Sometimes I really wish we hadn't bought our Mercedes. Don't get me wrong – for a middle-class nobody like me, it's a truly nice car. It drives well, has all the bells and whistles, and, well, it makes one feel classy just to drive it. And let me be the first to say that after a few days of driving it, one gets downright spoiled.
It's a 2008 ML 350, and significantly cheaper than the new Toyota we were considering. It's got the all-wheel drive, moon roof, satellite radio, leather throughout, and all the rest of the little items that longtime luxury car owners take for granted these days, but make those of us who grew up among the poor folk a bit giddy.
But there's always a flip side of the coin, it seems, and now I'm not so sure that getting that Mercedes was a smart thing to do. For instance, now I feel a silly internal compulsion to drive in a more, um, dignified manner. I can't goof off or go out of my way to drive through that six-inch-deep puddle to see how big a splash I can make.
Even worse, I've got this need to read – if I see words in a line, it's very hard to ignore it – and it drives my wife to distraction because I tend to try to read every billboard or sign in sight and the car will swerve an inch or two (I'm a very safe driver – my only accident was a minor fender-bender in 1986).
But now that I'm driving a Mercedes, I can't do all that, because I know down deep in my gut that anyone who sees me make the least little mistake is immediately going to think to him/herself, "Look at him! He's rich, driving a Mercedes, and he drives like that! For shame!"
Yes, I know that's my insecurity talking, but there it is. Even worse are my friends and family. You see, it simply doesn't matter if I point out that my five-year-old car cost less than theirs; mine's a Mercedes, which means that I must be doing pretty doggone well on money. Yes, we went through a bankruptcy and a foreclosure last year (that none of our friends and very few of our family know about), but we still needed a good, dependable car for our business, and this was a really nice deal. Problem is, in the eyes of our friends and family, we now no longer have the option to tell them we simply don't have any money, because we've got a Mercedes! And before anyone thinks ill of our friends and family and their opinions, remember that most of them grew up either living in poverty or (like myself) next door to poverty, and such an upbringing tends to have an effect on one's perceptions in later years.