#3. Fantasizing About Every Car You See
If it seems like this task has made you a bit unhinged, then yeah, it totally fucking has. There's a DeLorean that you see every day on your way to work. The raw, volatile glory that comes from seeing Marty McFly's time machine every day, before you've even properly digested your Grape-Nuts, is unmaking your grasp of reality. Eventually you're going to work up the courage to touch it. But this is not that day, dear readers. This is not that day.
Los Angeles, your new home, is the classic-car capital of the world. That may sound like something some random person said on some blog or whatever, and it is, but that doesn't make it less true. Instead of commuting through a pile of Kias, Geos, and Saturns, you're surrounded by genuine works of art: Pontiac Firebirds, BMW 2002s, Triumph Spitfires, Mustangs, and more cars you've heard mentioned in conversations a lot and have now seen with your actual eyes. You never understood why people cared about them until you took that corner a little too fast on your bike and almost gave that Pontiac a Trans Am hood design with your brain matter.
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Even that kid knows it would've been the most glorious way to die.
Of course, like any grown-up, you want to make a smart car-buying decision. Honda Civics get good gas mileage, you know, because you read it online. Volvos are really safe or something. Lexuses are the most reliable make of car in the world, which is counterintuitive and kinda delightful. A hybrid seems like a great choice economically, because you're never going to be racing that thing anyway and you can even get them with manual transmission now, so they'll at least be fun to drive.
What's ... what's the smirk on your face? Oh, for Christ's sake, you're still thinking about that M5, aren't you?
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Car dealers want you to be in a rush, because people who don't have any time to waste are people who are going to make bad decisions. But no one has ever bought a car without being in a rush.
Thanks partly to the economy and partly to the fact that those gosh darn kids don't appreciate the beauty of a classic American muscle car anymore, people are relying more and more on public transportation. But at the same time, public transportation is being gutted, also because of the economy. When your bus route to work gets cut, you need a car fast -- which means that Big Used Car (a part of the economy I may very well have made up, but if it exists, it creates a great villain for me to use right here) has you right where they want you. Which is on their lot, looking at one of their cars.
Sure, there are strategies. I've heard stories of people using dark magic to call the dealership ahead of time to negotiate, or researching MSRPs, but you know what to do with people who practice dark magic: ask them to sell you drugs, and when their back is turned, douse them in holy water. Ha! Besides, when you've been darting through traffic on your bike dodging one Prius only to almost get hit by yet another Prius, the idea of any extra work getting between you and those sweet ignition keys that will bring that massive (in your imagination) engine roaring to life is like being stuck in a nightmarish second gear you can't shift out of.
If you think I'm being melodramatic, let me ask you this: Have you ever driven an automatic before? Well, there's your problem: Science says driving a car with automatic transmission numbs the human brain's ability to perceive suffering. You're no longer capable of thinking for yourself, and that's a tragedy, but it's not my tragedy, so you can deal with that on your own time. I've got a column to write.
#1. On Second Thought, It's OK to Own a Bike
This is the Tragedy of the Automobile: You don't need to be very smart to fall in love with a badass car, but you do need to know a shitload of things in order to take care of one. And you will never know those things, because you aren't really you, you're me, and we're both idiots. But at least we know that buying a car is like playing World of Warcraft. You start out weak, but the more you "grind demons" (or "shop around"), the more you "up level" until you gain "higher abilities" and oh, God, you're even worse at talking about WoW than cars.
But that's OK. It really is. Because you own a bike. And though it only has two wheels, and though it doesn't purr quite the same as an internal combustion engine, and though the seats aren't made from that same soothing leather, and though there's no clutch to gently send vibrations up your leg and stimulate your prostate, and though you'll never be a proper man, at least ...
... I dunno. Something, probably.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist at Cracked, and a Prius nicked his elbow on the way to work today. No really, that happened, and he's lucky to be alive. Follow him on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook.