Saturday, April 25, 2015

How My Mother Bought Me a Car

When my brother was a teenager, my mother promised to buy him a new car if he made straight A's in the years leading up to his 16th birthday, rather than the failing and barely passing grades he had previously earned.  I was very young and assumed the same deal would be extended to me, the straight A overachieving child, and argued "not fair" at the claim many years later that it was not.  "Elephants and children never forget," she muttered, and my parents were buying me a car.

She wanted to get the cheapest new car possible.  I was concerned when she told me that the car she wanted to buy would crumple like a tin can and kill anyone inside if I got into an accident.  I suggested getting a nice used car like my friends had instead since they are dramatically cheaper than new and we could get something better quality, but she said she didn't want to have to worry about me being stranded in a broken down car at night (spoiler alert: it broke down a lot). 

When my social security checks started arriving in the mail in my name instead of hers, my mother decided I should pay for the car myself.  The new, poor quality car she wanted to buy cost double the amount of my checks, so I again claimed "not fair." She told me to lease the car so that my checks would just barely cover it, to which I again said "not fair."  She refused to add me to the car insurance plan she and my dad had, arguing that I would make their premiums skyrocket.  Their premiums were already high based on the number of tickets she got and accidents she caused.  She spent my high school career so close to losing her license that she went to court every time she got a speeding ticket.

She eventually caved to my complaints and they paid for my car.  I would pay for the insurance and gas and maintenance, and it would remain in her name.  "You can't have a car in your name at 16 anyway," she said.  "You're still a child."  When I asked again at 18, she said no, that putting the car in my name would put me in the pool to be called for jury duty.  Jury duty starts at age 21 there, but I didn't argue.  

When I left for college in a big city far away, I left the car behind.  My mother was angry at my refusal to continue paying for my insurance plan in my absence.  I would no longer be receiving my social security checks since my mother said she needed them to pay for my tuition, so the only money I had to get me through the school year was what I had saved up working that last summer at home.  I told her to add the car to her insurance plan.  The car needs to be covered, not me, I explained.  She calmed down.  I don't think she understood how car insurance works.

A few years later she rolled the car into a ditch, as depicted in The Car.  She had taken Ambien before driving and fallen asleep at the wheel.  She said the car was totaled but demanded I pay to have it fixed.  I hadn't lived in the same state or driven the car in years, but she insisted it was still my car and thus my responsibility.

I reminded her that the car was never in my name.  She had forgotten.


  1. This sounds like a simply unfortunate situation. When someone doesn't understand money, insurance, or how the legal system all fits together, it can be hard to try to have sympathy for someone. However, when you aren't acting in the best interests of your loved ones and family, then sometimes karma comes back and bites you (or rolls you into a ditch).

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