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Driving Miss Doxie

May 28, 2005

It occurs to me that I have never written about my car, my POOR, POOR, long-suffering car that I have abused and driven irrationally and unsafely since I was FIFTEEN, that keeps on chugging away even though I say mean things to it, except when it decides to die spectacularly on the side of the highway that one time. I have never written about that car.

And I should, poor car. Let me tell you a little bit about said vehicle, whose name (y'all, I know. But we name everything in our family. We have a truck named Robert Redford, and I will leave it up to you to guess the make and the color) is Beeper, after an imaginary friend I had when I was four and was, apparently, demented. So, I got Beeper as a Christmas present when I was fifteen, so I could learn to drive on Beeper prior to my 16th birthday in March. And I loved Beeper. And I washed him, and I petted him, and I told him nice things about his interior lights and little bitsy headlight wipers (SO CUTE!) and I adored him like my child.

But then the years passed, and now Beeper is not so...healthy. And it's my fault, really, because...uh.

Here's the thing.

Know how you can be really smart about some things, but really, phenominally stupid about others? And know how there are just some areas that you Have Not Mastered, that really, you don't know too much about and are just kind of going by the seat of your pants and hoping like hell that NOBODY ASKS YOU ANYTHING, because you will almost certainly get caught in your zone of idiocy?

Well, I think I'm a reasonably intelligent person. Generally I know what's up with politics and the world and what damn thing Gwyneth wore to the Oscars this time. And I went to law school, and now I practice law, and I manage my household and do other things that imply A MODICUM of common sense.

But! I have absolutely no grasp of several things. None. I cannot learn them. I do not understand them. A sampling of these things include:

(1) Units of measurement (ounces? Who?);
(2) Geography (I think "Delaware" is maybe somewhere next to "Europe"); and

Yeah, I didn't know. I thought it was the same thing as having oil put in your car. Which...no.

Now, before some of you send me emails and comments telling me what an idiot I am: Y'ALL. I KNOW. I'm a complete and total moron. I WILL CONCEDE THIS POINT. I will also concede that I am a complete and total moron who paid about $3000 two months ago when my LACK OF OIL CHANGE caused the car to explode grandly on Georgia 400, as I was going through the toll booth, and prompting the woman who was taking my dollar to shriek, "Oh, SHIT" as white smoke came pouring out from under my hood and filled her little toll-booth-house-thingy. You're welcome, toll lady! Keep the change!

When I got the car towed to my service place, the lady mechanic in charge was puzzled. "It's like everything's just...fused together," she said, peering under the hood. "Let me just look at your records."

After a few minutes, she returned, white faced.

"Where do...where do you get your oil changed?" she asked slowly.

"Um. I just add oil. When the light comes on."

"But. Oil change. Where? And more specifically, when?"

"Um. No?"

"See, 'No' is not an answer. 'When' and 'where' are the questions."

"And yet I am sticking with 'No'."

Which caused her to put her head in her hands, and wail, "LEIGH. It has been FIVE YEARS since you had your oil changed here. FIVE. YEARS."

To which I just looked at her. Blankly.


"Oooookay. God. Lecture much, DAD?"

Well, yes. I got a lecture. I was made to hold sticky things that are not supposed to be sticky. And then, because Mechanic Lady also services everyone I know, I had to field phone calls for two weeks from such people as my (1) parents, (2) neighbors, and (3) EX-BOYFRIEND about how HOO BOY, am I an idiot, and Lady Mechanic made THEM hold the sticky thing, and she had taken pictures of the engine of my car, and did you know I was probably going to be in a magazine about funny things idiots do to their cars?

Yes. I am brilliant.

So, needless to say, even after $3000 and much apologizing to Beeper, the car has been PISSED. Since the Explosion, the following seemingly unrelated items have stopped working entirely:

1. Seat mover thingy;
2. Back taillight;
3. Windows (all);
4. CD player;
5. Air conditioning;
6. Rear widow defroster;
7. Gas gauge; and, as a final "FUCK YOU" from Beeper to me,
8. Driver's seat sun visor, WHICH FELL INTO MY LAP as I was driving to work last week.

So, after thirteen years, I made the difficult decision that, PEOPLE, it is time to buy another car. It is time for Beeper to move on, to go to a better place, and he is being donated to a charity company, which will most likely bring him back in one week, all "THANKS SO MUCH, but he bit off my leg."

