The year 2012 is already off to a flying start, because I've bought myself a Christmas present...
It's a Volkswagen Golf and it's rather lovely.
Deciding on a make of car was initially daunting. There are so many to chose from! The first time I went looking we took a drive down the strip between Elsternwick and Brighton, stopping at Ford, Mazda, Toyota, Citroen, Peugeot and VW. I was quite impressed at that point by the Ford Focus, the Mazda 3 and the VW Golf -- the last despite the useless sales person, who explained the difference between the Polo and Golf as "having different body shapes with the same engine", and whose method of trying to sell me a car was to ask me how much I wanted to spend and then identifying a specific vehicle that I could have for that price. (Frankly, they are very lucky I went back to that dealer... Perhaps I forgave them because I enjoyed some verbal sparring with that imbecile.)
It was a few weeks before I had time to resume my investigations, by which time I was desperate for a vehicle. My daily commute to work has been two trains and a bus: train to Flinders Street, train to Footscray, bus to Brooklyn. Door to door it has been about 1h 25m on average, but worse has been the lack of flexibility. In the mornings, if I didn't leave by 7:25am all my connections stuffed up, making pre-work activities (such as gym) a bit of a challenge. In the evenings, I wasn't getting home until about 7:15pm. Suddenly, the thought of returning to public transport after the Christmas/New Year break was unpalatable.
So the weekend before Christmas, after more hours poring through downloaded car catalogues to compare features, I went out again to look. In the meantime, the RACV had published its top cars in each category. Interestingly the winners in the small car section were Golf, Focus, Hyundai (X2) and Mazda 3. Seems I had been onto a good thing so I decided to stick with it. I had, however, by this stage ruled out the Mazda 3 on account of a USB media interface being unavailable on any model (this may not seem like much, but to me it's one of the most essential features!!), but I wanted to go and look at the other 4 cars a little more closely...
It turns out that on Sunday afternoons not all car dealerships are open, including the Ford and Hyundai dealers. We went to VW again and got a MUCH more helpful sales guy, and came away with a Golf test drive booked for Christmas Eve. The rest, as they say, is history. Had the Ford place been open, I might have booked a test drive for that as well, but I never did.
I fronted up last weekend for my Golf test drive, fairly decided that unless I hated it, I was getting a Golf. And of course I didn't hate it! In fact, I have to confess I went through the motions of the test drive, already resolved to buy, and all was eventually arranged for a new car to be collected on Friday two days ago.
It is officially "United Grey" and has alloy wheels and five doors and a "liquefied ceramic" coating on the exterior to keep it shiny forever. It also has dual climate control and the all-important USB connection (so I can listen to audiobooks or music without having to fumble around with a separate MP3 player); plus hooks for hanging shopping bags on and heated side mirrors and cup holders in the back as well as the front and and and heaps of other stuff.
An unexpected thrill has been the bluetooth connectivity of my iPhone. My phone contacts have been synchronised with the car, so I can now make and receive phone calls from the steering wheel controls, with my phone in my handbag on the back seat. That wasn't something I thought I needed, but now I have it, it's pretty damn cool!
The best thing about this car is that it gives me the flexibility and freedom I've been needing. Most of this past year I haven't missed having a car much -- only on the odd occasion. I've enjoyed walking a lot, and catching public transport about the place (when not under any time pressure). But I also like to be able to visit Phillip Island on my own for the weekend, to go out at night without wondering how I'm going to get home, and to head off on outings without having to plan ahead how I'm going to get there.
I'm particularly excited that it's going to liberate my early mornings. Whether it's going to the gym or writing, those pre-work hours are going to be essential for me this year. If I have a new year's resolution (other than my already stated goal of completing a full draft of a novel), it's to utilise my mornings. It's always much harder to drag myself to the gym, or make myself write, after work. Besides, I've found in the past that writing before work actually increases the likelihood that I'll also write after work.
So there you have it. Bring on 2012! I'm armed with car and very determined.