Michelle Martin

It’s not the years

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

We had to buy a new car this weekend.

Well, a new-to-us car, to replace the one that was totaled in an accident last month.

Time was beginning to be of the essence; we had 30 days from when the insurance company issued the check to buy something new if we wanted them to reimburse us for sales tax on the new car. But we didn’t have a lot to spend. The car that was totaled was a 13-year-old Honda with over 120,000 miles on it.

Given that next year we’ll have two college tuitions and a Catholic grade school tuition to pay, we didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend, either, and the last thing we need right now is a car payment.

So we started looking. We went to see the used cars on offer at new car dealerships, and had one that we’d put a deposit on sold out from under us. We took a look at a few used car lots, but didn’t find much that appealed.

We scoured the internet, making notes of cars that would be possible and places that seemed to have more than one that might be a good fit. And in the end, we drove.

The car we ended up with came from an exurb, some 40 miles away from our home, sold by a small, independent used car dealer who operates out of a unit in an industrial park with no flags or flashy signs. It wasn’t the one we went to see originally.

I wanted another small car, but we ended up with a small SUV that was in better shape than the other car and has more room for hauling Teresa and her friends around. There are already four cases of Girl Scout cookies in the back.

Teresa learned lots of lessons as she accompanied us, everything from checking under the car for rust on the frame (and “What is rust, anyway?”) to what mileage is, and why it matters.

You don’t just have to consider how old a car is, we explained. You have to look at how much it’s been driven, how many miles of road it’s covered. All that wear and tear eventually will have an effect.

You have to think about that with people, too. Everyone you meet has a story, everyone walked some kind of path to get to the point where they’re standing in front of you. Some are relatively straight, others have wild detours all over the place. It’s not just the years, it’s the miles they’ve covered and the things they’ve lived through.

People aren’t cars, of course, and they don’t come with Carfax reports. You don’t want to turn your back on someone because of what has happened to them in the past. You do want to take a moment to consider what you don’t know, and be kind.




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