Once, a long time ago, my husband and I took a marriage renewal class at St. Mary Magdalen church in Berkeley. It was so long ago that I cannot recapture what we could possibly have been thinking when we made this foolish decision.
Father George, the parish prist, gave us a personality assessment test to kind of break the ice, to remind each of us that the other person taking the test could still be described, and not in moments of saracasm either, as our soul mate. It was the kind of test that evaluates whether you believe your glass is half full or half empty, whether you think people are inherently good or evil, whether you should be calling the shots or whether things should be left to the complete idiots who make up the rest of the world’s population, and what you feel your team’s chances of making it to the World Series are.
Our answers to these questions marked us as a couple so profoundly and disturbingly at odds that Father George was rendered mute when we arrived in his office and he pulled out the results to discuss them with us. What could he say? Two people cannot both lead? One of you needs to learn to give a little? You two have gravely erred in your decision to marry? Run for the hills? The time for any of those options has come and gone.
And we haven’t changed.
Two months ago, a security guard at the local blood bank made an ill-considered u-turn in front of my husband and totalled our Jeep Cherokee. It was more than a total physical loss — it was a huge setback in our efforts to avoid having to make joint decisions about certain matters (child rearing, dinner menus, vacations, whether to refinance now or wait until rates go up). Most matters, in fact.
The extent of our difficulty in chosing an appropriate new car can be seen in the fact that I have been driving a Chevy Cavalier for almost a month. We rented it from Rent A Relic, after we realized that if we kept renting from Hertz while we decided what car to buy we wouldn’t have enough money to buy another car. Our problem called for a long, long term rental. The Cavalier, which my husband refers to as the Chevalier with a weird French accent, is cheap. It also smells like it used to be driven by a guy in his fifties who was a long time member of Local 49, Pipefitters.
But it’s bought us time to discover that our family of five seems to need three different cars, although three of us are under the age of twelve.
My husband drives a lot — he works far away. He has a car he likes, an old BMW that smells like a car (engine smell mainly) which, in his view, is how his vehicle is supposed to smell. I do not drive a lot. I take public transportation to work. I only need a car to pick our children up from school. I want the smallest car ever made that will get the best gas mileage in America so I can be smug about how little petroleum I am using. My husband hates that kind of car. He won’t admit this, but he does. The problem is that most weekends in the winter, we go up to the mountains to ski. You can’t really drive the world’s smallest, most fuel efficient car to Lake Tahoe every weekend of the winter. It does snow up there and sometimes it even snows a lot.
Last weekend he dragged me to a Toyota dealership to look at an FJ Cruiser (I cringe when I type that). It gets 19 miles to the gallon in the city, and that’s probably an exaggeration. It is cute in a retro way. For some reason, he believes I should drive this car.
I suggested maybe a used Volvo station wagon with 4 wheel drive. He looked them up on Craig’s List and showed me the one he thought I’d want. The ad described it like this: “Starts. Runs. Stops. A good car if you don’t want to go over 10 miles an hour. $100.”
We are at a standstill. Mother’s Day is this weekend. He is spending all day Saturday with our children. He says he’s “shopping for the perfect present for you.” I wonder what that will be? Let’s hope it goes over 10 miles an hour.