This is one of Barbara Wood's recent "Dispatches from the Home Front" columns.
By Barbara Wood
Somehow I feel I am being punished for being too smugly happy about the fact that with all my children gone from home, I allowed myself to take advantage of a fantastic deal on a BMW convertible last spring, and for the first several months spent all my driving time with the top down, smiling.
At first, I smiled whenever I drove the metallic baby-blue two-seater, even when I had to cram much of a Costco haul in the front seat, or had to take the top down to get a new patio umbrella home from the store.
I kept a sweater behind the seat for those times when other drivers let a little fog convince them to leave their tops up, and I carefully covered the car whenever we were at home because there's no room for it in the garage.
But my smile became a little strained around the time I had to duct tape the car together while waiting for my friend who owns a body shop to return from vacation and do a few thousand dollars' worth of work to replace the duct tape.
Before he made a house call to tell me how bad the damage was, Dan, the auto-body man, warned me on the phone: "You will start driving it more carefully. You are going to have to pay a lot of money and you will drive it more carefully." Yes, I will, and I have. It's that or go back to driving a dull, ordinary car again.
But really, it was hardly my fault. There's a small dip between the street and my driveway, a low spot that carries water down the street when it rains. Every time I drove in and out, the ground-hugging bumper of my sweet car scraped on the pavement.
It's a bad design, BMW.
And almost every time I parked it in a lot with one of those concrete stops, I'd scrape the bumper on it before backing up a tiny bit to where I was supposed to be.
As a consequence, one day I noticed that a strip of fiberglass on the bottom of the bumper was hanging off. I gave it a pull and tossed it to the side of the garage.
Not too long after, my husband and I noticed a horrible scraping sound as we were on our way to pick up burritos for dinner. We pulled over and he pushed something under the car back into place before we continued on our way.
Not long after that, however, the scraping returned as I was making a desperate, last-minute run to try to pick up dog food before the dog noticed it was dinner time. I pulled over, looked under the car, and saw what I later learned was the engine cover, dragging on the pavement.
The car and I drove very slowly, and loudly, back home and my husband picked up the dog food, even though it made him late for his softball game.
Dan, the auto-body man, who made a house call to look at my car for me either because he's a very nice man, or because he was afraid I would start crying in his shop and embarrass him when he told me what the damage was, did not have good news.
It seems that with the little strip of fiberglass gone, the engine cover came loose and started dragging. With the engine cover loose, a piece of plastic that sits beside the headlight fell off and was lost. Then the headlight, no longer snugly held in place, broke from its mounting bracket.
A BMW headlight, it seems, is very expensive, to say nothing of the engine cover, or side piece. While to do the job right would require a new front end, Dan, the body man, agreed we could get by with some brackets and a little tinkering on his part.
"You are going to do it again," he said. He apparently knows me a bit too well.
But I completely agree. Why replace the front end if it would just have to be done again later?
So, while the damage to the car was virtually invisible without crawling under the car, the total bill was several months of my salary.
Since then, I have been parking very, very carefully, and trying very hard not to believe that the universe is telling me I shouldn't be so happily driving such an impractical car.
I'm also ignoring the fact that I just had to buy the car four new tires. The old tires, one at a time, went flat on me. It turns out that even though they are special tires that can be driven on when flat, and therefore can't be repaired, only replaced, that they were the original 11-year-old tires for the car and should have been replaced quite some time ago.
I'm just not ready to give the BMW up quite yet. Because I sort of figure that after 12 years driving a Volkswagen van, followed by nine years of driving a Prius, I deserve just a bit more time to drive with the top down.