So I've been doing research, and I think I've decided on my new car, and today I am OFF TO THE DEALERSHIP to buy it. This is exciting. This is also KILLING ME with the nervousness, because "buying" means "bartering", and even with my law school education and mean courtroom self, I...suck at bartering. I do. This is how I imagine things will go:

Salesman: That will be forty million dollars.

Self: Forty...? I was thinking, maybe, like, um. I don't know. Uh...less.

Salesman: Really. Less. Like, thirty-nine million?

Self: Oh! Um. Lesser?

Salesman: No. Because you hesitated, the price is now forty-three million, and we get to whack you with a stick.

Self: Sigh. FINE.

Salesman: Also we take your eyeballs and kneecaps. Sign here.

So, I am understandably nervous. What if I get a bad deal? What if I accidentally sign away the dogs? What if I mess up and end up with a car I don't like? What if the car tries to bite off MY leg? These are all issues.

But, you know. Buying a car, by yourself and without your dad, is a Major Part of Growing Up. As are...oil changes. Which is why I am scheduling nineteen of them today. SO THERE.

So, y'all wish me luck! Hopefully, next time anyone hears from me, I'll be zipping around town in a very cute, only-slightly-used car, with seats that move and windows that go up and down and a cd player that does not play the Static of Satan when you turn it on.

And probably wishing I still had my eyeballs.

Posted by doxie in General Whining | permalink


I am all for girl power, but when it comes to buying a vehicle all bets are off! Take Dukay, take your dad, take one of the Keifer twins, hell take a boyscout, just take someone of the masculine persuation with you. I learned this the hard way many moons ago. I was all "I am woman, hear me roar, I don't need a man to buy a car." Cut to two days later as the waaay overpriced Scirrocco, I had been browbeaten into buying DIED on I85! No warranty. As Is. No Refunds. I'm just saying. good luck.

Posted by: karla | May 28, 2005 12:36 PM

I thought I was the only one that gave dorky names to inanimate objects! I totally agree with Karla, when it comes to buying a car you don't have to do it alone. It's ok to be a permanent child as long as it means that you're going to get a good deal. The funniest part about it is that the salesman even knowing you are the one buying the vehicle will turn all his attention to wooing the man you brought with you, kind of like when you're buying a computer (no computer salesman ever seems to believe that the woman is the important part of the duo when you go computer shopping with a man - even if the man is a ten year old boy). Anyway, I had a point there somewhere, seems to be lost. Good luck buying the car, and I'd also like to mention I had no idea about the oil change thing either. Good thing it turns out that my boyfriend has secretly been taking my car in for it every time it was due.

Posted by: Anna | May 28, 2005 01:01 PM

Haha, oil changes, how overrated! I don't do such things either. My brother comes over and does things to my car and makes it run nice and happy. So, there's probably oil involved somewhere. Hell if I know. Maybe someday I should look into that. At one point with my old car the oil light came on prompting every man I know to yell at me. Because, from my female perspective, that is your happy little warning that the car needs like, oil and stuff. From a man perspective, that means you've been horribly remiss in not anticipating the oil-like needs of the car weeks in advance. Er something. *shrug* Good luck with the car buying! Make sure to get something shiny! With fancy gadgets. Those are important. I don't know much about engines and horsepower and warranty information, but I know lots about pretty! ;)

Posted by: RadiantSky | May 28, 2005 02:43 PM

Yeah I've had the car explosion of doom incident too, turns out I was leaking anti-freeze, hey, it wasn't even a hot day, why on earth did that matter?!

hey ho, enjoy car buying! And even better, enjoy driving around in your new car and showing it's prettiness off to the world at large!

Posted by: Moneypenny | May 28, 2005 04:01 PM

Oh, man....my dad would die if he read this. And if I hadn't HELPED him change the oil several times, I wouldn't know anything about it either!

Posted by: Christi | May 28, 2005 06:13 PM

The title of this piece?? BEST EVER. I have SUCH a girly crush on you.


(who through some freak of genetics happily understands all about the oil and changing thereof, AND how to buy cars)

Posted by: Wickedfun | May 28, 2005 06:46 PM

What a very grown-up thing to do! Congrats on your big purchase.

For myself, I am a total wussy when it comes to bartering... and if it weren't for my husband, my car's oil would rarely be changed... and the car would never get washed. I'm all for girl power, too, but there are some things I'd just rather let a man do.

Not that my particular man is any better at bartering than I, unfortunately.

Posted by: jen | May 28, 2005 08:04 PM

My ex-girlfriend didn't understand the concept of oil changes either. She too, would put oil into the engine whenever the oil light would go one. It seemed to run fine until one ill-fated day. Where she was convinced that since it had been about 4 days since the light went on prompting her to put oil in her car, that she would clearly need to put three time the amount of oil in.

