by Sarah Smiley
Dustin has tried to implement a New Car Rotation for as long as we’ve been married. The theory looks good on paper: If Dustin buys a new car, I won't get a new car for another four years. At that time, the system reverses: Dustin keeps his old car, and I get a new one. Dustin's plan also involves having only one car payment.
But so far, this policy has never worked.
Part of what you might call my dowry back in 1999 was a 10-year old Ford Bronco II, which Dustin worried might have problems on his dime.
Dustin's car at the time was a newer Volkswagen Jetta. I guess that was one of the perks of going to the Naval Academy, incurring no debt, and enjoying a salary fresh out of college.
Anyway, Dustin was worried about my Bronco surviving the cross-country move to our new duty station in San Diego, eight weeks after our wedding. My dad, however, who had maintained my Bronco since I was 16 years old, mentioned in his toast to us at the wedding reception that despite Dustin's anxiety about the aging Bronco, it was the "least expensive thing" Dad was handing over to him that day.
Ha, ha, ha. Everyone laughed. I blushed. Dustin felt relieved.
About two weeks later, while we were driving to our new temporary home in Pensacola, Fla., where Dustin was finishing up flight school before transferring to San Diego, my Bronco's engine exploded in the middle of a dark, lonely highway. It was midnight. There wasn't any trace of a human being for at least 30 miles. Dustin mentioned my dad a few times as we sat there stranded on the side of the road.
One new, very expensive engine later (an engine that cost more than the car was worth), Dustin and I inexplicably chose to ship his Jetta with our household goods to San Diego and drive the Bronco across the country to our new home. After all, it had a new engine.
We weren't in San Diego long when I found out I was pregnant with our first son.
"I can't drive this old, unreliable car with a new baby," I told Dustin.
“But I just put a new engine in it," he said.
Soon after, we were at a dealership trading in my Bronco. How sad – the car surely would be sold for scrap metal, and that shiny new engine we had just bought would be used as a transplanted car-organ.
"Let me do the negotiating," Dustin said. "so we can get a good deal."
Turns out, he should have left me at home, because when Dustin got tough with the salesman, I panicked about his hardball tactics and said in front of the salesman, "Dustin, stop being so mean to him!"
We wound up trading the Jetta and the Bronco to get the car I wanted. In this New Car Rotation, the first of our marriage, Dustin left the deal with no car.
Once we relocated again, this time to Jacksonville, Fla., and Dustin returned from his first deployment, he bought himself a used pick-up truck that shook like it would explode if it went faster than 40 miles per hour. A few years later, now in Pensacola, Dustin decided it was finally time to get a new car for himself – and he wanted it to be a sports car.
But I had two children in car seats at this point. Dustin's conscience got the best of him, and instead he bought a new Ford Freestyle for the kids and me. He rotated the "old" Ford Explorer to himself.
Now I have three children to transport in my car. The Freestyle was getting cramped. So I was shocked when Dustin came home last week and said, "I'm thinking about buying myself a new car."
"A new car? I can't even fit the boys in the car I have," I said.
"But I want to get a fun sports car," he said.
A few days later, Dustin inherited my "old" Freestyle and I drove away with a new minivan.
"Whatever happened to our New Car Rotation plan?" Dustin asked.
"We still have one,” I replied. “When I get a new car, we rotate, and you get my old one!"
Dustin looked sad. So I told him, "Hey, if you really want the new minivan to be yours, it can be."
He did not take me up on the offer. He might not have a new car, but at least he's not driving a minivan.
Then my friend Stephanie told him, "But you do have a new car, Dustin. You have a New-to-You car!"
Works for me!