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Nathan Hansen's column: Quieter ride is quite a change

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There are certain things you like to hear when you’re buying a car. Like a salesman saying, “We have just the one you’re looking for,” or “Don’t be silly, your offer is far too high,” or, “You, sir, are a remarkable specimen of humanity and I feel honored just to have known you.”

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To be honest, that last one’s kind of nice to hear no matter the circumstances.

There are also a few things you’d rather not hear. For example, you’d rather not hear the guy in charge of evaluating your trade-in say something like, “Well, the law says I have to offer you at least a dollar for it.”

That’s the sentence I heard Saturday when I took delivery of my new car. I also heard at least one of those first three, but I’ll leave it to your imagination exactly which.

It’s not a surprise that my old car won’t fetch big bucks on the trade-in market. I don’t tend to get rid of cars that still have much value. I don’t think I’ve ever unloaded one for more than $500.

This particular car has more than 210,000 miles on it. It’s on its third transmission, and that one is about as healthy as the Twins’ World Series outlook. The air conditioning doesn’t work, it’s got hail damage that makes it look like a big blue golf ball if you squint a little — OK, a lot — and it’s got more squeaks and rattles than Mickey Mouse playing the maracas.

Still, it was mine. And it served me well over the years. Well, except for the transmission. Or the second transmission. Or the third, now that I think about it.

I realize now, after a few days driving my new car, just how much I’d gotten used to the quirks of that old Mazda. I went back to the dealership on Sunday to reclaim the car that had carried me to Colorado and Las Vegas and back and forth to work for more than a decade. The noises it made when I turned the key were instantly familiar. So was the chorus — cacophony might be a better word — of sound I heard every time I hit even the tiniest bump. Those are the sounds that had come to mean driving to me over the past few years. They were comforting in their own way.

It even shifted into all of the gears on the drive back to my house. That hasn’t always been the case lately. I started to feel nostalgic for all of the good miles we’d had together.

That’s about the time I started to understand how the Stockholm Syndrome works.

My new car doesn’t have any of those noises. There’s a gentle pinging if I don’t put my seatbelt on right away, but that’s about it. Hitting a big pothole in my old car sounded like the end of the world. In the new one it’s just a gentle thud. Hardly enough to disrupt the music streaming from my phone to the stereo.

My old car wouldn’t stream music from my phone. It played the radio and CDs, and by the end it didn’t even really play CDs.

Music choices and being able to drive somewhere without worrying about parts falling off aren’t the only adjustments that come with driving a new car, though. Nothing is quite where I expect it to be. The buttons I want are just a bit farther away. And there isn’t any garbage at all in the door pockets. It’s like a whole new world.

I’m sure I’ll get used to it all.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in a used car, I might be able to make you a deal. I’m sure the transmission is fine.

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Nathan Hansen
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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