She put 12 QUARTS OF OIL into her engine. Twelve quarts. It blew every seal and gasket in her engine and leaked it all over the road as she drove away.

But its totally understandable.

Posted by: number1hypocrite | May 28, 2005 08:56 PM

Dude, totally take El Dukay or your pops with you. Just do it.

And I too have experienced the, "WTF is that noise and why is my car shaking?" I was about 18 and had this BITCHIN' custom raspberry flat-bed Chevy. I was cruising home one evening and all of a sudden, "dunk dunk dunk dunk duNk DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK!!" = truck is dead. Seized the engine - I didn't know what the hell that meant. Had to hike down the road to a tavern and call home for help. And my poor dad, I wasn't even in trouble - I think he felt he hadn't imbued the importance of checking the oil regularly, or that he should have been doing it for me (sniff!).

Posted by: Jane | May 28, 2005 09:05 PM

These people that tell you to take a man with you... they lie! You can do it, woman. Just be prepared to look the salesman right in the eye and say "Your lowest offer is more than I intend to pay" and be ready to WALK OUT. This causes a state of panic for the salesman (it's almost always a man) and he will substantially reduce his commission on your car just so he will get something out of it. And when they start to calculate the interest rate, just laugh at the first offer they give you and stand up again. You really can get a good deal this way, but sometimes you have to go to more than one dealership. FIGHT THE POWER, SISTER!

Posted by: Erin | May 28, 2005 11:00 PM

A couple of things women aren't expected to know anything about are the universal priciples of car maintenance and bartering. So you get a freebie on both. But the Kiefer Twins are standing by to provide expert advice and guidance on each subject. Just in case.

Posted by: Kiefer Twin | May 29, 2005 01:37 AM

I don't usually comment on blogs, but being a young female working in the automotive service industry, I just couldn't resist. I am going to have to agree with Erin, you do not need a man with you to purchase a car, just educate yourself about what you want, what is a fair price, and walk in there determined to get that price. As for the lack of car maintenence...well, it pains me everytime I hear a story like that, and then to see so many women agreeing with your story and their own trials of such things. There is a REASON that a woman often gets 'taken' or even has to be worried about being taken, and that is because so many women can't even regularly maintain their own car, let alone purchase one. I recommend that anyone who drives a car educate themselves on what the hell is going on under the hood. The next time you take your car into the garage, ask if you can come in and watch, most technicians would be happy to give you some pointers on basic maintenence, and it will save you thousands of dollars on repairs. Its a shame that so many people are ignorant to the goings on of thousands of pounds of metal that they wield out there on the streets. Please ladies, help end, not perpetuate the helpless female stereotype in the automotive industry.

Posted by: Liz | May 29, 2005 03:10 AM

so... what IS an... oil change? ;)

Posted by: Babs | May 29, 2005 08:51 AM

Here's how to buy a new car:

1. Find out on the internet how much the dealer paid for it.

2. Locate all dealers within a hundred miles.

3. Send them all a facsimile (fax, not phone call, this is very important) saying "this is how much you paid, I want this car, with X,Y,Z options, I don't care about the color, and I will buy from the dealer who makes the best offer. Here is my fax number." (again, fax, not phone).

4. Wait until the faxes roll in. Choose the best one.

No bartering, no dickering, no hassle, no muss no fuss. I bought my new car for invoice; my husband bought his for BELOW invoice using the "fax attack."

It doesn't work on Saturns, though, because they really ahve a "one price for everyone " policy.

You can modify this as needed with used cars, but it takes more effort

Posted by: victoria | May 29, 2005 04:17 PM

Driving Miss Doxie. Heh. That cracked me up! (as did the rest of the post, natch)

Posted by: Em | May 29, 2005 05:02 PM

I sympathize, big time. I was raised in family with manual transmissions on their cars, but my first car was an automatic. I faithfully checked the oil every week. When it seized on the highway after only a few months I found out that automatics? HAVE TWO DIPSTICKS! Guess which one I was checking?

Posted by: Shawna | May 29, 2005 09:17 PM

Happily, I will join you in not knowing anything about cars.. tho I do get the oil changed but only cuz my dad taught me to have that done or else sort of thing. Also the geography thing I can truly identify.. I don't think I knew Alaska was attached til I was 18.. and my family never lets me forget it.

