Baby boomers are the first generation for which a family car was a given. For most of us anyway. And as Lucy Iscaro of White Plains, New York, explains, getting one used to be a pretty big occasion.
I bought a new car this week.
Go ahead and yawn. I know it’s no big deal. But that’s exactly my point: I bought the 2017 model, which looks almost identical to the 2016 model, which was a clone of the 2015 model.
It was very different in my childhood. My parents never bought a new car right off the assembly line. Each car they got was used; the term “pre-owned” hadn’t been coined yet. Dad said he wanted the car to be broken in, as if it were a tight leather shoe or a spirited horse.
He’d only buy a newer used model, always an Oldsmobile, when the older used car needed extensive repairs. If a great trade-in opportunity was coming in, Murray the used car salesman would alert Dad. I remember being with my parents once when they went to look at one of Murray’s picks. He was like a marriage broker making chrome and steel love matches.
“I know the lady who drove it. Her husband is a big shot. He buys her a new car every three years.” His whisper was conspiratorial.
Nudging my father closer, his voice became deeper. He spoke slowly, enunciating each syllable as he assured us, “It’s a cream-puff!”
I was an adult before I learned that a cream puff was also a pastry and not only a gently used car.
The vehicle shone in the sun. It was only three years old, much newer than our standard family transportation. And, it was two-toned! I thought it was beautiful. The roof and hood were gleaming white and the trunk and rear were summer sky blue. The two colors were gracefully bordered by a deep Vee of chrome.
The adults went off to talk about financing and I wandered into the new car showroom. This was where I knew the rich people went to buy the vehicles they parked in their built-in garages and landscaped driveways.
I daydreamed as I touched the cold metal of the unattainable. Especially the white convertible that was showcased in the center of the showroom. It boasted the luxurious features of leather seats, automatic windows, and air-conditioning. When my father found me gazing at this wonder he said something like, ”Marry a millionaire.”
The day Dad drove his new used car, the cream puff, into our narrow driveway, he tooted the horn for us to come out and take our first ride. Our neighbors called out to us as we rode by. “Wow. Hoo-hah! Nice. It’s a beauty. Drive in good health.”
It wasn’t every day that someone on our block got a new car. Even a new used one. It was an occasion.
I know that when I cruise up my own landscaped driveway and park in my own built-in garage, my neighbors won’t even notice, let alone mark the occasion.
But I will. It’s not every day I buy a new car.