"Why do you want to take my car?" he asked. I could tell by his tone that he was uneasy with the request.
"Mine does better on gas," I replied.
We were on a tight budget. My econo-box got at least fifteen miles more per gallon than my husband's full sized SUV. When my husband started commuting to school once a week last September, it made sense for him to take the car that was more economical on the road.
"All right, where are your keys," he responded. He wasn't convinced this was a good idea.
I remember that first morning, driving my kids to school in my husband's Mountaineer. The ride was smooth. The stereo sound was crisp. The air conditioner worked much more effectively than mine.
Out of the two of us, Steve always drove the "nice car." When he worked for Big Corporate, "The Man," lent him a leased car, which was upgraded every two years. After The Man took the car away, my husband continued to work in an industry where he needed not only a reliable car for traveling, but one that could carry large product samples that he often brought to clients. Of course, there were the client lunches, as well. HIs clients needed leg room on the way to the steak house, right?
Every now and then, I had a twinge of car envy, but never enough upgrade my vehicle. As I have said before on this blog, the only purpose of a car is to get you from Point A to Point B. Drive one you can afford. Both of us finished the car payments on our respective vehicles years ago. These were not bills we wanted to invite back into our lives any time soon. I would have to accept my econo-box for now.
Except every Monday, when we switched off cars, I was enamored by the roominess of the back seat. My children didn't have to squeeze across it like sardines, as they did in my car. The Mountaineer had a third row that my son converted it into a man cave. The Mountaineer was more user friendly. My kids could buckle their own seat belts, which for some reason, in my econo-box, they found impossible to do. Anyone who has three kids born in a four-year time span can appreciate how wonderful it is to not have to spend the first five minutes (at least!) of any outing leaning over a back seat buckling children into car seats and boosters.
The day my husband was rushed to the hospital from work, we switched cars so that I could take his for its 2-year inspection. During his four-day hospital stay, the Mountaineer was the only car I had access to, since mine was parked in front of Steve's office. I slowly began to move in. At first it was a pair of sunglasses in the console, then a yoga mat in the cargo space for when I taught classes. Then, I changed the pre-programmed radio station settings, which is pretty much a hostile takeover to anyone's vehicle.
The last night of Steve's hospital stay, I sit beside his bed. "Your car is a really nice ride."
"You like it, huh?" Steve looks at me. "I'm dying for a slice of pizza. Seriously, I'd do anything."
"Anything?" I ask. "Can I have your car?"
"All right. No pizza for you."
"You're talking about my car!"
"Actually, in the State of New Jersey, it's our car. Half mine, half yours. It's called equitable distribution."
"Fine. You can drive it whenever you want to. Two slices, please, and a Coke."
A half hour later, I walk back to Steve's room with his dinner. "I just got myself a new car," I say, smiling, as I set the pizza beside his bed.
"You're not taking my car."
I quickly sweep the pizza off the table and hold it in my arms, out of his reach.
"Fine. It's yours. Can I please have my pizza?"
By the time Steve returns home from the hospital, the Mountaineer is full of mommy essentials, baby wipes, a stroller, spare clothing for the kids, coloring books, and the portable potty.
We drive by his office to pick up my car, which had been parked there since the ambulance whisked him away. I start to get out of the Mountaineer driver's seat to head to my econo-box, but Steve stops me. "Why don't you just stay in this car. The seats and mirrors are already adjusted."
On his first day back to work, I ask, "Which car are you taking?"
"I'll take yours. All the kids' stuff is in my car."
At some point, we stop asking each other who is going to take which car each day. Steve begins taking the econo-box to work, no questions asked. We also stop calling the cars, "Your car," and "My car." It has segued into "The white car," and "The black car." The possessive pronouns have been dropped.
I continue to drive Steve's car for several weeks, without further discussion.
A few nights ago, before bedtime, Steve turns to me. "Maybe I should clean out the rest of my things from the black car and make it official."
He hands me the keys.
"You're giving me your car? For real?"
"It's more like you stole it out from under me, but yes. It makes sense for you to drive it, especially with the kids."
"Dude. You just handed over your car! You are so whipped!"
Quickly, he swipes the car keys out of my hand.
"You just crossed the line!"
"I'm sorry. It slipped out. "
"I'm not whipped. I'm making the right decision for our family."
"Whipped, but I promise not to tell anyone."
Steve sighs. "Your mother was right about you, " He tosses me the keys and stomps away.
Did I mention I married a great guy?
© 2012 Ilene Evans
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