The unbridled freedom of owning a hooptie

My dad always told me to buy new cars. I remember, as a kid, helping him work on our old Jeep CJ-7. I was the “tool caddy”, meaning I’d hand him whatever tool he asked — erm, shouted — for at the time.

Before you get that nostalgic look on your face, realize this. These were not sweet, innocent, American pie, Mayberryesque father/son moments.

Working on the Jeep always ended in bloodshed and profanity from the old man. The Band-Aid was an accessory for him. Much like his ring or his watch. He could find a way to bleed no matter what he was doing. Working on the computer. Cooking. Showering. Whatever. He’d always end up bleeding. So when he ventured under the hood, it was guaranteed that he’d come out of there at least mildly injured.

He hated old cars. To him, they were sitting, oil-spewing, non-running, time-sucking symbols of poverty parked in our driveway. They reminded him every day of the fact that he couldn’t afford a new one.

So when I got old enough to buy my first car, he encouraged me to save more up so I could buy a new one. Or at least a new-ish one with a warranty so I’d never have to get under it and bang my knuckles up like he did.

I’ve always followed his advice. We currently have a Subaru that we bought slightly used. But as of late, we’ve been needing another one. Even though we’re within walking distance of pretty much everything we need downtown, having only one car is a hassle. Especially with a kid.

So as to hold true to tradition, we considered buying a newer car. From a dealer — CarMax or something.

But in looking at those sticker prices, I can immediately think of infinite ways I can better spend those thousands of dollars. Thousands. With a ‘T’…

In standing at the precipice of this decision, I’ve been forced to choose. Buy a newer car? Or act in defiance of my late father’s advice and buy… a hooptie.

Well, we found one. A hooptie, that is. A 1990 Isuzu Trooper. 234k miles. V6. Sizable dent on the driver side door. No electric anything except for what’s essential. Oil-stained carpeting. Exposed wiring under the dash. No A/C.

For $1400 (my wife talked the guy down to $1200).

I immediately fell in love with this thing. It’s big and boxy and black. And it runs great.

But I was hesitant. What if the motor falls out? What if the axle snaps and a tire falls off sending me careening off a mountain pass? I dunno…

After some deliberation, we decided to pull the trigger. And I can’t be happier.

The hooptie life is the life for me.

I can do. Whatever. I want with this thing.

I’ve never enjoyed owning a car so much. And I’ve only had it for a day.

With a new car, you get a little scrape on it, and you’re like — crap. Hitting a curb is about the same emotional shock as hitting a wall. It hurts. You’re paying a few hundred a month for it. It’s an investment.

But a hooptie — I can skip off curbs all day in this thing… I can spin doughnuts in the Wal Mart parking lot after a snowstorm. I can litter it with obnoxious stickers and not wash it for months. Birds can shit on this thing all day long and it doesn’t even matter. And even if I only get a year of use out of it before it gives out, I feel that’s worth it.

I can’t tell you how freeing this is — owning a hooptie. I’m not tied to it. No payments. No liabilities. No stress. It’s a tool that has a specific, easy job. To get me around town. To roll in the right direction. And to not explode.

It’s a simple transaction. It doesn’t expect too much out of me. I don’t expect too much out of it. Done and done. Now lets have fun. (Hey, that rhymes.)

Maybe this is why really attractive people get together with really ugly people. I’ve always wondered why that happens. Now I get it.

I suppose, if it were my only means of transportation, it’d be a little more tense. I’d NEED it to hold up. For a long time. I totally get where my dad was coming from.

But I gotta say, the hooptie has its place. On the side. The other car. The workhorse.

I think that even when I become wildly wealthy, I’ll own one super car and the rest hoopties. A whole army of them.

Jonas shares short, whimsical daily essays here on Notes From the Field and around the web. To get them delivered straight to your inbox as soon as they’re live, click here.

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