I’ve been driving a Mercedes for three years. That is a sentence I never thought I would type, but it’s true. And let me tell you, it’s been pretty cool, but now it’s time to say goodbye.
In 2010, Mary Tyler Dad was gifted a three year lease of a new Mercedes Benz C Class compact luxury sedan through his company after being awarded the distinction of “Inventor of the Year.” Now beside the fact that I am married to an honest to goodness inventor, being gifted a brand spanking new car was pretty damn cool. It happened only eleven months after losing our daughter to cancer, and I won’t lie, for the first time in a long, long time, it felt like the Universe was smiling down on us in that moment.
Full disclosure, I was way more excited than my husband. He has sort of gritted his teeth through these 36 months of Mercedes driving. I married myself a solid New England practical man — not great when you long for a French door refrigerator, but super cool in the retirement years, I am told. There was always a sense, I think, that he found the Mercedes distasteful, excessive, a little bit ridiculous.
Not me. I have loved every single second sitting behind the wheel of that gorgeous car. It had things that our other cars lacked, like a door handle that allowed you to get out of the car without powering down the window to extricate yourself from the outside. Or a moon roof instead of gaudy maroon velour fabric that needed to be held up by thumb tacks. The Mercedes introduced me to my now favorite two word combo ever: heated seats.
Yes, make no doubt about it, I will always and forever look back fondly on my three years as a Mercedes Lady. Except for those early moments of intense guilt driving a German luxury car around my Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Oy vey, even non-practicing Catholics can feel that guilt.
To understand why I have loved this car so much, it’s important to have a wee bit of back story. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, the granddaughter of immigrants. Lots of the kids I grew up with had fathers who worked in factories, not offices. My own Dad was a bus driver in my very early years, a job he was happy to have after several episodes of unemployment in my infancy and toddler years. Growing up the youngest of four, money was tight, but we always had what we needed.
Things loosened up considerably when my two older sisters tested their wings outside the home. We were the first generation in my family to go to college. Both of my parents were smart, but grew up in a time when college education wasn’t considered mandatory — it was a privilege, a luxury. When you are raised by immigrants, practicality is important. Honestly, my family’s story is the story of the American Dream. My parents did better than their parents financially and we (my husband and I) are doing better than my parents. I am grateful for everything I have.
That said, cars were never a big deal for me. I was not impressed by them, never coveted them, didn’t understand them as an expression of status. Sure, my Dad drove used Cadillacs, but that was, again, more a reflection of practicality than excess or status. He had the oddest knack for and pride in finding a garage kept Cadillac with low mileage previously owned by a church going widow. He would find a new/old Cadillac when the last new/old Cadillac gave up the ghost. Those cars were awesome and perhaps the imprint for my secret love of luxury. I potently remember sitting in the back seat, cigarette smoke swirling around me from the closed windows and two smoking parents, and Montolvani playing on the 8 track. Used Cadillacs were a sweet, sweet ride.
My husband, like my father, doesn’t see the sense in a new car. The argument is that they drop in value the instant you drive them off the lot. And my husband also doesn’t like to have a car payment. Thrifty and practical. The two cars we had in September 2010 were a 1999 Toyota Camry and a 1994 Chrysler LaBaron. Now you can see why the shiny black Mercedes got my juices flowing. Well, when we drove that Mercedes into our spot, we immediately gifted the 1994 LeBaron to two close friends who needed some new wheels. Pay it forward, you know?
A few words about the LeBaron. I used to call it the Bordello Car. It was my Mom’s old car. Not bad, really. She liked it because it was small and she could drive and park it easily. She kept her Carmex in the arm rest. My Mom was never far from a little jar of Carmex. The ashes from her cigarettes were still in the ashtray. After she was diagnosed with her brain tumor and her death within the year, well, you get sentimental about things like cigarette butts and ashes.
With my Mom no longer needing a car and my daughter recently diagnosed with cancer, my Dad gifted us the LeBaron so that my husband could get back and forth to work and hospital quickly. It was a godsend, honestly. I am very grateful to my Dad to this day for that kind gesture. The 1999 Camry, our fancy car, even in 2010, was, in fine tradition, purchased from a little old church going lady. She lived at the retirement community where I worked as a social worker. She posted her car for sale and BAM, a couple of days later I was feeling pretty damn fancy myself. This was back in 2006, so the car was only seven years old at the time.
Does this give you a sense of what an aberration the Mercedes was for us?
One thing I have learned in these three years of being a Mercedes Lady is that people look and treat you differently when you roll up in one. Some people give you the silent nod of approval, an unspoken, “We are of like mind, like status, of similar ilk and quality, you are approved of . . .” For others, it is the exact opposite, a more hostile sense of rage, “You rich bitch. Just who the fuck do you think you are, driving a Mercedes?” You know what I mean.
The truth is, I am neither of those assumptions. I am not a rich bitch. Well, I might be a bitch, certainly sometimes, but I’m not rich. Full disclosure, Mary Tyler Dad would argue with me on that one, maintaining that in the world economy, we are, indeed, rich when compared to the global population that exists on dollars a day and rice. And even though I may pass as” similar ilk” to the other moms in the drop off lane at Mary Tyler Son’s private pre-school, I know otherwise. I know that I am a 1999 Camry gal sitting behind a Mercedes steering wheel.
I had some great and good times as a Mercedes Lady, I did, indeed. And while life was not better in a Mercedes, it was absolutely nicer. Hell, the heated seats alone have changed my life. Yessiree, I have loved my 36 months as a Mercedes Lady. I will look upon them fondly for the rest of my days.
Auf Wiedersehen, my lovely C Class Mercedes Benz. I will miss you. You were dope and fly and made me feel pretty damn fancy at a pretty damn sad time in my life. Ich danke ihnen.