Posted by: roguedevyl | May 29, 2005 10:11 PM

Hey Leigh!
You can do it! Go ahead and buy the car - but you may want to go check out Costco, as they have dealers which have agreed to sell certain cars at prearranged discount prices - should be a fairly good price, too. If they don't have Costco there, maybe Sam's club?


Posted by: mramunds | May 30, 2005 02:32 AM

OK, so why does antifreeze matter in hot weather. Why don't they call it anti-boil, then?

Posted by: Mark | May 30, 2005 07:57 AM

I gotta love a lawyer who doesn't insist on having a new BMW every two years. Don't ever change, Leigh, even after you make partner and can buy and sell our collective asses. You enjoy the hell out of that new car, and hail and farewell to Beeper.

Posted by: Gretchen C. | May 30, 2005 09:29 AM

It's not a stereotype if it's true Liz. I personally hope to only ever know that when I put a key in the ignition, the car starts. I don't care enough to learn more about the motor than that. Same as any machine I run, it starts when I tell it, it quits when I tell it, I'm good with that. I liken it to using electricity, no one tells me that in order to use a TV I have to know how a TV actually works to display the picture on the screen and how the electricity arrives to power it. If it breaks I take it to get fixed. Same as my car. If it breaks, I take it to get fixed. Good for you that you know more about it.

Posted by: Robin | May 30, 2005 11:00 AM

Robin: I'm not saying you need to know how the engine works, but how to maintain it to keep it working properly, its basic stuff, for heavens sake you could just crack open the owners manual and it will tell you how to take care of your car too. My point is that there is no reason/excuse to take care of your car just because you're a female. And for Mark, some people call it antifreeze, others call it coolant :) It serves more as a temperature regulator to transfer heat, and has a lower freezing point than water to keep from freezing in the cold winter. But please, any ladies and/or gentleman who don't know a thing about car maintenence, look it up!

Posted by: Liz | May 30, 2005 11:13 AM

I got $7,000 off the WHOLESALE blue book cost of my van. This is how you do it. Negotiate with them until they are so sick of you they'll give you whatever you want just to get rid of you! Ask for the moon, be ridiculous, and then when they have consented to something way below what they're asking, ask them to trhow in a bunch of extras, best cd player, sun roof whatever you want, tell them you'll walk if they don't and after spending hours and hours and hours trying to make a deal, they're pretty much at your mercy. It's grueling, so make sure El Dukay has wine and a hot bath ready for afterwards.

Posted by: Sheryl | May 30, 2005 11:26 AM

Okay, here's a solution. Get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube. They put a sticker on the inside of your windshield that tells you the mileage and/or date to get the oil changed the next time. It only takes about 20 minutes and they check all your other fluid levels and important stuff at the same time. It should be every 3000 miles. My van had 152,000+ miles on it and was over 12 years old when I traded it in. I got $2500.00 for it because it still ran great and was in good shape.

Posted by: mamamack | May 30, 2005 03:35 PM

A moment of silence for the passing of poor ol' Beeper...

I donated my Volvo "Malvern" to the Kidney Foundation after 13 years of loyal service, because my small child and I were going to die if we continued to use it for actual transportation. But I understand the pain, and the naming. So... Robert Redford was a... white Chevy?

Posted by: holley | May 30, 2005 06:23 PM

I am one of those freaks who knows how to change their oil and their spark plugs, fix their timing, change a tyre, clean and refill a radiator and if it came down to it and I had a LOT of time on my hands I can take a car completely to pieces, clean it and put it back together (hey, I didn't say whether or not it worked when I put it back together)

But the last time I did one of these things???? Yesterday I got a flat and as I was jacking up my car some guy pulled over in his very nice ute and did it all for me because 'a lady shouldn't have to do that'.
I'm 21 and my Daddy still washes my car for me. And mows my lawn. Nice Daddy.
As for buying cars, I can do it. I scare sales people because I am in sales and I know lots of car sales people too. It's funny to playw ith their minds.

The point of all this is don't feel too dumb - I blew a camshaft through the side of my car (not just through the engine, through the CAR) about 10 hours after got my license because I had never driven auto before. I didn't know it was only a 4speed, honest!

Posted by: song | May 31, 2005 12:38 AM

PS: Mark - it's only called anti-freeze in winter. In sumer it's called engine coolant *grin*

Posted by: song | May 31, 2005 12:40 AM

I bet the other folks on the road will be missing your eyeballs as well...

Good luck!

