What new car smell?

I’m not a car person, but I do become very attached to my vehicles and quite weepy when I hand over the keys. A few months ago I decided it was time to replace my eleven-year-old Subaru Forester.  It was a less stressful parting than usual because our grandson Miah bought it.

In years past, husband Peter did extensive research to scope car options for me, but dementia has him in a vice-grip. I did my own research and felt confident, thanks to encouragement from  our son-in-law.  When the day came to pick the car up, my friend Joanne, who is a car person, was more excited than I was.

My Dad’s car-loving genes didn’t jump into my pool.  He bought a new car every two years except during WWII when he rode a bike to work.  Automobiles weren’t readily available and gas was rationed anyway.

Dad was a car-washer too — it was nothing short of a sin to drive a dirty car. Every Sunday, religiously, he washed his “machine” in the heated garage tucked beneath our little house. He even hooked the hose to the hot water tap in the basement. “You can’t get a car clean using cold water,” he preached. I didn’t get car-cleaning genes either.

On the other hand, a car-maintainer he was not.  He once drove the 500 miles to visit us with a “little red light blinking” on the dash.  The car was gasping for oil.  Another time, a loud, repetitive flap-smack-flap-smack announced his arrival. Two tires had worn through to the steel belts. He grumbled about having to buy new tires. “Dad, do you ever check the oil, or have your tires rotated?” I ranted.

“Nope,” he said, “cars are supposed to last.”  Since he traded every two years, it was a moot point. His vehicles still had their new car smell when he was ready for another.

When I picked up my new Forester it didn’t smell “new,” but my old nose probably needed a tune-up.  Joanne’s nose worked and she was giddy on Essence of New Car. She sat in the backseat while I got nearly a ninety-minute instruction, not that I remembered it sixty minutes later! If I choose, the car will tell me its lifetime fuel consumption, accelerator opening ratio, journey time and distance, average vehicle speed for entire drive time, and mundane things I actually understand like engine oil status, tire pressure, and maintenance schedule.

My car is way smarter than I ever was or ever will be. If I keep it as long as I’ve kept my others, I’ll be too old to drive anything except a three-wheeled scooter.

I’ve had it nearly two months and still haven’t been able to reset the clock to daylight savings time. The manual directed me to section 3, page 35, then 3-39, 3-45, 3-47, and 3-55 before I found “DST select.” It takes time to absorb all that information, so it still shows EST. That’s OK. I hate DST. I do not like to be outsmarted by a car though!

The clock/calendar feature, if I could use it, would let me add birthday and anniversary reminders, but I already remember those dates without assistance.  This would help Peter — he doesn’t remember his own birthday, much less mine or our anniversary — but he doesn’t drive!

But new car smell?  Um, no. What I smell is a faint Eau de Dog Vomit. I’d had the car less than a week when Nobby went on a short road trip with us. I thought he’d outgrown his carsickness. Wrong!  When he started his telltale gulping, I couldn’t pull over quickly enough. He deposited his stomach contents down the opening in the seat cover where the seatbelts come through.  Usually- prepared me didn’t have anything to clean up with except three tissues. I improvised with plastic bags and a sheet of newspaper.


That same day I had a backing-up incident, first time ever.  I realized I’d missed a turn-off and backed into the parking lot of a country church. A shrill, ear-shattering crunch came from the car’s nether region. I didn’t know what was wrong because I was slighly rear-end down in a shallow ditch. All-wheel drive hauled me out easily and I pulled forward into the lot. I’d flattened a mailbox that had already been knocked down, but there wasn’t even a scratch on the car. Whew!

Now, a rear-view camera connects to the multi-function display, but with polarized sunglasses the screen has a big brown smudge. I’m a good backer-upper, and side mirrors have always worked for me. Later I realized, even if I’d used the rear-view feature, the mailbox wouldn’t have been visible.  A search in the owner’s manual warned, “…you should always check the rear view…with your eyes and mirror…. Moving backward only by checking the rear-view [screen] could cause an accident.”

I rest my case.

In addition to being a mailbox flattener, I was still lost, my phone was dead, and I couldn’t make the #!*^ GPS work either. Help came from a man working down the road.

We were an hour late.

The dog was fine.

The car was unscathed.

But my self-confidence was wrecked — State Farm Insurance doesn’t cover that.








16 thoughts on “What new car smell?

  1. Oh, just mentally add or subtract the hour(s),Judy. I still haven’t even located my clock.
    However, I do hear an infuriating beep, beep, beep when I come closer than six feet(or so it seems)to a solid object, whilst reversing – maybe that’s more beneficial.


  2. I tried for years to set the clock in my Jeep by pushing the button that “didn’t work”. It wasn’t till I watched Bill use a ball point pen that the clock was set right!! No worries Mom, it happens to the best of us!!


  3. I know what you mean about a new car. I have had mine over a year now and I still have to refer to the manual (the printed version) often. Usually I wait until I go by the dealership and have them update anything I find difficult.
    In my car the side mirrors turn down when I put it in reverse. I also had a “fender bender” when I didn’t see someone coming in fron the side. First accident in 50 years.


    • I’m considering going to the dealership to disable the rear-view camera! Now that you mention side mirrors, I think mine readjust themselves too, but not necessarily when I reverse… #!^*. I’d like to have my Dad’s 1924 Ford, crank and all.


  4. All I can say is, cars are a necessary evil, and I’d love to live in the heart of Manhattan like one of my cousins who has NEVER had a car or had to drive. I always hated to drive, still do! And it was my grandfather who always referred to his car as a ‘Machine’–that really sent me back in time!! Your car-sick doggy just added to your clever, funny story!


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