What can I say – I just love Pearls

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When your own mechanic, the guy who profits from your car repairs, says it’s time to get a new car … it’s time to get a new car.

That was Bob’s verdict, down at Pisani’s Auto Repair, when I brought my beloved Impala in with a new and improved problem: a bad catalytic converter, and the fix would be about $1,000. Again. A thousand here, a thousand there — add it all up, and that Impala had to be worth about six figures by now.

I asked Bob if it was his car, what would he do — if he was like me and couldn’t fix his own car.

“Well,” he said, in his slow, grumbly way, “If this was the first thing you had to have fixed, I’d say keep it. But you’ve been in here a lot.”

Jeez. Even my mechanic is sick of seeing my car in the shop.

I asked Bob’s son, David, (who will take over the Pisani’s empire some day), how long I could limp along with the car as is. It had little acceleration anymore. Getting on the freeway took a lot of time and patience to get up to speed, even on a downhill ramp. But who am I to criticize? I’m getting older and slower too.

Two weeks, David said. That’s about all I could get away with before the pressure from the clogged catalytic converter started overheating other parts, and causing even bigger problems than I already had.

Great, just great.

Just the week before, I was celebrating, because Pearl (yes, she had a name) had successfully turned over 100,000 miles. Well, technically. The new computer only had 40,000 miles on it, and the new transmission a mere 3,000.

And the new alternator was barely broken in. Ditto for the electric window motor, and several expensive computerized sensors. Pearl was like Joan Rivers — most of the original equipment had been replaced, but if you squinted a little and didn’t get too close, she still looked pretty darn good for her age.

I was hugely bummed by David’s prognosis. Despite all the repairs, I loved that car. It was my Goldilocks car. Everything fit just right. I actually felt depressed about trading it in, and wondered if my recurrent nightmare was coming true — the one where I trade Pearl in and spend the rest of my dream frantically searching for her to get her back.

No, it’s not normal, thank you very much for asking.

My husband started urging me to replace Pearl ASAP, fearing I’d be stranded on the road somewhere, relying on my mechanical skills that range from kicking the door to weeping quietly. Hey — that’s what AAA is for!

On the other hand … AAA won’t be much help if Pearl pooped out in the midst of a wicked traffic jam on the Bay Bridge. Just thinking about that finally prompted me to start looking for a new car. But… which one?

Naturally, the proper choice was a car with great gas mileage. I looked at Hondas — eh. Looked at Toyotas — eh. Test drove a Mazda CX-5 and loved it, but the salesman was so obnoxious, I decided not to go back.

“Get a Prius, get a Prius” everyone kept telling me. You know what? A Prius just isn’t sexy enough. There. I said it. If Priuses were shoes, nuns would wear them.

Besides, upon further reflection, I committed myself to buying an American made car and let my dollars support my own country. I’ve hammered on the “shop local” angle for years, and decided I should walk the talk. When it comes to cars, America is the local guy.

So, I went to the Chevy dealer. I test-drove a Cruze, which gets nearly 40 miles per gallon. It was a nice little car, until you get hit by a hiked-up Dodge Ram at 80 miles per hour on one of the local back roads. I don’t care how many airbags it has, it’s gonna get flattened.

I drove an Equinox, but the interior was a too sporty boy for me, and the dashboard was tricked out with more computer monitors than the space shuttle. All those gizmos I’d have to learn to use, and I haven’t completely mastered the DVD player yet.

And then, what the heck… I drove a new Impala. And I stopped looking. Yes, Goldilocks, it fit just right. And here’s the kicker: the 2012 Impala gets 30 mpg, highway. Same as a Honda CRV. And, because nobody wants Impalas anymore because they think a CRV gets better gas mileage, GM was offering a $4,500 discount. And, because I’m a repeat customer at Hanlee’s Chevrolet, they gave me $1,000 extra for poor, pitiful Pearl, and my salesman, Johnny, even searched the entire state and found exactly the Impala I wanted — metallic black, with a black leather interior, and had it delivered.

And then the day came. The new car had arrived, and I took Pearl for our last ride, back to the same place where I found her.

“Just like a salmon swimming back upstream,” I told my husband wistfully.

“Yeah — to die,” he retorted.

“Shush,” I gasped. “She’ll hear you!”

So, it’s been about a week with Black Pearl now, and she is sexy, sexy, sexy. And yet, I feel a little guilty driving her, knowing that Pearl is sitting somewhere, alone and cold, headed for the great auto dismantler in the sky. But — not quite as guilty as I feel about buying the extended bumper-to-bumper warranty, so GM can pay for all the repairs from now on.

Bob and David — will you ever forgive me?

— Email Debra at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com, www.edebra.com and www.ipinion.us

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