Richard, My Darling

Richard, My Darling

After all the fruitless searches (thanks, Peter Gabriel), the frustration with MINI of Alexandria in Virginia (thanks, ‘salesman,’ for calling me back jerking me around and completely blowing me off), and the otherwise mentally-crippling anxiety (thanks, driver-at-fault), I found and bought the perfect MINI Cooper.

In the end, it was the first one I’d bookmarked. Of course.

I came across this blue beauty at MINI of Loveland in Colorado and really liked the look of it… minus the non-black wheels and the lack of sunroof and lack of heated seats. It was almost 100% what I wanted, but I wasn’t going to the whole settling predicament.

I had also found a nigh-perfect one in Virginia that ended up being sold right out from under me as I was speaking to the salesman about transport prices. The funniest thing was when someone from their customer relations department called me:
Guy: “I was wondering if you’d like to come out today or tomorrow to test drive something.”
Me: “Um, I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, so… no?”
Guy: “Oh, okay, (blah blah) Is there a time later this week you’d like to come out and take a look at our inventory?”
Me: “…. No. As I’m in OMAHA, NEBRASKA and I will not be booking a flight to Virginia, where you are, to test drive a vehicle I’ve been driving for the past four years.”
Guy: “Oh, okay, I totally get that. (Me thinking: Do you?) What can we do to earn your business?”
Me: “Well, you would have had my business already, but your salesman sold the car I wanted right out from under me, so I’ll be finding a MINI elsewhere.”
Guy: “Okay, well, please let us know if we can (blah blah blah).”

Yeah, no. I also got two calls from an English salesman (I see your strategy, MINI of Alexandria) assuring me that they’re looking all over for a MINI for me and they’re checking the auction list because they have the biggest used inventory in the country la-di-dah. Well, *checks watch* I wonder how long that list is, because, uh, I still haven’t heard back. Stay tuned to see if they ever find me a car!

Anyway. After all that garbage, I went back to the one in Colorado. The day I found it, I sent an email through their website asking some details and got a call from a salesman within the hour. It was late, even; it was like, past 6pm. Dave Parent of MINI of Loveland called me during an ice cream social they were having – yeah, the dealership was having an ice cream social – to tell me about the car and ask me some questions, etc. After that call, I already had an emotional attachment to this place and this car. I kept the tab up on my browser for days.

We talked again, and I told him the only thing kind of holding me up is the fact that it doesn’t have black wheels; by the time I spend the money buying black wheels, it’ll be way over my budget. He goes, “Why don’t I see if another MINI on the lot can swap wheels with it.” I was like, dude, if you can do that, it’ll be my MINI.

So a couple days later, he calls me back and tells me he wasn’t able to swap wheels without it significantly changing the sticker price, which I understood. This was after the MINI of Alexandria ridiculousness and I’d about had it. I told him the only other thing I wanted on that car was a luggage rack. He said, “I’ll put it on myself.”

Within ten minutes or so, I’d told him to do that and have it on by the next evening because I’ll drive down to get it myself. I could have had it transported for about $500, but where’s the adventure in that? Plus, I’m too damn impatient.

The next day (see, impatient), dad and I rented a car and set out for Colorado. This was the first time I’d been behind the wheel of a car since my accident (so, about forty-one days at this point), and I looked like this:
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The drive there went smoothly. There was quite a bit of anxiety to overcome, but luckily it was all interstate. The trees were changing colors and the weather was gorgeous. It was the perfect day for this journey. Then we encountered 5 o’clock traffic upon entering Greeley, which I hated. I was totally exhausted by the time we made it to Loveland.

But, boy, did MINI of Loveland totally rejuvenate me. That place is like a toy store to me. There are so many fun things and beautiful MINIs. The people are all great and enthusiastic. No one could believe I walked away from my accident and even asked to use the photos to show at meetings and to customers. Apparently, I’ve already helped sell a couple cars to people who worry about the small size of the MINI being unsafe. That makes me feel good.