Posted by: Morgan | May 31, 2005 08:48 AM

Hey, Miss Doxie! I have no advice for you, because you're probably sick of hearing it anyway. :c) Just wanted to tell you you rock!

love love love love love love

Posted by: Lori | May 31, 2005 10:20 AM

Buene suerte with the negotiations. I'm sure it'll go much better than feared. And at the end, you'll have a shiny new car to play with.

Posted by: Her Ladyship | May 31, 2005 10:40 AM

"...because Mechanic Lady also services everyone I know...."

Yeeeeeaaah. Probably not the best way you could've worded that.

Hope the car-buying experience went well, though. Looking forward to hearing about Beeper 2.0.

Posted by: Sister Rae | May 31, 2005 11:18 AM

Hoping your car-buying experience was not too traumatic, and that you walked with both eyeballs, two kneecaps and something new (to you!) and shiny to show for it.

Posted by: LadyBug | May 31, 2005 11:53 AM

Miss Doxie, please let us know what you bought!

Posted by: Lurkette | May 31, 2005 10:35 PM

Lovely, lovely innernet that conspires with us to beat car dealers at their own game...

This is not difficult. You can do it, Dox! I vote for Victoria's fax wars - truly cutting them off at the pass because they cannot know (via the miracle of technology) that you ARE an X chromosome. Just pick a make and model you rilly rilly want and fax away.

Oh, and mention you're a lawyer just for fun. :D

Posted by: Miss Fish | May 31, 2005 11:38 PM

Even worse than realizing you have to do it on your own is when you call to ask your dad for guidance before you impulsively buy a German Luxury SUV and instead of hearing how that might not be a good idea, or that sounds extravagant, or are you sure you can afford that? you hear, "27,000 miles? Go for it. It will run forever. It is as efficient as a Swiss watch." Seriously rocked my whole world. But damn, I love my Mercedes.

Posted by: Melissa | June 1, 2005 01:10 PM

so, I'm new and all (here by way of dadgonemad - being his sis). I read back a bit and know there's this job. But, heck, car? I don't name mine and do get the oil changed a couple of times a year (seized the engine of my first car waywayway back. bad. bad.). Got the lecture, shown the melted pistons and all that, too. We bought a pretty boring ubiquitous japanese sedan used from a car rental place a couple of years ago. Not a bad deal for a plain old regular car-o. Best of all, no negotiating. I'd rather breastfeed my kids till they were seven than haggle price on a car (or silver jewelry in Mexico, or a dead toaster at a garage sale or anything else for that matter).

Posted by: Deb | June 1, 2005 11:29 PM

lies! you totally have written about beeper before:


Posted by: rerin | June 1, 2005 11:46 PM

Um, I love you, I don't get to comment as much as I would like, let alone read as often as I want. But I totally just figured out who you remind me of.

Reese Witherspoon's character in Legally Blonde. Totally.

Please take this with the spirit with which it was written. You are hilarious.

Posted by: sleepingmommy | June 2, 2005 11:52 AM

Sorry to correct you, but I'm pretty sure that the correct term is "Static of Stan".

Posted by: Lyn | June 3, 2005 09:46 AM

You are incredibly funny. I'm going to post a blog of the day..or year.. or something (which I never do) to you. If you don't mind I'd like to add you to my blogroll as well.

Take Care,


Posted by: Psuche | June 3, 2005 10:21 AM

I found this entry by way of LiveJournal, but I am now one of your faithful readers. You seriously made me laugh, and in a computer lab, that is NOT really being too studious.

Screw the studies anyway. Rock out with your new car. My car is a 96 Escort stationwagon and I will drive that thing to the day I die. His name is Kermit, so donĀ“t you worry about naming inanimate things.

Rock out with your car out, and this time, get the oil changed!

Posted by: Jess | June 3, 2005 01:49 PM

K, I'm all done being patient, now. We need to know about the new car! What did you get? Have the dogs pooped in it yet? (Hey, that rhymes!) You are neglecting uuuuuuuuuus! ;)

Posted by: Mir | June 4, 2005 12:06 PM

I'm not so bright that way too, don't feel bad. My idea of changing a tire is to wait for a cute guy to pass on the road, see me- stop and render aide. It's all good. If it were not for my darling husband and his keen ability to keep up with all that stuff- I'd be driving a beeper too.

Posted by: Brighton | June 5, 2005 10:50 AM

You mean "haggling", not "bartering".

Bartering is a transaction not involving money, like if you go to the dentist and say:

"Hey Mr. Dentist guy, if you pull out my fangs, I'll defend you against that bestiality charge."

Posted by: Nerdler | June 7, 2005 11:03 PM

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