Friday, May 29, 2015

Car Stories: The Little Green Fiat and Me

Dear Dad,
Not Oliva, because Will has her at work today, but you know, for size comparison
I’ve never really been much of a car girl. I find them more of a necessary evil than something you love.

I dislike driving, more and more the older I get, and I’ve never really seen the appeal of cars as objects of affection. In fact, I remember a certain 16-year-old Texan showing off his new-to-him BMW and thinking “It’s ok I guess.” (he still talks about that car, 25 years later, so I suppose it was probably more than ok, but what did I know?)
Other than a love affair with a Landcruiser named Ramona, whose
chief qualities were that I could haul a toddler, two dogs and anything I needed for renovating a house in her all at once and that she ran no matter what I did (or didn’t do – being a not car person means I tend to not do more things to my car than I’m supposed to – like check the oil, or change the oil), I’ve never had more than a passing interest in the cars I’ve owned.

Until Oliva.

When we moved back to Portland, it became immediately clear that our enormous Honda Pilot – so necessary in Vermont when we might be hauling four kids and ski gear up an unpaved and unplowed road for six months of the year – was not going to be very functional in a city where bikes are a main mode of transportation, parking is tight and driveways narrow. We test drove the kind of practical cars our neighbors had – a Honda Fits, a Nissan Leaf and a Toyota Prius being the main contenders. We considered the official car of Portland, a Subaru outback (it’s true what they say, this town is littered with them) but having owned, and paid for many repairs for two Subarus in my driving life, I wasn’t keen.

And then I saw a little green Fiat 500 and fell in love.

When people see my car, they have one of two reactions. Either they laugh, especially when we all pile out, clown-car style, or they say “Oh, a Fiat, I would love to have one of those” Which is often followed by “except I have kids/a dog/a tall spouse.” Actually, sometimes people just pet it too. And they almost all say, “Boy I bet that’s fun to drive!” and it is.

It really is. And coming from a girl who detests driving, that’s saying a lot.

It wasn’t a practical choice, perhaps. It only has four seatbelts, which means we can’t haul a bunch of kids around. But then again, it also means we can’t haul a bunch of kids around.

If/when we renovate another house, it won’t be super handy, but by then, I hope Ercell the '55 Chevy truck that’s taking up half the driveway will run for longer than a minute and we can use that for all the two by fours and sheets of plywood and clawfoot tubs that I’m sure we’ll be hauling. But it’s surprising what we can fit in it.

As someone who has kids, a tall spouse and a dog, I can attest to the fact that, TARDIS-like, my wee Fiat is bigger on the inside. We’ve hauled home a surprising amount of stuff in it. And truthfully, it could be smaller.

Oliva is, in fact, my second Fiat. Sort of. When I was an exchange student on that weird and wonderful island of Sardinia, my family, which included three teenagers before I arrived on the scene, drove a Fiat 500. And that was the older, smaller model. So fitting a tween, a dog and an almost 9-year old in the back of Oliva is a piece of cake compared to four fully grown teens squished together in the back of a truly tiny Fiat driving 80 miles an hour down winding Italian country lanes while Mama and Papa yell at each other about (I think) how to get where they are going.

And also, Fiat has great commercials. I mean, how can you not love a car that comes with an Authentic Italian Family?



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