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Thursday, Mar. 28, 2002
It has taken almost 4 years, but I said it at the time and now it's all coming horribly true.

I wish I'd stop letting my wife buy cars on her own.

A little background. Ally did this the first time about 12 years ago. Went out to buy a car, with me waving goodbye to our trusty but aging Aerostar van and shooing 3 small children back through the front door. And to sit and worry about dishonest salesmen and all their conniving ways. She was gone long enough to at least assure me that she was being thorough, and called a couple times asking for specifics, so I didn't feel entirely out of touch.

Then she pulled into the drive, with much honking and fanfare, in the largest car possible. A monstrous Mercury, and a loaded one at that. Actually, it's nearly impossible to buy a Mercury that isn't loaded but I suppose that's beside the point. She was grinning and proud and very accomplished looking, so I let the kids boil into their new ride and kick and squeal and do unspeakable things to the leather seats before I popped the question to her.

"How much? Very nice, but how much?"
"Well the salesman said it was a really good deal, just one owner and very clean and ohmigod aren't those power seats just the best ever?"
"The salesman…he said it was a good deal, eh?"

As it turns out, it wasn't such a bad car. She drove Monster Mercury for a long time, shuffling back and forth to work and I must admit, the scattered times that I drove it were very enjoyable, the quiet ride, the pillow-like ride. Certainly had the ambiance to make you feel as though you'd just left the country club instead of the speed lane at Burger King. As though you were on your way to buy Gucci cufflinks instead of colored craft paper for the kid's homework.

Of course, time takes its' toll and by age 10, the Monster Merc had ceased to envelope you with leathery goodness and had started on the familiar path that old cars tend to go on - in and out of the mechanics garage for every conceivable ailment. So, yet again, I allowed as to how it might be time for her to revisit the dealership and get acquainted with the salesman again. Just to look, mind you. I sent the three kids with her this time, to keep her on the straight and narrow. Lest she fall into a Porsche and never be heard from again.

It was like a time warp. Once again, the tooting of horns and the screaming of children, only this time from within a car rather than outside. A gleaming, obviously brand new Expedition eased into the drive and sniffed cautiously at the muddy tires of the F250 truck. Ally shifted out of the seat and approached me with that "I've just spent more money than you'd believe possible in a four hour period" look. Kids were firing support information at me with a casual, if not somewhat well rehearsed air.

"Look Dad! We talked her out of the 4 wheel drive thing cause it cost so much more!"
"Look Dad! It's the same color as your truck! Well, almost. Sorta. Uh…can we take it over to my friends house now?"

"How much? Very nice, but how much?"
"Well the salesman said it was a really good deal…"

I nodded, held up my hand to quiet the inevitable, stepped upon my invisible dias and donned my papal hat.. "Know ye that this is your next to last car purchased in thy lifetime. Thou shalt envelope this chariot with all care, lavish upon it thy best and most diligent of maintenance, 'cause baby, it's gonna have to last a looooong time."

And again, as it turns out, it has been an exceedingly good car. Ally pampers and fusses over it, rotating tires and changing oil and having it detailed by men in surgically clean garages while she sips coffee and watches for the slightest slip by a greasy red rag dangling from a hip pocket. Children and husband are methodically warned upon entry to be germ and dirt free. Wondrous scented things sprout magically from the dash every 30 days, to keep the illusion of purity and new car smell at their highest possible level.

Occasionally, she even lets me drive it. But at a price.

The other day we loaded our decontaminated selves aboard for a 5 mile trip to a restaurant. As I was coming to a stop behind a car that was braking for a red light, I noticed her mashing both feet firmly into the carpet and driving herself back into the seat as though in the middle of a G-force acceleration.

OF: "What's up with you? Back spasms?"
Ally: "Will you please not stop so close?"

Peering ahead, with a full car length between us and the car in front of me, and at a full stop, I turned quizzically.

OF: "What? What?"
Ally: "You drive like a maniac in this car."
OF: "You're joking. Why, I've got a million miles under my belt."
Ally: "Big deal. Slow the hell down and stop sooner."

The kids giggled in the back.

Next stoplight, the scene was repeated. The feet into the floor, the fingers clenching at the armrests, the horrified averting of the eyes from the inevitable collision. At 15 mph, she was near catatonic. At a full stop, she slumped in relief, certain that death and front-end work were just seconds away.

OF: "Will you please quit? I'm not even close to that guy."
Ally: inaudible mumbling and sharp glances my way
Eldest Child: "Dad, I think Mom just said the 'B' word"
OF: "Whazzat? Brake?"
Ally: "NO! BASTARD!"

Additional giggling.

So I rather pointedly began driving 20 miles below the speed limit. Rolled down my window and made paddling motions. Snored. Put on the hazard lights. Cars tooled around me with engines racing, drivers making throat slashing motions with hands and looking at me as though my sanity was in question.

OF: "Better?"
Ally: "You're on thin ice, sport."

And if you can believe it, we ate our fill at the restaurant and upon returning to the Expedition, she skipped ahead and firmly went to the driver's side and let herself in. I was allowed to sit up front. After I wiped my feet.

I never have any fun.

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