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The End of An Era

I’ve vacillated between selling my car immediately and keeping it until I run it into the ground approximately 500 times in the past couple years. It’s a 2004 Chevrolet Aveo I bought in 2013 with 7,400 miles from a 92-year-old couple who I can only assume drove it to the grocery store and back. I got it for $4,800 which, at the time felt like over extravagance. I was in grad school, living primarily on student loans supplemented by a very part-time job. But I needed a car for school so I could get to my practicum schools and eventual internship. You might interject here and say, “well, you didn’t need one. Buses exist.” But believe me when I tell you I have a longstanding history of getting lost on public transportation. If I wanted to have any semblance of dependability at my schools, this was a need.

It's a weird looking car – a sky blue hatchback that looks like a European minivan shrunk in the wash. It never felt incredibly safe, more like a glorified go-kart, but it ended up being a pretty reliable, economic car. And with the mileage being so low, I had the advantage of having any problems well documented on car forums, making preemptive repairs or instructions for DIY work that much easier. But in the past couple years I’ve gotten tired of trying to figure out repairs, needing to shout over the road noise on the freeway, and bracing myself for potholes thanks to the worn-out original shocks. Also, my father-in-law was selling his plug-in hybrid so opportunity was knocking.

So in December I took the plunge. Kaitlyn is our resident salesperson because when I see garbage she sees $150 on Facebook Marketplace. I arbitrarily thought my car was worth about $800 (it’s a gut thing) and would’ve felt great with $1,000. But she researched (including Kelley Blue Book!) and to my shocked and sheepish dismay, she posted it for $3,200.

Our friends are going to see this. They’re going to take one look and immediately judge us for how much we think it’s worth.

Well that may have happened (we can only assume the worst) but it certainly wasn’t the universal response. Kaitlyn posted the car one evening and messages came POURING in. One awkward test drive and 24 hours later and Little Blue had a new owner.

It was exciting and a relief. But even still, I don’t like change in any form. I suddenly had a rekindling attachment and a surge of doubts. It’s frivolous. It’s been like an anti-lemon. What a noble little car! I’m clearly making a huge financial mistake.

My new car is great, said mostly with confidence but also a hint of self-reassurance. It has state of the art features like automatic locks and windows and a rear trunk deeper than a Costco box of protein shakes. Bluetooth! Heated seats! But with all change comes a certain amount of skepticism. And I’ve traded an 18-year-old car for a 10-year-old car so it doesn’t mean it’s free of problems. Granted, right now they’re less “problems” and more “making the car suitable for Kim.” Like, the passenger door had a creak that only took one time for me to open to know I couldn’t abide. It needed immediate attention.

I attempted WD40 first which helped 0%. So I turned to the internet where posters on Chevrolet forums told me it was the door check (the part of the door hinge that keeps the door from opening up too wide) and the new part was $25. Two YouTube videos later and I was 80% confident I could do it. It was enough to buy the part and give it a go.

I’m motivated enough by wanting to save money and also filled with an endless belief in “how hard can it be?” that I regularly embark on DIY projects with nothing but a YouTube video. I’d say I’m successful about 2/3 of the time. And I always seem to follow the same cycle: Confidence, What was that step again?, Profanity, What have I done?, and then sometimes to the glorious Breakthrough and Success. And it’s not necessarily linear – sometimes the inner three steps get stuck in what feels like a never-ending loop.

“Okay, but if you know that’s the cycle, why do you keep taking on these projects?” Answer: Frustration Amnesia, or the blurring, shrinking, or downright forgetting of the fateful time between Confidence and Success. Time to amnesia is directly proportional to the length of frustration cycle - the longer the frustration, the longer the recovery - but once it sets in, I'm good to go!

My only hang up with this one particular repair was that it required taking off the interior door panel which I did with a repair on the Aveo. While I had been successful, it ended up needing to be redone by a professional only a couple months later so the bill really cut into the amnesia effect. But, I reasoned, it was at a time in my life when I was still gathering tools (I had hammered on the back of an IKEA bookshelf with a dumbbell) so I made the level of difficulty harder than it needed to be. This time will be totally different, I concluded.

The YouTube videos averaged about 5 minutes so naturally it took me an hour. The more significant statistic though is that it took a mere 30 minutes to get from Profanity to “Well that wasn’t so bad”, which honestly is record speed. The sweet relief of a silent door opening really helped move things along.

So yes! I’m ready for the next thing!

And for now, that next thing is trying to figure out the solution to my blinker problem. For those of you who don’t have a constant barrage of sensory sensitivities, this probably won’t make sense, but I’ll do my best to explain it anyway. I’m talking about the turn signal indicator, the blinker lever, that thing that's on the left side of the steering wheel column. The blinker lever functionally works exactly as it should – it moves up and down, turns on the blinker, and turns the headlights off and on. For most people it’s totally regular and not at all noteworthy. For me, though. . . many a late night has been spent researching how to change it. See, it just takes a little too much pressure to move up and down. Like, you press down and you think you should’ve moved it but it takes one more effort to get to the abrupt, unsatisfying, clunk. What’s more, the end of the lever isn’t rounded enough to feel…I don’t know…ergonomic? Not that the pinky really takes a beating when pushing down the turn signal but there’s just something about it that’s off for me. It’s noticeable. As in, every time I use it, I think about it. And we use blinkers a lot, y’all.

“Why don’t you replace it with an aftermarket blinker?” offered Kaitlyn, who just so happens to own a car with the perfect blinker lever (why are these things wasted on the unappreciative?!).

“If you can believe it,” I said, “There isn’t a thriving market of people looking for a different Chevrolet blinker design. I’ve checked.”

And really, I hate to say it friends, but that one’s on you.

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