When I was 23 and living in Boston, we had started thinking about getting a car in anticipation of our upcoming move to Pennsylvania.
We had no money, but that never stops us, does it? We had credit cards and the promise of a well-paid job in the near future. I searched the papers and saw this little Mitsubishi (look, it even had a spoiler) advertised at a dealership. Something told me that I wouldn’t be getting the best deal at a dealership, but I reckoned that, since we had no cash for repairs and I know nothing about cars, a new car was our best bet.
And this little Mirage was advertised as being $9,999, and that sounded fair. Of course, that was the price after various rebates and discounts and ‘cash back’ things, which I didn’t really understand, but OK. I sort of thought that there were some kind of advertising standards and that I wouldn’t end up paying more. In the end, with all the stuff they added onto it, and the interest on the payment plan, I remember, later, seeing the figure $18,000 as the amount we would have paid if we had not paid it off early. Point taken.
I went down to the dealership one day and test-drove it. It had lots of pep, cornered well and was cute. They tried to get me to buy it right then and there, of course, but I said I had to at least talk to my husband. The salesman said he didn’t know, it might not be here tomorrow, he had someone else interested in it, and I was young and naive enough to believe him.
So, after some discussion, the next day I went down there with a credit card and a clock-in time of 12 pm for my job. I think I got there at about 1030 and we started trying to set up the financing. I think we caused them some trouble because we had no credit record, being new arrivals in the country, because it took forever. As the clock inched towards 12, I kept saying “I have to go, I have to be at work.” The salesman (obviously desperate) kept saying ‘ten more minutes’, and I called into work to say I was going to be late. I honestly felt like a prisoner. I felt like I couldn’t leave, Nowadays I would have said, “Hey, I’m the customer. I have to go. I’ll be back later, if you still want to make this sale,” but then I didn’t know about the power of the consumer, especially in this country.
Eventually, two hours late, I stumbled into work in a bit of a daze. I still had to take the subway because they had to do inspection and registration stuff, but they said I could come and get it later.
Later that evening, K and I hopped on a subway and made our way to the Quirk Mitsubishi dealership in Quincy. I remember that the guy showed us that the car had a CD drive that sucked in the CDs, (ooo) as if this was some kind of exclusive, luxury item (they were quite new at that point, but still…)
K jumped into the passenger seat, since he didn’t have a license in those days, and I pulled out into the dark, unmarked streets of rush-hour Boston.
It began to snow.
Apart from my very first attempt to drive in the States (from an airport terminal, a place a still find freaks me out, in a big Buick) this was the most stressful drive I have ever done.
The snow that fell that day was part of a larger storm that ended up snowing the car in. I think I only got to drive it that once, before it sat on a side street near our apartment, being buried in snow by snow ploughs. When the snow finally stopped I walked to Bradlees and bought my first snow shovel. We dug out the car and took it for a Sunday drive up the coast to Cape May.
It was a great car.
That was in 1996.
We picked up a second-hand car from a friend that we used for a couple of years while Kev and I were working in opposite directions. When it finally broke down we donated it to charity and made do with the Mirage for about four more years.
When I was in labour with A, in a snowstorm again, we decided the Mistubishi was just too low to the ground for us to make it to the hospital, and called a friend to help us out. That was probably the beginning of the end for the Mirage.
I went out in Feb 2004 and bought a VW Passat Wagon (not new, this time. I’d learned that lesson). Kev used the Mitsu for another year until the snow started to fall again, and then he bought a better car from a colleague.
But we couldn’t part with the Mitsu quite yet. It served well as a holiday car for the grands for another couple of years. We also used it when putting the other cars in for service. It was still fun to drive.
But it was costing us quite a lot in insurance and it was starting to need attention before every visit, because we weren’t running it enough.
So, finally, today, we said ‘goodbye’.
Angus cried, and I tried not to. I had been out, before the tow truck arrived. I walked around my car and patted it on its head and its bonnet. I tucked its ariel into its slot down the side of the windscreen, and I took off its Pennsylvania plates. I said, “Thank you, car. Good luck in the next stage of your adventure.”
It’s off to make some money for the American Cancer Society. I hope someone fixes up its dodgy battery problem and runs it for another 12 years, at least.
And that other car in the picture? As of this past Saturday, it is officially ours.