By 1994, we were saving to buy a home. While in the Dallas suburbs, homes were so inexpensive at that time that raising a down payment was little more trouble than raising a security deposit for rent, Los Angeles was a different story. A housing boom had made the cost of a simple three bedroom stucco workers' housing structure, hastily built just after World War II, roughly the same as a home in Dallas' most luxurious neighborhood. We saved assiduously, when we weren't reeling from sticker shock, or bewailing our fate.
The time came in 1994, though, that I needed a new car. The used Cadillac land boat which I had had my Oklahoma cousin the Caddy buff acquire for a song and then drive across the desert to me had served me well, but its days were numbered. I wanted something new to drive, but we wanted to spend as little as possible, to continue our down payment savings program.
One day the newspaper had an ad by a huge car dealership in the inland Santa Clarita Valley for a new Geo Metro at a ridiculously low "loss leader" price. We dispatched my wife, who withstood long sales harangues in efforts to sell her options or lure her to a different car. My wife could have sat on the round table. She emerged with a Geo Metro, at the loss leader price as listed in the sales ad.
This Geo Metro was maroon, with four doors. It has an engine with only 3 cylinders in it, and automatic transmission and an air conditioner guaranteed that what little power it might have had was consumed by the options.
This Geo Metro taught me much about life, though. It answered all the fundamental questions that arise in Los Angeles. "Can I accelerate to pass this guy?". Why, no, you don't have the pick-up to get around him. "Can I make this left before the oncoming traffic arises?" No, are you kidding? "Should I try to change lanes?". No, you'll never make it before that truck creams you.
The Geo Metro taught me that sometimes you have to accept the lane in life you're in. Sometimes, viewing the scenery around you is more satisfying than trying to accelerate out of it. Sometimes, you have to forego that left turn, stop at that yellow light, and wait patiently as you slowly climb up that mountain pass. I learned a lot about life behind the wheel of that maroon Geo Metro, and I loved it absolutely, as anyone might a guru.
Ultimately, the LA housing market collapsed, and we bought a tiny home in the foothills, just in time to watch the market recover to our advantage. I drove that Metro daily into downtown LA, and on weekends into the Angeles National Forest, past beaches and past desert landscapes.
I gave that Geo Metro to our church, so that the church could sell it, and we could take a tax write-off. My parents gave us a Ford sedan with far fewer miles, when they got something nicer. I still miss that Geo Metro, because it was beautiful.
Norman MacLean said this better, but I'll share my epiphany
anyway. You see, life is just an endless highway. The traffic comes and the traffic goes. Ultimately, all lanes merge into one. It carves its way through the rock, and will do so until the end of time. And a Geo Metro runs through it.