FLINT - So the kid has a car now.
He'd been bugging us for one for years, since the day he started driver's training, in fact. We'd been refusing for years, waiting for the day when we thought his actual driving skills had caught up with his perception of his driving skills. That day actually came a long time ago but we didn't tell him that. We had our reasons.
For one, cars cost a lot of money, even junkers. Used cars, it turns out, are a hot commodity these days now that half the world can't afford anything else.
It used to be you'd see a car or two on every block with a For Sale on it. Not anymore. People sell them to dealers now, whether they run or not.
What's left on the front lawn market then are cars that are so bad even dealers won't touch them - Island of Misfit Toys kind of cars. I looked at some doozies. There was one with 12,457,675 miles on it. The guy wanted $3,000 for it. Another was 18-years-old and was missing a fender and the back windshield, although the latter had been replaced with high-quality cardboard.
"Fifteen hunnerd dollars and she's yours," the guy said.
Uh, yeah, no thanks.
We ultimately settled on a 2007 Chevy Aveo that we found on a dealership lot. First Major Selling Point: It has all of its windows. Second Major Selling Point: It only has 80,000 miles on it. Third Major Selling Point: It's gray and looks like a banker's car, albeit (since it's an Aveo) a poor banker's car. We figure there's only so much trouble a kid can get into with a car that looks that drab. Final Selling Point: It has airbags. Lots and lots of airbags. We've seen him drive.
Sam, of course, had only one requirement: That it run. And it does that. It runs so well we've hardly seen him since he got it.
We're glad for him. There's not a better feeling in all the world than when you get your first car. You're young and free, able to roll anywhere your thoughts take you.
It's a great moment for him. For us? Not so much. As parents, we didn't count on the twin heartaches that go along with being the freedom-providers - insurance and letting go.
About the insurance, I'll say just this: Oh. My. God. Within two years or so we'll have spent more on insurance for the car than we paid for the car itself. On what planet does this make sense? Why didn't you other parents warn me?
As for letting go, well, most of you know I'm a huge sap when it comes to the kids. I've been dreading the day they leave home since the day they were born. Giving Sam a car is like gluing the last feather on his wings.
It's the natural order of things, still I worry that the only way I'll see him is if we literally run into one another out on the road.
And if that happens, guess whose insurance rates go even higher?
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.