Nearly six months after my old car was destroyed, I drove a used car off the lot out in Kenner. It felt great.
Cruising back toward New Orleans on I-10 with the chorus of AC/DC's rather appropriate "Ride On" spilling out of the radio, crossing under the peeling Art Deco railroad bridge lined with oil tank cars, I realized what having and owning your own car means.
A car equals freedom. Even today, in most of America. That's no special observation, but don't let anyone tell you different.
Working hard for several months with the goal of purchasing something that will improve one's life - and then purchasing it - makes for a rewarding feeling. While a car would have been impossible in New York this summer, a good number of weeks in late spring and late summer in other locations illustrated to me in a very personal way just how much of life grinds to a halt without a vehicle. Postage stamps, groceries, and groceries soon approximated epic treks. The kindness of friends was probably stretched a tad too far.
This car, a 2002 Olds Intrigue, appears to be in great shape, although it doesn't have quite the amount of character as my old Grand Am. I also probably paid a bit more for it than I should have. The salesman on the lot - just as commenter Tim S predicted - noted that most of the cars I was looking for in the $4,000-$5,000 range were now hard to find in the wake of the Cash-for-Clunkers program. But it should last for a while and have decent resale value.
I will still bike or walk most places, but it's good to be back in business. It's great to be empowered, to have a car.