New Car

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

7/2/99

 

 

            I bought a new car recently.  My first truly new car.  It had only 24 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the lot.  In the 100 yards from showroom to street, it depreciated $2,000.

Until now I had always bought used cars. Very used cars. But at age 48 I felt comfortable enough financially and insecure enough physically to plunk down a small fortune for that "new car smell."

It was a psychological and moral crisis for me. 

In car conscious America, whether we like it or not, "you are what you drive."  Priests should be free of such worldly attachments, but I have to confess, car buying was an occasion of sin for me.  It appeals to all the worst impulses.  Instead of being content with basic transportation, I suddenly wanted a car that said, "youth, wealth, and sex."   However, I wanted it to say all that at a reasonable price.

 I agonized over what statement my purchase was going to make.

 Just after ordination I bought a used car. It was a 15 year-old gas-guzzling monster.  I called it "la Bestia", Italian for "the beast."  You could hear it coming a block away.  It had 140,000 miles when I bought it.  The best thing I can say about it was that nobody ever tried to steal it.  I paid only a $100 for "la Bestia."  I was comfortable with the statement it made, which was "solidarity with the poor."

What I really wanted, but could not say so publicly, was that new class vehicle so popular with us aging baby boomers.  Not the SUVs you read about but the real statement car the MLC, "Mid-Life Crisis" car.

Consumer's Digest has not yet officially defined this class of vehicle, but generally it is any car only two doors and little or no back seat.  It should be fast, getting from 0 to 60 in about the same time a 50 year old man can get from the bed to the bathroom at night.  Convertibles are the ideal MLCs.  Cars with moon roofs will qualify if they have that gold lettering and a spoiler on trunk.  (Spoilers will be standard items on all MLCs next year.)  Color is optional, but red or bright yellow are the preferred tones.

When I went car shopping the dealer sized me up pretty quickly.   "I'd love to put you in the red Mustang convertible Father."  The ultimate MLC car.

Yeah, I thought, that would be great.  Wind blowing through my thinning gray hair.  Sun putting a few more liver spots on my face.   But then the mental picture of arriving at the Chancery office in a red Mustang convertible deterred me.  I could just see my fellow clerics peering through the venetian blinds and saying, "Uh-huh, we told you so.  Last priest who bought a convertible left the priesthood." 

I prayed for the grace to resist temptation.  "Be gone Satan in whatever you drove in on."

In the end, I bought your basic "priest car."  It is an all-American, (85% domestic content) sedan. Why do celibates buy "family cars, I wondered?

 But I couldn't resist temptation altogether.  I bought a Taurus in "matador red" with a "spoiler" on the trunk.  There are few things more ridiculous than a family car with a spoiler.  It's like putting wings on a pig. 

One teenager in the parish looked at it and said, "Oh, you bought a turtle car."

I guess I am comfortable with the statement the car makes because it is honest.  It says, "confused, middle-aged and middle class."

Inside, however, when the windows are rolled up and I'm all alone, I do play the radio loudly and sing along to the Oldies station.

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.