The awkward truth about automobiles

Time was, a man could pick the goddamn automobile he wanted. *gobs like lightning into spitoon*

He could find his way to the sleekest, sexiest, most aerodynamic sum’bitch in that whoooole showroom… and he could make it his own.

But those days are gone, stranger. Gone…

When seeking earthy wisdom, there are few better people to approach than Creepy Old Man from Western. In addition to vague, menacing warnings about, “…a storm comin’, Mister”, he will also sometimes produce a pearl of dialogue related to current events in one’s own life. If only I didn’t need to ply him with whisky and listen to his ramblings about long-dead horses for hours first, he’d almost be a religious figure to me.

In any case, casting aside the entirely random film trope I’ve chosen to employ, cars have been on my mind in recent weeks.

One of the ‘perks’ of my employment is the ability to select a company car every three years. Until recently, I’ve had the pleasure of picking my car free of any outside influences, based solely on my own whims. Typically, this meant I’d pick the smallest, lowest-emitting vehicle on offer… in black.

You see, unlike Creepy Old Man from Western, I don’t really lust after powerful engines, sculpted bodywork and low-profile tyres. Instead, I celebrate the opportunities afforded by the most basic cars on the market: cheapness, efficiency and… well, cheapness. Without the need for a boot which will accomodate golf clubs (don’t get me started on golf), or more than 2 doors (3, if you follow the ridiculous industry convention of counting the boot), I could repeatedly pick the Fiestas, Corsas or Robin Reliants from the list offered to me, before proceeding to run that bad boy into the ground for 36 months. Bliss.

But that eerie, whiskered frontiersman was still correct about one thing: that incredible liberty to suit myself on the road has suddenly vanished.

My partner has recently passed her driving test. All at once, she has an intimate interest in which vehicle I’ll be selecting. With just this single development, my criteria list has changed from this:

  • Must be cheap, cheerful – and black, since I’m rarely going to wash it and want to disguise the dirt

To this:

  • Must be a ‘smooth’ drive
  • Must be a size which is ‘comfy’ to parallel park
  • Must have the ability to liberally adjust seating position, since the same one will never be comfy twice
  • Must have the ability to liberally adjust steering wheel position – see above
  • Must have a loud horn – I like to toot people and I like those toots to count

To compound this seismic shift in priorities, we have another major factor to consider: the micro-human we are currently brewing up, who will bring with them a whole new set of requirements:

  • Must have a boot large enough for my pram
  • …and my buggy
  • …and my changing bag
  • …and a selection of portable meals
  • …and things you can’t even dream of yet
  • Must have a good safety record
  • Must be easy to clean seats: we’re not talking crumbs, here, we’re talking foul-smelling bodily expulsions
  • Let’s be honest, this doesn’t even scratch the surface

When confronted with all of these things, it’s no longer good enough to make my selection on Autopilot. I have to do a little bit of thinking and a whole lot of negotiating.

We’re going to need something bigger than the tiny run-around I’m currently operating. But how big? My list offers 3 viable choices (alongside whizzy little numbers that will no doubt be leapt upon by colleagues embroiled in a mid-life crisis):

  1. Focus
  2. Mondeo
  3. Grand C-Max

Each of these is, in theory, a family car, but they are designed to serve very different families. Applying our criteria above, we managed to eliminate the Grand C-Max on the basis that it was as easy to parallel park as a sherman tank. The choice between the others is less simple, as it requires a bit of crystal-ball polishing.

A Focus will likely be fine if we have a single child. On the other hand, we have this car for 3 years; are we likely to have a second child within 3 years? Neither of us are really sure about this, having only just adjusted to the thought of the first one. Should we decide to breed again in that time, the Focus goes from well-positioned to potentially overcrowded… rammed full of even more stuff, suspension creaking ominously.

I decided to do a bit of research. Surely, after our baby got a bit older, they wouldn’t need as much gear to be lugged around whenever we jumped in the car?

A good friend – and father of my Godson – was quick to correct me. The stuff only multiplies, read his terrifying text. This is not a joke.

This threw me into a rising panic. It would have to be the Mondeo – for starters. Then, in 3 years, we’d need to upgrade to the tank, in case we were destined to be buried under an avalanche of our own progeny and their innumerable accoutrements… It eventually took some more wise words – this time from my partner, rather than a broken-down fictional cowboy – to bring me back to reality.

“Do we even know if we’re having another one yet? Why don’t we just see how we go?”

The words rang true, like a clean shot into the spitoon. I worry too much about future permutations – and that worry manifests itself in car anxiety, or an unhealthy fantasy life populated by tired, spaghetti-western character archetypes. Besides, I’m told if we get the new Focus, the bloody thing can parallel park itself…

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