From Wikipedia: The Kubler-Ross model, commonly referred to as the "five stages of grief", is a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and says that when a person is faced with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate, he or she will experience a series of emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
DENIAL: I just shook my head. Probably let out a little involuntary gasp. “Come on,' I said to my guy at the auto shop (we all have auto shop guys, right?). “There's got to be some way around this, no? Back in the old days, you just slap a sticker on and presto! All good.'
“Doesn't work like that anymore,' he said. “Computerized.'
I couldn't believe it. It was going to cost me over $1,200 to get my 102,000-mile - and long ago paid off - Volvo through New Jersey inspection. Catalytic converter. Ridiculous emissions standards. Car is barely worth the money it would cost to fix it. What a joke. I couldn't believe it.
“There's nothing we can do?'
“We tried,' my guy said.
And they did. They had the car on and off for days, trying to finagle it through inspection. They just couldn't do it.
ANGER: My wife was getting tired of my ranting. “Do you know that China builds a new coal-fired power plant every week? And yet I have to pay a fortune to get my car through inspection. Makes no (bleeping) sense. It's bull(bleep). I'll get my car fixed when China stops building coal plants. How about that?'
And while my wife may have agreed, she takes a more a level-headed approach to matters such as these. “What can you do?' she said.
Nothing. I was stuck. Then my dad had an idea: “Why don't you go to the dealer and see if maybe there's been a recall or something? You might get lucky.'
So I marched into my local Volvo dealership and asked about any kind of recall. I was told there wasn't.
On my way out, I saw something. It stopped me in my tracks. I don't like throwing the word “gobsmacked' around very often, but I was. Gobsmacked.
BARGAINING: I've always wanted a 1978 Trans-Am. “Smokey and the Bandit,' baby. My favorite car of all time. Clearly, though, not a prudent choice for a 41-year-old father of two.
But there is another car out there I wanted with equal, but very separate, fervor. Had my eye on it for a few years. It may not be as hot as a ' 78 Trans-Am, but it's about as hot as I'm going to get these days.
That's right. You guessed it.
A minivan. A Honda Odyssey, to be exact.
A minivan would make sense for the family, especially if we have another kid, especially if my wife does some home or after-school daycare. Plus, the Odyssey is top-ranked by U.S. News, Edmunds and Consumer Reports. Only problem? Well out of my price range.
Until the smacking of the gob at the Volvo dealership. I saw they had a used Odyssey. And for whatever reason, the price was right. A good chunk off Kelley Blue Book. Add in the money I'd be spending to fix my old car, plus the fact, yeah, we want more kids and then there's the daycare thing and we're spending almost the amount of a car payment on pre-school which we won't have to do soon and next thing you know ... I'm out on a test drive, feeling like a latter-day Bandit had he made some different life choices.
DEPRESSION: A few days later, we were buying the car. I was off sulking somewhere in the dealership. I wasn't witness to the following question and answer, but this what my wife told me, and I have no reason to disbelieve her.
“Why's Jeff so agitated?' the legitimately friendly car salesman asked.
“I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed,' my wife replied.
Yeah, I was agitated. Who needs to be plopping down a few grand and monthly payments for four years? Not me. Times are tough out there. Last thing in the world I wanted to do was bring more debt into my house. But it made sense, more or less. We were doing it. We haven't had a car payment in years. Nice while it lasted. We'll find a way to make it work.
But still: Blech.
ACCEPTANCE: Drives like a dream. So easy to get the kids in and out. Nice bells and whistles. About 100x less likely to be pulled over by any random Smokey than I would be in the Trans-Am. And with the kid out of pre-school next year, plus a few bucks here and there, and a strict brown-bag-lunch policy, we won't even feel the sting of the monthly payment.
So yep, this is the new me. Cruising around in a minivan, listening to my Jimmy Buffett CDs. I'm the picture of middle-aged suburban cool. Well, suburban lukewarm. But I'm cool with that. Lukewarm. I'm lukewarm with that.
Jeff Edelstein can be reached at facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and twitter.com/jeffedelstein.