In all my years of working at magazines, I never got two hundred dollars ahead. You could chart my lack of progress by the cars I drove: a Sidekick, an Escort, a Protégé, a Kadett, and for six awful months a Flurry, one of the most suspiciously affordable cars ever made by a Big Three manufacturer.

The TV commercials for the Flurry had shown college-age kids, braless and Fugee-haired, silently laughing it up as they drove down a mercury vapor–lit expressway with Scottish techno on the soundtrack. In real life “Flurry” was a perfect name for the car, because it weighed nothing, and a gust of wind could move it over a lane and a half. The car was recalled twice after I bought it, once for its gossamer steering linkage and once for its Molotov gas tank. My Flurry was stolen twice but viciously turned up a few blocks away each time.

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