A Mercedes Mid-Life Crisis

From: Allison Stephens

June 28, 2005

Dear Click and Clack,

My husband is a FREAK! As an English major, I am aware that this is a redundant statement, but given that I am writing to a bunch of science minded, engineer types (like my husband ) and that you are predisposed by gender to take his side, I am going to try to be utterly explicit. Until just last year, we were a family of four, with only two drivers and FIVE cars, four of them station wagons. Ahh, but I get ahead of myself. Here's the story:

In 1985, my husband, let's call him Dave, bought a 300TD wagon, battleship grey, to use as a "truck" for his work in construction and for his role as the reliable driver for his blues band (he's the bass player; you're starting to get the picture?). He LOVES this car. In 2002 (he's 43 by this point in time), his eye started roaming; he began thinking about replacing his beloved wagon and searching for possible replacements. The more he looked the more convinced he became that the TD wagon, 80's vintage, was the best car ever made, and so. . . he found the SAME car, just two years younger, with 50,000 fewer miles - buttercup yellow. It was a simple thing to purchase that car; however, as he began to vacuum and spit shine the grey wagon, caressing it, photographing it from every advantageous angle to post for sale on the Internet, that modern miracle of capitalist exchange, his eyes grew misty. Needless to say, a serious buyer contacted him immediately and made a serious offer on the spot. When Dave saw the battleship reflected in the glowing irises of the man with the check book and poised pen, he waffled. He couldn't sell the car. Since that day, we have had TWO 300 TD wagons, each with over 240,000 miles.

Jump ahead three years to the present day. We have been in France for a year now, where we've somehow managed to do without any car, and are preparing to return to the US. Just prior to our departure, we sold two of the five cars - my 1992 Honda Accord Wagon (90,000 miles) and a 1964 Ford Fairlane (black, four-door, w/ only 54,000 original miles, driven only on weekends by a Mennonite woman [swear to god]). So about two days ago, Dave says to me, "Al," (that's me) "check your e-mail; I found a car online to replace your Honda and I sent you a picture." Needless to say, he cannot wait for me to look at the photo and launches into his pitch. "It's an '85 300 TD wagon posted on Ebay. Silver blue metallic!" As if that would make a difference. "It'll be your car!" Perhaps something about the look on my face betrayed my instinctive reaction, for he gave me a great big cheesy smile and triumphantly said, "I'll sell the grey wagon!," Well, you can see where this is going.

So, finally, my request for you: I want a show with Car Talk wives, exes included, and female family members who can answer questions on the air, like: "Will it ever end?" "Does this mean that I get to spend an equivalent amount on shoes and handbags?" "Is there enough additional parking space for rent in the small town where we live?" "If I go out and get a sexy SAAB convertible, is this a triumph for gender equity or a sacrifice of my sacred feminist principles?" Our thirteen-year-old daughter wants to know, "Why can't my dad have a normal midlife crisis and get a car that my friends will think is cool, not dorky?"

I want answers! It's time these voices be heard without the filter!

Allison Stephens

[ As Read on Car Talk]