By Reviewed by Patricia Chavarria, Senior writer, 19
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Patricia says having a rundown car is better than no car at all.

Having a car isn’t what I imagined. I thought I’d be driving to Ontario in San Bernardino County every few weeks to visit my best friend or imagined myself taking a long road trip to New York. Well, since I’ve had a car I’ve learned that while it’s fun driving around with friends, having a car is also expensive.

I got my driver’s license in September 2007 when I turned 16. My dad had bought a red 1992 Nissan Sentra from my uncle planning to give it to my older brother, but since he didn’t have his license, I got it. I was happy to have a car but wished it didn’t have scratches and dents on the hood and a dangling rear bumper.

Still, after a few weeks I grew attached to it and named her Mercedes. I had always wanted a Mercedes and knew my chances of getting one were one in a billion, so I thought it would be funny to fool people when I told them I had a Mercedes. As I drove into the student parking lot for the first time I felt cool. Everyone looked at me as I passed by in my “Mercedes.” She was damaged but I didn’t care. She had an engine and four wheels and that’s all I needed.

My dad gave me a debit card. He put $100 on it every month for gas so I wouldn’t have to ask my mom. Getting so much money at once, I thought I would be hitting the mall every Friday until I saw that it cost me nearly $30 to fill the tank.

I had to do errands for my mom

And it seemed that as soon as my mom knew I had gas in my car she began asking me to pick up milk and to drive to Target. Drive here. Drive there. I couldn’t say no because she was my mom. My mom also said that I would have to drop off my sister at school every day and pick her up. Next thing I knew I was filling up almost every week. I was starting to have doubts about having a car.

Patricia calls her car “Mercedes” even though she knows this car is nothing like one.

To make matters worse, my car began to have problems. One day during lunch break I was feeling sick so I decided to go home. When I put the key in the ignition and turned it I heard CLICK CLICK CLICK. My car wouldn’t start. I started swearing at Mercedes. I told her I was going to leave her at the junkyard if she didn’t start.

When I looked under the hood I saw a white powdery substance covering the battery. I called my uncle who is really good with cars to help me.

As I waited, the bell rang and everyone came out. A couple people laughed at me. My uncle came 30 minutes later and hooked two wires to my battery from his car battery and passed some of the electricity from his battery to mine, which got my car to start. He said that I would have to buy a new battery soon because the one I had could damage the engine.

One time I was driving with my mom on the freeway when suddenly I felt my own personal earthquake, except it was my car shaking. My mom and I looked at each other and she yelled at me to get off at the next exit. As she continued to yell I made my way through traffic and got off the freeway. Once I was driving slower on surface streets, she stopped trembling … the car, not my mom.

A few months later, my uncle was inspecting my car after I’d had some problems stopping and said that I needed new brake disks. My dad bought the disks. They were expensive—around $60 a piece. After my uncle fixed them he noticed that one of the tires had a hole and could pop while I was driving. Then he found more problems. My uncle told my dad that fixing all the problems would cost almost the same as buying a car. My dad couldn’t afford that so my uncle offered to buy back his old Nissan.

I was sad when I thought I had to give up my car

My dad said that he was going to sell the car back to my uncle and I would have to use my mom’s car. When I emptied out my car I almost cried. I remembered the time when my cousin and I (and Mercedes) followed my favorite band’s tour bus from L.A. to almost Las Vegas at 2 a.m. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to say hello because we were running out of gas. By the time we found a gas station and filled up, the band’s bus was out of sight. I also remembered how Mercedes would take my sister and me to Disneyland every day after school last year. My mom picked me up from my uncle’s house and I could see she was sad too. I whispered to Mercedes, “I love you.”

After only two days my mom decided that we had to get Mercedes back because there was no way she could drop off my sister and me at school and then pick us up again in the afternoon while she’s working. As I was driving my car back home I was so happy to have her back.

I’ve had Mercedes for more than three years. And although having a car hasn’t been as cool as I thought it would be, I still love her. I’ve been looking for a job so that I can buy a new car—something to get me places without the hassle. In the meantime, I’ll roll with my Mercedes.

Other stories by this writer:

Someone please hire me. Patricia, 19, has spent months trying to find her first job. (October 2010)

My second chance at school. After ditching and a serious illness, an alternative high school got Patricia, 18, back on track to graduate. (October 2009)