Thursday, April 07, 2016

from lancer to vw

So finally, the Lancer goes.

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* Last glance, as I leave it behind at the car dealer to be scrapped

Its COE expires in June and there is really no point in renewing the certificate for a car which sounds like its having a mechanical version of a heart murmur. Although it runs fine, every time we turn on the engine, there’s a “flutter-flutter-flutter” of what sounds like a loose strap flapping against something in the car.

KK was on tenterhooks whenever he drove it. “We’d better get rid of it soon,” he’d say.

But the really happy ones were the kids. They have been waiting for this moment a long time.

While I made them say their goodbyes to the Lancer, and give some verbal tributes on the last day we drove the car – “Thank you for taking us from Point A to Point B for so many years” was about the best they could manage – their enduring memory of the car will be the baby roaches. 

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* Last drive in the Lancer - I'm bringing them to school in the morning. That's the neighbour's kid, Yishen, in the back

Every time we have to get into the car at night, when it’s dark, a particular ritual has evolved which I wish I could have video-taped, only the kids would not allow it: Lulu opens the back door, Jo opens the front door. They both take a step back and stare into the dark inky depths of the Lancer. Day is usually next to Lulu, also making a visual survey.

By this time I would have plopped myself into the front seat (because I’m fearless and I don’t care what I sit on). Lulu says – Mama, can you turn on the light, please? Jo says – Mama, can you check the seat? Can you sweep this area? (she points to the crevice between the seat and its back rest)

I turn on the car light. And I sweep the crevice with my fingers.

Five times out of 10, the girls will stiffen or shudder because they can see a baby roach, or two, or three, languidly crawling across the head rests or on the seat.

Mama! They all yell.

I will inevitably sigh, grab a random ball of used tissue which usually ends up in the cup holder next to me, get out of the car, hone in on the baby roach and swoop in for the kill. For some reason they’re always sluggish and I usually succeed.

When I don’t, the roaches disappear somewhere into inaccessible areas of the car, while I threaten the kids that I will drive off if they don’t get in, then they will all crouch on the seat and squeeze themselves into small balls without letting their limbs dangle vulnerably.

I think this car and the roaches have given the kids some very traumatic childhood memories. And I’m certain that as adults, they will not permit eating in their own cars, and will strive to keep their own cars clean. (It’s such shock-and-awe tactics which work to change behavior, isn’t it?)

A few things I notice: It’s always babies. Like the Lancer is some warm roosting spot where the roaches can grow up peacefully and leave once they’re ready for the world. And there are some places where there seem to be more roaches than usual, I suspect they crawl into the car from outside and are not inherently in the car. Like if I parked next to a rubbish dump, for instance.

In any case, the kids are not too sad to bid farewell. I feel the car has served us well, despite the occasional fault; here and here. It served us a good six years and the fact that we get back over $7,000 (in scrap value) against its $36,000 cost (cars only cost that much back in 2010!) means it’s really not too bad.

On to the new.

So finally, we decided on a second-hand Volkswagen Golf.

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The process of getting a car this time is a little more structured than when we got the Lancer. KK did his research, I even asked around, and what made us consider the Golf was that Jason recommended it. A big truck veered off course and clipped into the back of their Golf recently while they were on the expressway, and it was quite impressive that the Golf was so sturdy it only suffered a few dents.

It is also German (KK says – German good), small and humble (I like).

Our white Golf now is the second one we saw. The story is that it was purchased by a British banker four years ago, but he ended up cycling to work and kept the car for weekends and stuff. It looked and smelt and felt brand-new, with a low mileage of 26,000km (which means it was seldom driven). That was KK’s tipping point. He hopes to use the car beyond its 10th year.

Cost: $74,000. Urgh. Whatever.

Internally, it feels bigger than the Volvo, I don't know why. KK, who aspired to own a MPV or a SUV but downgraded because I drive the car 90% of the time and I wouldn't want one that is bigger than necessary, is OK with the Golf's engine (I don’t feel any different except the car seems a lot heavier including crazy-heavy doors). Most importantly for him, he can squeeze in his golf bag.

The kids love the car. Coming from the old roach-ridden Lancer, who wouldn’t? They are fascinated with the intelligent features. Key-less system, intuitive windscreen wipers, optical parking system, and a kick-ass sound system. Also, they know by now: They all refuse to eat and drink in the car, and will call each other out.

May the car go the distance for us. May we also have the stamina and discipline to keep it clean.

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