Those of you who are local may have met our Panda. No, we don't have an endangered species for a pet. We have a 1997 Nissan Altima. It was originally (and still mostly is) white. My grandfather Frank (my mom's dad) bought the car ten years ago. When my grandfather passed away in 2003, the car went to my sister Resa. Not long before Rob and I moved to Chicago, Resa bought a BMW. Needless to say, she didn't need the Nissan any more, so it became ours as of May 2006.
Some time in between Resa inheriting the car and her passing it along to us, the two front side panels were replaced by unpainted, black panels. I believe this involved some kindof crazy New Year's Eve story that ended with a banged up Nissan, but I'm not entirely sure. The result was a Nissan that looked quite a bit like a certain Asian bear. It quickly became known as the Panda.
We have loved the Panda very much... mostly. When we got it, the taillights didn't work. The dashboard still only lights up when it feels like it. Then last December it broke down a couple miles from home after Rob kindly picked me up from a late night in chambers. So we got a little annoyed with the Panda. Starting this past summer, the Panda got very noisy. You could hear it coming from quite a distance (although its volume still paled in comparison to my 1986 Toyota Corolla of yesteryear). On a run to Target a couple weeks ago, we realized that we couldn't run the AC any more lest we risk shaking the Panda to death. We stopped driving it more than five miles from our house for fear that some or all of the rattling parts might fall out and leave us stranded too far from home.
This weekend, Resa and Nick were headed out of town for a wedding. They picked us up Saturday morning so we could leave them at the airport. So we took the Saturday with a free car to head out to the suburbs and test drive cars. Always fun to go car shopping in a BMW.
We didn't go unprepared. Rob has been researching economical car choices for the past three years. At the top of the list was the Honda Fit, followed by the Honda Civic and the Toyota Prius. We tried them all and loved the Fit. It turns out that most Fits in Chicago are pre-ordered and they aren't often in stock. When we returned to the Honda dealership from the Toyota shop down the street, they'd already sold the Fit we'd test driven and had just one left. Fortunately it was exactly the one we wanted -- the sport model in black. So we bought it.
A pretty huge moment, I must say. I have never in my life owned a new car. In high school I drove a 1984 brown two-toned Toyota Camry (shared with Libby, naturally). At the end of my time in NYC, the previously mentioned 1986 Toyota Corolla hatchback fell into my possession for literally just a few dollars. It was severally lacking in the muffler department and couldn't reach above 55mpr. It ended up costing me $250 to get rid of it two years later. So even though the Honda Fit is one of the least expensive new cars you can buy, it is an enormous splurge given my car ownership history.
We are very happy with the new car, which we've named Zippy. We hope our neighbors appreciate it too. Our condo association has a shared garage for the six units. The Panda parked in there always looked like a bad game of "which one of these is not like the others."
Now the Panda is parked in Resa's garage as we prepare to donate it to charity. It served us well, but its time had come.