You don't know what you have till it's gone. A cliché, but like so many, one with a lot of truth in it.
This goes doubly for automobiles. It's only after that car you took for granted is history that you fully recognize its charm.
Case in point: the 1991 Dodge Spirit I drove between 1999 and 2004. It was white. It had a radio, but no CD player. It did not have air conditioning, but it had heating. There was not much "power" anything in it. No power windows or brakes. It had belonged to my grandfather and I was proud to drive it because it had sentimental value. It never gave me any trouble. So long as I had it maintained, the Dodge Spirit ran without so much as a hiccup. It had seen its share of bumps and bruises. It had what a salesman would describe as "character." It was the kind of car people are afraid to park next to.
It wasn't until I disposed of that car that I realized what a special power it had. While it's true I received my share of condescending looks when behind the wheel of my Dodge Spirit, the kind of looks that said, "You can't be serious," that car had a big upside. You see, my Dodge Spirit was the ultimate creeper beater.
What is a creeper, you ask? Oh, you lucky soul, that you aren't familiar with said creature. A creeper is the kind of driver who, rather than wait his turn in line, or pay attention to that pesky sign, simply sticks his nose into traffic and butts in line.
Creepers don't execute these stunts at high speed – they roll in slowly. There are different kinds of creepers: polite creepers who wave and smile as they push in front of you, bold-faced creepers who sneer as they chat on their phones, and flashy creepers in expensive rides who think the fact they've shelled out six figures on a four-wheeled manhood enhancer entitles them to pass by we mere mortals.
Creepers count on one thing and one thing only: that it is easier for you to allow them to complete their obnoxious driving moves than it is for you hold your ground. In essence, it's easier for you to let the creeper butt in line than to have him bump into you.
This is especially true if you have a nice car. Who wants to have their Audi scuffed because some creeper didn't want to wait his turn like the rest of humanity? It's better to let him have his short-term gain and hope karma catches up with him at a later date.
When creepers encountered my Dodge Spirit, it was a different story. Back in 2001, if a creeper tried to cut in line and he saw me behind the wheel of my weathered 1991 Dodge Spirit, he knew he was facing a guy without a) shame and b) anything to lose.
The Spirit had spirit. It said, "You want to cut in line? You think I'm afraid of a few bumps and scratches? Hey – take a long look at me – I collect scratches. The paint on your new Lexus will go great in my collection." My car was so obnoxious and unafraid you could have called it the Dodge "Try Me."
Finally, the Spirit ceased to be road-viable. I sold it for junk (but tore the "Spirit" sign off the back). I bought a Camry, had more kids, realized I couldn't fit them all in my Camry and now I drive a vehicle that most would consider a rolling embarrassment – a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan.
It has attitude, but that attitude is less brash and more, well, think Saved by the Bell, but with Albert Camus as the show-runner. Still, I love it and consider mine "like new." As a result, I've got too much to lose and can no longer tolerate the notion of absorbing a few scratches. I can't afford to play a game of fender-bender chicken with a willful creeper on the make.
That's also why now, more than ever, I respect the man driving the bashed-up pickup, the rusted Mercedes that's missing the hood ornament, the Honda with the back-wheel underground parking lot dent. You go, beaters! Live out our frustrated yearning for right and wrong. Stem the tide of rude vehicular behaviour.
That's why I say, "God save our creeper beaters." And that's why I will always smile when I see somebody driving a Dodge Spirit and, if they want to cut in front of me, always let them in.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy
Correction: Andrew Clark proudly drove a 1991 Dodge Spirit. An incorrect year was mentioned once in the story, and has been changed.