By Nyla Manuel
The new post on Craigslist caught the attention of my father and, sure enough, my 19-year-old self. He hoped this would be the car I chose, not because he liked it but for the price it was going for. $1,100 seemed to be the lowest amount we could find for a used model, unintentionally with over 200,000 miles. Three days later we met the owner, Mr. Moon, in the parking lot at a gas station. As my father successfully negotiated for an even lower price, I walked over to what would become mine. After staring at the oxidized black paint on the hood and crooked front license plate, I sat inside the unlocked vehicle. The scent of faint cigarette smoke embedded in the gray seats didn’t bother me because the car was decent and I was anxious to become a new driver. I remember my father and Mr. Moon walking over to hand me the keys. They both stared as I struggled to start the engine. With a firm grip and full force, the car let out a high pitched grinding noise that lured in the eyes of bystanders. My father looked as if this was why it took me three times to pass my driving test, while Mr. Moon appeared reluctant to sell his car. He asked me if I knew how to drive as he opened the passenger door to sit in and I reassured him when I pulled out my fairly earned driver’s license. His nerves were then put to rest after a successful test drive around the block. When we arrived back, I handed Mr. Moon an envelope with $900. As he counted the money repetitively, I signed a handwritten contract, drove away in my new car and followed my father back home. It was then thatI gained my independence and from that moment on, my father wouldn't have to pick me up everyday from college anymore.
Two years later as I’m behind the wheel, my 1999 Nissan Maxima jerks from side to side as I rumble across uneven pavement. It’s quite embarrassing that I casually have to step on the brakes to keep it steady. I worry if the car behind me will switch lanes; it always does. I’ve gotten used to occasionally calling a tow truck when my car overheats. I’ve been to several mechanics and spent more money on servicing the Maxima than the amount I paid for it. I don’t complain if I can’t drive out too far because I know my car “won’t make it.” I’m the only one that arrives at the red light on Bellflower with an oil leak. Depressingly, the only one without a brand new car parked around campus. Humbly, the only one in a bucket.