I Don’t Know How to Drive My Car, and I Blame Coronavirus

Back in June, when everything was firmly shut down in Illinois due to COVID-19, we decided to buy a car.

First, I’ll start off by saying that we are nothing if not decisive. It took about three days from the day we decided to buy until we brought one home.

Second, this is the first time in a long time that we have bought a vehicle pre-emptively and not when our current vehicle has died by the side of the road.

It started with a discussion around my husband wanting a sports car. That was a firm “no” — at least not until we are not toting kids around anymore.

He then asked what kind of car I would get if I had no young kids at home and could get anything. I have always thought Volkswagen Beetle, but the last Beetle rolled off the production line on July 9, 2019. I told him that, in the alternative, I thought Mini Coopers were cute.

My husband then informed me that Mini makes a larger, crossover vehicle: the Mini Cooper Countryman. This could be something that we could own while we still have children at home. It also looked more “sporty” than anything we had ever owned, making him happy (and produced by BMW helped the cause).

Our vehicles at the time were a Toyota Sienna and a Mazda CX-5. The Mazda was headed toward nine years old and still in good shape.

The Toyota Sienna had been purchased under duress when our previous Sienna’s transmission died, leaving us stranded on the side of the road headed to Noodles and Company for dinner. The prior Sienna was over ten years old, and it would have cost more to replace the transmission than the vehicle was worth.

The more we thought about it, the more it made sense to trade in the Mazda while it still had some value, rather than continuing our long-standing tradition of driving vehicles into the ground.

Because of COVID-19, we had heard that car dealers were desperate to move inventory, which played to our favor. We found a gently used Mini Cooper Countryman. My husband test drove it, negotiated the price, and brought documents to our house to sign.

Boom. We had a Mini Cooper.

Not only did we have a Mini Cooper, but we also had a Mini Cooper with manual transmission. I learned to drive on a stick shift but hadn’t driven one for a very long time. Also, the inside of the Mini reminded me of a space ship.

My husband showed me all the bells and whistles. I nodded, but absorbed very little of that information. I read the user manual, but reading and doing are not the same things. We could not fit all of our children into the Mini simultaneously (same was true with the Mazda). And because of Covid, the kids are home all the time. There is never an opportunity for the two adults to escape for some Mini training.

The first time I drove the Mini, I only killed the car once — at a stoplight, turning. I called that a win.

But in truth, I have driven the car very little. We do not have many reasons to leave the house, with the kids doing remote learning, groceries delivered, and still generally hunkering down.

My husband likes to drive to relax, so he would take the Mini out in the evenings and zip around. Oh, and he got subwoofers to complete the “sports car” experience.

I, on the other hand, drove to a friend’s house last weekend and found that I could not turn on the windshield wipers.

It started to drizzle, and I found myself staring at the space ship interior, completely unable to find the mechanism to clear the windshield. All of this while constantly shifting gears in start-and-stop traffic. I finally pulled over to a parking lot, so I could look more carefully.

I blame coronavirus. If these were normal times, I would have driven my new car far more than a dozen times in the four months we’ve owned it. Hell, I likely would have driven it more than a dozen times in the first week.

As it stands, I don’t know how to use any of the fancy features. Or how to drive safely when it is raining.

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