I drive a 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid. It's a nice car, fully loaded, leather interior. It is silver - a metallic silver that probably has some really cool marketing name, like "Sterling," but other names come to mind: Little Old Lady Gray; Staid Silver; Oh my God - Where's My Car?! Silver (named for the inevitable reaction when the owner, who has parked this thing at the mall near Christmas, suddenly realizes that ALL Honda Accords made over the last ten years or so are the same damned color). I used to be able to identify mine by the weird little XM Radio antenna bump above the rear window, but those have become more and more common - and the car color still hasn't changed. I can't tell a 2002 from a 2005 from a 2009 model.
I know I'm supposed to be impressed with the technology, the superior Honda engineering, and the great service. Okay - the service at John Eagle Honda has been great, and the engineering is good enough that the only time I see these fantastic, friendly service people is when I remember to take the car in for scheduled maintenance. They have free coffee, tea, and wi-fi in their waiting room. They give their customers free loaner cars when they make appointments for service (and that, alone, might've been a large part of what swayed me to buy). But I really thought a Hybrid should get more than 20.5 mpg, on average. Apparently not, if your daily commute, round-trip, is less than ten miles. I did get about 34 mpg right after Hurricane Katrina - driving from NW Houston to the Reliant Center at 5:30 AM on a Saturday. I set the cruise control and managed not to hit any red lights or traffic. It can be done, but it takes work, good timing, and concentration.
Never buy a car at night. Why I didn't opt for the Graphite model, I don't know. Oh, right - I had that fleeting thought that dark gray might absorb more heat, and that's a bad thing here in Houston, during the summers. Especially on leather seats. I don't even like leather much, but it came standard on the Hybrid. Not that Graphite Gray is a whole lot more exciting than Geriatric Gray, but it's less common and probably easier to find in a crowded parking lot. That'd be a plus.
When you spend $27,000 on a car, you really ought to love it - not think it's "nice" but utterly devoid of personality. My coworker, K., calls it a "failure to bond." To call someone a "nice cookie" is not much of a compliment in my family. The term is based on a rather innocuous imported cookie stamped with the word "NICE." It means they're inoffensive, bland, and rather dull. My car is a "nice cookie." An expensive "nice cookie." It's sad to think that a cheap Earl Scheib paint job might do the trick.
I took the car in for its routine maintenance this morning. There's nothing at all wrong with the car, mind you. Except that the little dashboard light that whines, "You don't love me, or you'd take me to see those nice service people at Honda. I have neeeeeeeeeds." Feed me, Seymour, feed me... I had a choice: Get the 30,000 mile service 5,000 miles early, or pick up the 15,000 mile service I missed 10,000 miles ago. I did what all neglectful parents do: I spoiled the brat. "Let's do the 30K - I assume that includes the long-overdue oil change -and take care of the State Inspection while you're at it." That's just three months overdue.
"Can't do the State Inspection. They shut down the machines last night. They're painting the floors."
"What?? I told Richard yesterday that I needed the inspection, too. Can you take it somewhere close for me?" Hey, the Pontiac guys used to take my Montana elsewhere for tires and batteries, so I didn't think that was an unreasonable request.
"No, but you can keep the loaner until Monday. We can take care of the service today, the inspection on Monday, and you can have yours back by noon."
"What are loaning me?"
"You can have another Accord, or you can have a Pilot. The Pilot's fully loaded. You want that? Leather interior, power everything..."
"Which gets better gas mileage?"
"The Accord, but it's a four-cylinder. That's why it gets fantastic gas mileage." It's all in the tone of voice, isn't it? Clearly, the guy wanted me to drive off in the souped up SUV, and I'd already told him my "failure to bond" story. It's called "upsell." Why not? It's not as if I'm going to be driving around much this weekend, burning gas left and right - and it's not as if I'm buying the Pilot. So why should I care what the average gas mileage is? I'm spending nearly $400 to bring my own car up-to-date on its medical and dental care--er, maintenance--so what's a few extra nickles and dimes on gas?
"Fine, fine, I'll take the Pilot." Service dude grinned. He just wanted me to be happy, right? Maybe convince me that a different Honda was in my future next time, rather than a return to my beloved Pontiac. He only made one little miscalculation. He pointed out a red Pilot in the service drive, but gave me the keys to a white one. I think it's white. Maybe it's light, nondescript silver. I drove it home, but I cannot even remember, now, what color it is.
My next car is going to be an economical, four-cylinder something in "Catch Me if You Can, Copper!" Red, fully loaded with personality, preferably under $20,000. Now that's cheeky.