor
There’s nothing better than firsts: first love, first home and above all your very first sun roof. Not very impressive for most, but the first car I purchased on my own was a Pontiac with absolutely no bells and zero whistles. I’m not exaggerating. We’re talking no sun roof; no power locks, windows or seats; no cassette or CD — just a radio. To top it off, in my world, popping the trunk or the little door housing the gas tank would have required an act of God. And her performance in the multi-inch midwestern snow? You guessed it…donuts all around.
Despite her shortcomings, I affectionately named her Rae after the salesman that sealed the deal. She boasted nothing more than the basics and I loved her to pieces anyway because she was mine and undoubtedly a trooper. Never garage kept and frozen solid in below zero temperatures more times than I can remember, Rae started up everyday without fail until the end, of course. And even when she died, it took some strong arming to get me to replace her. She sat lifeless in front of my house for nearly two weeks before I finally gave in.
By Candice Hightower Taylor
Is it sad when your car is one of your best friends? Fine. Go ahead and judge me, but if Devin was a puggle I would never have to apologize. What matters is we’re there for each other when it counts and she takes me places. Sounds like the friend zone to me. With all this love and happiness that Devin and I share you’d think I’d put little more of me into my SUV. You know, add a personal touch of Candice to the already fabulous crossover. A little bit of pink, sprinkles of green and a lot of leopard. To the contrary, she’s as blank as they come — no sparkle, no pizzazz, no dice. In fact, I’m still fighting with myself to put one of those nifty alumni frames around my rear license plate and I’ve completely ruled out personalized tags because CANDY-GIRL and DEVINS-MOM both seem like too much.
I am a self-proclaimed less is more kind of a gal, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m bordering on Plain Jane. I can deal with a scratch and suffer through a dent, but my greatest fear is Trick My Truck showing up at my door with scented trees and window decals. She’s perfect just the way she is and I don’t want to ruin her by making her my personal billboard on wheels. Still with all the look a likes out there I want more for her than just being a humdrum Stepford SUV. I see duplicates of Devin nearly everyday and the thought of her just being one of many is sad. In passing, I affectionately call the carbon copies her sisters, but there’s a small part of me that wishes she stood out from the rest. It’s like walking into a party flawless from head to toe and seeing yourself across the room – the same dress, shoes and clutch (that’s a purse, gentlemen). It deflates your world, not to mention the onset of regret for buying from the clearance rack.
I’ve been told that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but spotting a mini-me in public is just so tragic. And I imagine Devin feels the same. OK, I’m no angel. The last time I purposely made myself someone’s fashion twin was just a decade ago, but never again (knock on wood grain). It was sorority induced, so yes, this time I give you permission to judge me. Did I fail to mention that I also pride myself in being unique? Let me tell you, it ain’t easy being green. I prefer boutiques to malls and pleated skirts to minis. Librarian with a twist of sequins is a conflicting, but never boring combo for me that on no account rendered Devin having any visible flair.
It intrigues me to see cars on the road that instantly tell me something about the schmo in the driver’s seat. Their kid’s on the honor roll, they bat for the vegan team or they’re still banking on the Kerry/Edwards ticket. It makes me wonder what Devin tells people about me on the open road. Can they tell I’m a Midwestern belle, the unabridged dictionary is my favorite book and I love Cuban food? Not a chance. It’s clear that the only thing Devin is spraying, in all her cream puff-colored glory, is that her mommy can pick a good car wash.
With that said, I am officially agreeing to gingerly jazz her up. I’ll be slow to accessorize the rear view mirror, take out ad space on the bumper or spring for leopard seat covers. Believe me, I need to take baby steps out of simple city. We’ll give it the old college try and start with showing some alumni pride. There’s no doubt Devin’s loved, so bumper sticker or not, she’s in no way less special to me. Even with hundreds of “sisters” on the road my BFF will always be one of kind if only because I am. But life would be so perfect if she could wear pearls. Maybe I’ll trade her in for a puggle.
Take It From Me: A great way to personalize your ride is right in front of you. Your in-car music selection is an expression of who you are and what moves you. What’s in your dash? I’ll admit to Here Come the Mummies. Whatever it is turn it up a couple notches, sing your heart out and celebrate being you on the inside.
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Our writer sticks with her crossover, gas prices be damned.
By Candice Hightower Taylor
Call me crazy, but Devin and I are not breaking up. When I signed that piece of paper, I committed to hang in there for better or worse, in sickness and in health and everything in between, including the owner’s manual that recommended a strict diet of premium gasoline. Devin is my darling midsize crossover SUV. She’s my baby and I take care of her by the book. Period. Oil changes every five months or 5,000 miles, tire rotation every other oil change, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to put new wipers on her.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our share of mishaps like everyone else: a pothole that devoured a rear tire, a headlight and rear view camera that quit and a CD player that wanted to permanently ingest that sixth CD. No relationship comes free of bumps in the road, so I still make sure she’s clean inside and out and I even treat her to those not-so-overbearing air fresheners when she’s had a hard day at the dealership’s service center. So why would I let our $60 fill up experience at the pump be a deal breaker? She’s my girl, my roadie and even more than that it just doesn’t make sense.
If you are in the market for an SUV, it’s a great time to buy, but really try holding your horses before trading in your guzzler for the Festiva of your dreams. I dare you to take your soccer mommer to a dealership and try to unload her. Trade-in and resale values for SUVs are low, which means chances are high that what you owe on your baby is a far cry what you can trade or sell it for. Gas prices have made SUVs hot potatoes – no one’s buying and no one’s selling. Drive past your local car dealerships and the lots are full of SUVs, but even with prices slashed, it seems they have very few takers. I can understand this point of view, but I just don’t think I’m ready for that sans-sport utility lifestyle. No Devin would mean no cargo space to buy in bulk, no option to spontaneously buy a chair from a discount shop, and no possibility of hiding unauthorized purchases from a loved one. Bottom line, separating from your SUV can hit you hard in the pocket book and if you’re like me, it will get you right in the heart.
We’re two years into our relationship, and Devin is worth more to me than any dealership would give me, those crazy MPGs and sadly, the sacrificial manicure, pedicure and handbag. I can mani and pedi myself and even hold off on that new arm candy until the big semi-annual department store sale, but I never thought I would stand behind this ridiculous saying: “It’s cheaper to keep her.” And surprisingly, I truly mean it. By all means it’s better to stick it out and love it, even when she’s due for new brakes and has a whistling catalytic converter. I can easily imagine 20 better ways to spend that $60 per week, but if I can make this work, anyone can. I may depend on my navigation system more than the average Betty, but I’m a generation X-er and I know how to tough things out. Remember when the tech bubble went pop? Devin and I are together for richer or poorer. She’s given me everything I’ve asked for, so giving her $60 worth of premium per week seems like a pretty reasonable trade.
Take It From Me: Before you shell out hundreds to get your catalytic converter fixed, check your manufacturer’s warranty to see if it’s covered. Know your warranty, take it to the dealership and save some cash.
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