“It kind of feels like rushing out to get a new dog right after your dog dies,” I joked to Pete the car salesman as I sat inside the newer version of my car. I had last seen Pete the year before when he helped me close up my 2016 Nissan Rogue’s lease and swap me over to owning the car outright. A solid, quintessentially New Jersey Italian American man, he was kind, helpful, and not super pushy towards me about actually getting a new car instead of keeping my leased one. I assumed that I would never see him again, but the summer of 2020 had other plans for me in the form of my first car crash.
It was a Tuesday morning in late July and I was stopped at a red light near my house on my way to work, waiting to make a left turn. As the light turned green, I saw a car was about to come straight through the intersection so I decided to wait for them to pass before starting my turn. Suddenly, a driver on the cross street full on ignored his red light and barreled right into the other car. I yelled in surprise when I saw their impact, and then, of course, screamed when the hit car rammed into mine. My left knee bashed against the underside of the dashboard as I scrambled with my right foot to relocate the brake pedal it had been jolted off of by the impact. Once I found my footing and came to a stop, I put my car in park, applied the parking brake because we were on a hill, and turned off the engine, not knowing that it was the last time it would run.
To my uneducated eye the damage to my car didn’t look that bad, and in fact my airbags hadn’t even triggered. But I had a bad feeling because the engine wouldn’t turn over when one of the cops who responded to the accident asked if I could move my car from its resting place in the middle of the street. I walked the couple of blocks home unscathed after the accident, apart from having to wrap my bruised, sore left knee for a couple of weeks. My car had properly done its job of keeping me safe, but when I found out the cost I was devastated. A few days after the accident I received a phone call from my insurance company informing me that they were declaring my Rogue a total loss due to damage to the electrical system. To say I cried is a massive understatement.
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you will be aware that I have a tendency to become unusually attached to certain objects that I use often. I had gotten my first Rogue because I had to give up the hand-me-down station wagon that had been in my family for 20 years and had intended to keep it just as long if possible. I’d had nearly four years with the car and it had been a refuge where the world couldn’t reach me. The first year that I owned it was full of very high highs and extremely low lows and it had been my constant companion (and place to cry my eyes out without drawing attention) through it all, and had been just as helpful to me in the years that followed. I was nowhere near ready to give it up and it didn’t seem fair that I was forced to by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As soon as I knew I wasn’t getting my car back I decided I would just go back to the dealership who had sold it to me, and within a week of being told my car was unsalvageable I was driving a new one off the lot. I feel very fortunate that I was in a financial position to do such a thing, but I was also resentful and wanted nothing more than to have my own car back. My new Rogue felt familiar, because it was after all another Nissan and they hadn’t changed the layout of the dashboard buttons much in four years, but it also felt slightly off. The fact that many of the radio buttons had become touch screen controls was a big mental adjustment to make. I also immediately noticed it seemed slightly bigger outside and roomier inside (I won’t be bashing my knee under the dash of this one), and thought it was my mind playing tricks on me until my brother confirmed it. It made me jumpy in narrow lanes, paranoid that I was somehow too wide even though tractor trailers fit in the same lanes no problem. (I’m still more nervous on the highway than I used to be, which confuses me because I was at full stop in a suburban area when the crash happened.) On top of this, I was upset about having to put my savings towards the car instead instead of the new computer I had actually been saving the money for.
Additionally, alongside all of those feelings, I was locked in a battle of sorts with my gap insurance company. My main car insurance company valued my totaled car at a few thousand dollars less than I still owed on it. “No big deal,” I thought, “I have gap insurance which will cover the rest for me.” But I had also signed a couple of service contracts when I financed the car, and the gap people wanted proof of their cancellation before they would pay out. The contract people said the dealership had to cancel them and the dealership said the contract people had to cancel them. I made many phone calls and got no helpful answers Confused, frustrated, in despair, and just wanting it to be over, I quietly paid the few thousand dollar balance over the next few months, feeling ashamed the whole time that I couldn’t figure out how to get these various companies to do what I needed and again grateful that I was in a position for this to not be financially debilitating in a major way. So, long story short, when financing a car take gap insurance, but do not accept any special service contracts because sure you may not have to pay out of pocket to replace your tire on the off chance you get a flat, but if you total your car the contracts may become a total fucking pain in the ass.
TL;DR: I was too stressed and upset in various internal and external ways to enjoy my new car.
It’s only now, about 10 months since everything happened, that I feel like I’m bonding with my new Rogue and finally leaving the resentment behind. I first realized it was happening back in March. I’d been feeling low for weeks, so I called out of work and jetted off down the shore. It wasn’t the first time I had driven this car to the sea, but this time I did something different. After visiting my usual haunt, I decided I wanted to go to a town near there that I’d never been to using only signs on the road and my general notion of what direction I should drive in. It was a sunny, unseasonably warm day and I meandered through the area with the windows down, probably technically somebody’s definition of lost, but not bothered by it in the slightest. I felt at peace cruising around in my new rolling refuge. It suddenly dawned on me that all of my awful feelings about what had brought us together were firmly behind me, and ahead was only a bright open road. The safety sensors beeped at me worriedly as I slightly went over a line on the road to avoid a pothole and I patted the steering wheel reassuringly and said, “It’s okay. We’re okay,” as we continued on our way.