Baby, You Can’t Drive My Car (Get Your Own)

In 2003 I purchased my first automobile – an Orange Mazda3 Sport Hatchback. It was my dream car. It was perfect. It was orange.

carMazda had just introduced the Mazda3 hatchback which replaced the Protegé line of hatchbacks. Technically, it was an ’04 (I can only assume this car was from the not-too-distant future). And it was made for me. Did I mention it was orange? The first time I saw a commercial for it, I had to have it. Zoom zoom? Fucking-eh-right zoom zoom. If I could just get myself into one of those beauties I’d be just like that metrosexual chap (metrosexuality was huge in ’03) in the commercial, manually shifting my way through winding roads and careening towards freedom.

Although in the back of my mind I KNEW I was going to end up getting the Mazda3, I test drove a bunch of different cars. That was a learning process. I quickly became familiar with the unsettling and shadier side of car buying. There was Linda, the Honda salesperson who seemed to think I was some wild kid who planned on driving the Civic off of a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. She literally would not allow me to test drive it in the city limits, made me sit in the passenger seat until we reached the highway, at which point she pulled over and let me drive for 5 minutes. Next.

There was Paul, the Volkswagen salesperson/interrogator who asked me about 100 invasive and possibly illegal questions about my financial situation as he clearly did not trust that I could afford a new car. I mean, I looked young at the time but Jesus Christ. I suppose he did not want me to waste his time. So I insisted on taking the Golf for a test drive with him during which I made so many “wrong turns” and “missed exits” that he was actually shouting at me to end our hour-long epic journey. I had fantasies of later returning to the VW dealership in my new Mazda3 when Paul was working and pulling a Pretty Woman on him.

I could pull off that hat.

Then there was Errol, the desperate Ford salesperson who wanted to sell a Focus to me so badly, he started calling my house several times at day, pleading with me to purchase it. He even suggested that I was taking food out of his kids’ mouths if I didn’t buy it. Errol was basically Gil from the Simpsons.

The only difference is that I feel sorry for Gil. I never felt sorry for Errol. I pitied him. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who would stoop to such a low to emotionally manipulate a potential customer.

It didn’t matter because I knew what I wanted. It’s probably the most obvious case of confirmation bias ever, but when I got behind the wheel of the Mazda3 it was instant magic. It was everything I wanted it to be. I could almost hear the creepy kid from the commercial whisper in my ear, “Zoom zoom.”

Scott was the man over at Sunridge Mazda. I saw his name at the top of the Monthly Sales Chart which was displayed prominently in the dealership. This guy knew how to sell a car. No set of steak knives for this guy. And he drank all the coffee he pleased. Scott was a closer. He tossed me the keys for my first test drive and sent me on my way solo. No pressure. No nonsense. He must have smelled blood in the water the way he sized me up. I had already purchased the car before I even got in it. And during the price negotiation he had me hook, line, and sinker. I wanted that car and he knew it. I paid MSRP.

The one nice bonus was that I happened to buy the car on a day when all car purchases came with a free cruise. The following year I went on that cruise with a buddy which resulted in one of the funniest moments of my life.

That car was good to me. I went coast-to-coast with that car. I made many road trips across Canada. In 11 years somehow I only racked up 130,000 or so kilometers which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe the odometer was broken. It didn’t really have any problems until I moved out east to Halifax when its age combined with the terrible roads of the Maritimes laid waste to it, eventually downgrading it from “my baby” to “that soul-sucking piece of shit on wheels.” On my second day in Halifax the transmission fell out as I coasted down Bayview Road. It wasn’t long before I noticed rust problems. In Halifax, there is so much salt on the roads in winter that you could make pickles by tossing cucumbers in the streets and collecting them the next day. By year three in Halifax, rust was consuming the back half of the body. Later, my brakes and rotors would go, my AC crapped out, my pumps, my belts, my tires (many times over), my windshield, the list goes on and on.

I was starting to see the guy at Midas more frequently than my parents (that’s not even an exaggeration). I became numb to his bad news. “Oh what’s wrong with it? The whizzle has malfunctioned and it needs a new flim-flam? Sure. It’s how much? A billionty dollars? Sounds about right.”

Finally, when the alternator went, I had had enough. It was time to let go. I put it up on kijiji for a song and had the expected assortment of creepos and slimeballs inquire about it. I quickly sold it and was happy to get rid of it (who am I kidding? I had a good, long cry). After wiping away my tears, I composed myself enough to compose this song as a tribute to my beautiful pumpkin on wheels.

But now I needed a new car. And that meant I once again had the unenviable task of car shopping. I remembered my experiences from 12 years earlier and it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. But this time around, I didn’t have my “dream car” in mind. I was fairly open to anything. It’s really fascinating how each salesperson has a different approach. Jack at Mazda spent an hour trying to be my best friend. Darnell at Toyota was the strong silent type who let his car speak for itself. Gavin at Volkswagen was on his first day on the sales floor and it was absolutely adorable how clueless and nervous he was. Brian at Honda was a polished salesperson but after about the hundredth time he said, “and I’m telling you the God’s honest truth…” I had to wonder, is Brian lying to me?

In the end, it was Jerry at Subaru who won me over with a non-aggressive sales approach (wouldn’t you know it, he let me test drive the car solo!) and I ended up in a Crosstrek. It’s pretty sweet. Check it out. You’ll never guess what colour it is.

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