When I was a high-schooler in the late 80’s/early 90’s, there was a word for a certain kind of car: HOOPTY. This is a slang term for an old, worn-out car. I drove one in 1991 when I got my license. It was a 1976 Chevy Nova, bright yellow with a white top. It was affectionately known as the Banana Boat. I still drive a hoopty, so I’ve borrowed the phrase to title this post.
My current hoopty is a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan in a unremarkable silvery blue color. There used to be scads of the same color van out there on the road. Back when I first got it in 2007, I more than once approached a van that wasn’t mine in the Target parking lot, attempting to get in. There are way fewer of them around these days. All those folks must’ve gotten new cars, but mine is holding steady at 146K miles. This summer I was clobbered with the need for brakes, a radiator and a battery. Other than these major repairs, I have put only minor money into it over the years.
My hubs drives a 2001 Acura TL that we bought in 2010. It has heated seats and a sunroof, which are two of the most glorious inventions known to man (as far as cars go anyway). It has just over 170K miles on it. It runs well and we’ve really had few problems with it. That’s the “date night” car because it’s easier to park in Philadelphia and it makes us feel a little more cosmopolitan than the van. Only a little though.
Both of these cars are paid off and, frankly, we don’t have extra money for new car payments anyway. And that’s just fine because I like driving my older car. Sure, the one back sliding door needs to be locked and unlocked by hand. The cup holders on the back seats are broken. There’s duct tape holding down a rogue length of weatherstripping on the front driver’s side roof. So what?
That faithful old van gets me where I need to go and I’m not shelling out big bucks every month for a payment. Besides, if something spills, I don’t have a conniption because it isn’t a new interior. Crumbs on the seats and floor? Sweep them out quarterly…ok, maybe twice a year. Kids are kids and I’m not going to tell them they can’t eat or drink in the car, especially on vacation. Bumps, dings and scrapes of a variety of shapes and sizes adorn the exterior. At this point, I’m beyond worrying about appearances anyway. It’s safe to drive, which is what really matters. When it rains, that’s a free car wash from the Lord as I see it. In my economy, these old hoopties are a blessing.
They’ve driven my babies in their car seats to many family functions and doctor appointments. Family vacations to lots of states in the eastern US have been enjoyed in these cars. Softball games, trips to Chinatown for dim sum, and jaunts to the beach have been possible because of these old jalopies. Even the fun (albeit harrowing) journey on the unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was made in that van. The shocks on the vehicle will never be quite the same. Bumpity Bump!
When these cars have reached their limit and must be turned over as donations for veterans or some worthy children’s cause, it will be because they were beaten into the ground and used to the full. If I may wax metaphorical for a moment, that’s how I want to go out too – having used my life to the full, embracing the scrapes and dings along the way.
Eventually, our trusty vehicles will be replaced with gently used cars someone else has turned in. We don’t buy new anymore because it’s just too expensive. I don’t lease because it’s like payment prison – you can never escape!
Look for me cruising around with my hits of the 1980’s or worship music blaring out the windows, duct-tape shimmering in the sun. There’s still some life left in that old van and I plan to squeeze every last drop out of it. Life is a journey – enjoy the ride!