This is my car. It’s a 1997 Subaru Outback Sport, which I bought almost exactly 16 years ago. I had recently separated from my first husband, who destroyed my credit rating. I couldn’t even get a cell phone, thanks to him, much less a car. Family to the rescue! My sister co-signed for the cell phone. My brother-in-law co-signed when I needed to apply for student loans for MOS-32. And to finance the car, I went to the Bank of Mom.
In 1997, I was driving a 1988 Ford Taurus which was breaking down a little too often on my 45-minute ride to work. That was my motivation to look for another car, despite the financial challenges. Plus MYS-27, a very persuasive young man, was haranguing me on a regular basis about getting a Subaru.
So after doing my usual tons of research, I finally bought one. It was, and still is, a fabulous car. It’s small and very zippy. It gets 25 miles to the gallon, which from 1997 until very recently, was pretty darn good. Like all Subarus, it has all-wheel drive, so it never slides or gets stuck in the snow, which is a huge plus for me, as I am not a happy driver when the white stuff is coming down. I would feel much safer if everyone in Connecticut had a Subaru!
Thus began my love affair with a vehicle. It is my rolling purse – I keep all kinds of necessities in it, like files, books, dental hygiene accessories, stamps, scissors, tape, extra shoes and of course, candy and gum. It’s an extension of my body in many ways – it knows what I want to do before I start to do it. It has a manual transmission, something that others think is a silly thing to have, but I love it. As MYS-27 says, otherwise, driving would be too boring! When I bought it, I had cruise control installed, which the car dealer thought was a terribly odd thing to do to a car with a manual transmission but I guess he never heard of highway driving. However, at some point, the cruise control passed away and I never had it fixed. I miss it. Also, all of the hubcaps have disappeared, a common trait of the 1997 model, but not one that Subaru felt was worth fixing via a recall.
My car has suffered many bumps and bruises. I remember every one. I was waiting to pick up MYS-27 at his friend’s house, and I kind of rolled into a telephone pole at an incredibly slow rate of speed, producing a much bigger dent than one would expect. There’s some random rust here and there, caused by marauding shopping carts. Once I was rear-ended by an Isuzu. I got insurance money from that accident, but didn’t fix the dents because I needed the money for living expenses. Why fix the outside of the car, anyway, since another dent is just around the corner?
However, I have been very fastidious about taking care of the moving parts. A car maven once told me that changing the oil every 3,000 miles was the key to a car’s longevity. Great advice, because the car has 226,000 miles on it, with the original engine. It’s spent its share of time at the mechanic, but not for anything major (knock wood). In fact, I had a mechanic who told me my car needed a new serpentine belt about 5 years ago, so I sought a second opinion. I found a new mechanic who said it did not need said belt, and TO THIS DAY, it has not needed that belt. I love my present mechanic. If my car has a problem and he can’t fix it, he does not charge me anything, even if he spent the whole day working on it.
MOS-32 and MYS-27 and I drove to Chicago in this car in 1998 to visit an old law school pal of mine. We had a great time, aside from the fights over which tall teen would get to stretch out in the back seat. We drove by Kent State University and I told the kids about what happened there in 1970, something they had never known. Then, when we stopped at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, that very incident was referenced in some of the documentary films that were shown there (discussing the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young). What a great opportunity for a living history lesson!
So why am I writing about my car? Aside from celebrating its imminent milestone birthday, I’m feeling a lot of pressure from various family members to say goodbye to the Subie. When I say new cars are too expensive, they say, “Then buy a used car.” I reply, “I already HAVE a used car, one that I KNOW was meticulously maintained!” OK, so the hatchback leaks when it rains, because the rubber has shrunk over these many years, but I just keep a towel back there and change it after the rain ends. OK, so the rear wiper doesn’t work anymore, but I have a rear window defroster, and that works just fine. OK, so most of the interior dashboard/radio lights are out, and while I did ask my mechanic to fix them, apparently the dashboard has welded itself to the rest of the car, so there’s no getting behind there to replace the bulbs (and he didn’t charge me for the time he spent trying).
It’s reliable, it starts right up every morning, and it’s still just as zippy as it was 16 years ago. That’s more than I can say for some of those people urging me to get a new car! So Happy Sweet 16 to my dear Subaru — I can’t wait until you’re old enough to vote.
This is an unsolicited love letter to my Subaru. I have not been offered anything by the Subaru Company to say these nice things, although I wouldn’t say no to some new hubcaps (hint, hint).