Some dear friends of ours have a pair of twin boys that are just entering their latter teens. I have seen them grow from precocious eleven-year-old scamps to lofty, sullen, intimidating goons. Actually, just joking, they’re both about as sullen and intimidating as a basket-full of labrador retriever puppies.
However, they’re allowed to drive now. Eeep!
Naturally, and partially because I’ve corrupted the youths by showing them Top Gear episodes where Jeremy Clarkson drives around sideways in a cloud of smoke, they’re always talking about cars. Cars cars cars. Ben wants a Mini. Not sure what Matt wants. Probably a Zonda.
However, because Matt and Ben can’t afford a car, being at the stage in life where money seems to mysteriously slip from one’s bank account and end up taking shape as ski trips and giant, heart-stopping hamburgers, it’s left to their parents to be jostled until (hopefully) they end up buying a car for their shambly offspring. Kids. They’re all pickpockets.
So, bearing that in mind, I’ve compiled this helpful guide for parents in a similar position. It’s called, “How To Buy Your Kid A Car,” and it starts like this:
Step One: Don’t
Are you kidding me?
Why the heck would you buy your kid a car? Have they done anything to deserve it? Oh look, they set the table once without asking, clearly such work-ethic merits a Ferrari.
When I was kid, things were tougher. Nobody ever bought me nuffin’, and I can tell you, between the floggings and the penal salt mines and being sent to sea in a wooden sailing ship at the age of three to fight the French Navy at Gibraltar, it’s not like I didn’t deserve to have wheels.
No, I had to walk uphill both ways to school and then work twenty-nine hours down at mill and then come home and our Dad and our Mum would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah. Try tellin’ that to the young people of today: they won’t believe you!
So please, don’t buy your kid a car. Let them slog through misery like the rest of us did, and then buy their own incredibly ratty beater when they get out of university.
Step 2: Ok, Fine: Money
So you’ve finally caved in under the constant, “Ma! Ma! Ma! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mother! Mother! Mother!” have you? Did you try the classic, “Well, it’s up to your father,” / “Go ask your mother,” diversionary tactic? I see.
Well, nil desperandum, let’s talk about the most important thing first: who’s paying for it.
Now clearly, as I’ve just outlined, most teenagers have the savings mentality of the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable. They all spend money like a sailor on shore leave who’s just simultaneously found out he’s got a week to live and won the lottery. So if you say you’ll pay for half of it, then you probably won’t have to pay for any of it.
But let’s say your freakish offspring suddenly begins pinching pennies like Scrooge McLobster. Do you concede that the value-of-money lesson has been learned?
No, you send them to the salt mines.
Well, that’s what wouldn’t have happened in my day anyway. But cars can’t be bought for three magic beans and a cat’s-eye marble anymore, so parental subsidization schemes need to step in if they’re going to be driving something that’s not, say, currently on fire.
Some moms and dads will pay for half (and end up covering seventy-percent plus the taxes). Some will pay for the car if their kid covers insurance and gas. The cleverest I’ve heard was a father who told his son, “If you ever save up enough for a motorcycle, I’ll add to it so you can buy a car instead.”
Step 3: Safety
Now I know all you parents out there are saying, “Safety is only step 3?” Well, there’s a population crisis. And a shortage of fresh, healthy organs.
But leaving that aside for a moment, I think we can all agree that little Timmy is precious and unique and one-in-a-million (one of a million, should say), and you’d prefer him to remain unsquashed. Fine.
Let me tell you what is not safe. You might think “safe” is buying your kid a car with airbags and anti-lock brakes and crumple-zones and dynamic control and all manner of electronic nannyage. It’s not.
Wreathing your child in a comforting metal cocoon is a bad idea. They’ll think they’re invulnerable, and because a car with all that stuff will of necessity be quite new, it’ll also have a powerful engine and a loud distracting stereo.
Shall I tell you what my parents did?
Well, first my dad taught me to drive in our BMW 535i, which was fast and awesome. Then, he decreed that I would only be allowed to borrow our 1976 Land Rover, which was not those things. It had about twenty-four horsepower and all the horses had three legs and emphysema and rickets and were heavy smokers.
It also had no ABS, no airbags, and no skid control; it didn’t even have power steering. It did have a crumple-zone, and his name was Brendan McAleer and he survives to tell you about his experiences today. I never drove that car without being slightly terrified, even when parked, and it made me cautious and slow and safe.
Step 4: Fuel Economy
Here’s another falsehood: your kid won’t have a lot of money, so buy them something cheap to run.
Now I ask you, when you take your dog for a walk, are you one of those people with four hundred feet of leash who let their animal run on ahead and get savagely eaten by a pitbull (cue letter-writing campaign from Pitbull Anti-defamation League)? No, you keep your tiny rat close on a short leash.
So too with Junior. What you want is a car that sucks down fuel like an oil-well fire and that is as unreliably unstable as an Improvised Explosive Device. If he can’t afford to go anywhere, he’ll be more likely to be tucked up at home in bed with the latest Harry Potter than running around getting the entire female contingent of the graduating class with child. Plus, he’ll have to learn how to fix his own car, and that’s a valuable life lesson.
So follow these guidelines rigorously and your child will smoothly enter the motoring world with nary a mishap, and if not, again, make sure that organ donor card is filled out.
©North Shore News