I really wanted to cry right there at the sales desk. I’d just accomplished such a daunting task and overcome so many fears. I knew I was heading toward my freedom. I was heading toward the key to putting this awful experience and time behind me. It was going to be worth it. And my salesman and finance gal couldn’t have made the process any easier once I got there. They stayed past close and helped us into the MINI and directed us to an awesome BBQ place just down the road.

The next day, dad and I got up and had breakfast at the hotel. We were going to pop over to Estes Park to see the hotel from The Shining, but it was so foggy. Instead, we hit the road and took a detour through Wyoming, up to Alliance, Nebraska. I had never been in Wyoming and I had never been as far northwest in Nebraska. The drive through Scotts Bluff actually took my breath away – I couldn’t believe the land formations and valleys and trees. Who knew we had such a diverse landscape! In Alliance, we ate at a cute little diner off of Main Street and then popped over to see Carhenge.

Yes, like Stonehenge.
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I’d never seen it, so it was amazing. Dad and I spent some time geeking out, and then continued on home. Of course, with such a detour, we ended up with part of our drive past sunset. I hadn’t driven in the dark since the accident. Then we encountered some emergency closure of I-80 and had to squeeze into a caravan of semi trucks with trailers on a two-lane highway through a bunch of small towns. We were stop-and-go, and I was constantly worried the truck behind me wouldn’t stop in time, and at one point on the two-lane highway I randomly noticed how close opposite traffic was (I missed the median and four-lane interstate). There were a few times where my heart may have stopped.

We made it home safely and upon backing into my garage, I broke down. I did, not the car. I sat in my car and had a little weep. I stroked the steering wheel and tenderly caressed the dashboard and ran my fingertips over the MINI wings emblem. No joke. I didn’t know when I’d be back in a MINI Cooper. Let alone one so perfect for me. I didn’t know when I’d be driving again. I didn’t know how I’d do driving again. I made myself drive to Loveland, not only for the fun of it, but as a test. One I had no other option but to pass. And no matter how the drive there went, I had to turn around and drive right back. I was so proud of myself. I’d done it. And now I had him. My MINI. My darling. My Richard. Yes, that’s his name: Richard.

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It’s been a couple weeks now that I’ve had him. I’ve got my C. Friis rally sticker on the back driver’s-side window, I’ve got the grille badges on: a black, white, and grey Union Jack and then the Sir Alec quote, “I don’t want bloody women driving my car.” Those were the two I’d had on my British Chap; the grille, badges, and my license plate disappeared in the accident. He’s taken me to a friend’s wedding and to Target (oh lawdy, how I had missed going to Target) and to Starbucks. He whips ’round the roundabouts and is just a total stunner. I really couldn’t be happier with him.

Alas, I’m still incredibly anxious while driving. I have been doing my best to keep my eyes fixed ahead and not on the rear view window when I’ve come to a stop and I know someone is coming up behind me. Every car coming opposite is going to swerve at the last minute and hit me, I just know it. Honestly, the only way I’ve been able to get around that is to just resign to the fact that if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And I’ll be hurt again or I could die. And my car will be wrecked again and I’ll have to start all over again.

Everyone says because I’ve been hit twice, statistically it won’t happen again. I almost failed statistics, so I’m not really sure I can grasp that logic. I think, if anything, it’s even more likely to happen again. I feel like a target. The dumb motherfucker who decided drinking and driving was a good idea that night sought me out. and now I feel like a target. Everyone is going to hit me and I don’t trust anyone. That person is going to decide they want that exit and they’re going to side-swipe me at the last minute. That person isn’t going to see me and they’re going to send me into the guard rail. That person is going to drop something and jerk the wheel and hit me head-on.

There was one day, though. One day since I’ve been back from Loveland, I went for a drive. Just to drive. Like I used to. I took Richard to Ponca Hills, my old neighborhood. I took him through the hills and around the bends and past my home that will always be my home. I took him out on I-680 and saw the trees looking like autumn and the sun was shining and I felt like myself again. Just for a moment. I hadn’t felt like me in a long time. I was on my way back.

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I am on my way back.

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