I’ve always been a car girl. At age 7, I was the first to yell "Burn some rubber!" out the window at stoplights and began begging my father for a ’69 Camaro — with flames.

To remind him, I used my acrylic set to paint hundreds of my little brothers’ Hot Wheels black, with red and yellow crab-claw flames licking out the sides of the wheel wells.

Dad, however, was not moved. Sure, he loved cars — more than me — but he was not going to get suckered into picking me up on the side of the road every three months when the brakes, transmission, radiator, carburetor, or whatever else gave out.

When I turned 16 he supplemented my few hundred dollars of savings and helped me buy a nice, used Nissan Altima. Ick.

Well, the first thing I saved up for in my commissions piggy bank was a "real" car — with a capital "C." Sure, I still desperately wanted the Camaro, but as a young, single, rational Realtor, I thought better of putting 79-year-old Walter and his legally blind wife Adele in the backseat of a ZL-1 427 without seatbelts.

So I bought the next best thing — a cute little BMW coupe.

Now, I thought, I’ve arrived. People will automatically know that I am a) a successful Realtor, and b) cool (goodbye aged Altima with the bad alternator). In fact, this little coupe would allow me to really impress my clients. After all, I am a very good driver.

My first opportunity came not a month later. A very wealthy real estate lawyer arrived in town and wanted to spend some Money (yes, with a capital "M"). "Let me show you the best!" I chirped, as I watched him fold his 6’3" frame into my compact leather interior.

Around the corners we flew, and down the straightaways! I knew I was impressing him with my quick reactions and bold cornering. Of course, his silence was surprising, as he was nothing if not a big talker.

Probably he was just enjoying the ride. So much so that at the first property he stumbled out of the car weak-kneed and wobbly, and promptly puked up his entire breakfast on the sidewalk.

So much for the coupe.

I decided it was best to say goodbye to the quick little Beemer, and trade into a "real" Realtor vehicle: the SUV. Every Realtor drives a sport utility vehicle, right? They are roomy — plenty of seats for everybody, and fewer tall people need to throw up.

Of course, with all the added room, it seems I was giving open invitations as a touring service. I found myself shuttling around clients’ friends, teenagers and the occasional puppy. Whose car was this, anyway? Did I need to write some rules?

Alisha’s Road Rules

1. Do not eat chips in the backseat and stuff the empty bag in the crevice between the cushions.

2. Remember to take the blue ballpoint pen out of your back pocket before getting in the vehicle.

3. No open beer cans in the car. Honestly, you were carrying that in your purse?

I loved driving the SUV despite the occasional unexpected guests. It was easy to zip by homes and enjoy a good view with elbow room. But I did not enjoy the apparent invitation for couples’ fisticuffs in the backseat.

There are some clients who won’t talk in front of you at all. Then there are the others who see you as a free marriage counselor/referee. With all that added space in the backseat, I think some folks got way too comfortable.

One couple, whom I won’t name, had a verbal sparring match for two hours and 14 properties! I wanted to defend the poor husband, who was obviously losing. But then again, he was the one who kept making us drive back to the same house, three times in a row. I couldn’t decide where to intervene, so I’d call that a tie.

Three years with the SUV and I was done with the hefty gas bills and the counseling couch in the backseat. I needed something that said: Enjoy yourself (within reason), and yet had enough room for a baby seat, my own dog (in off hours) and got good gas mileage.

"WHAT?" said my husband, when I broached the subject of trading in the SUV for something more fuel efficient, "You? Miss Lead Foot? Are pigs flying? Is this really the end of the world?"

He did have a point. What would I drive? A Prius was not even in the running. Sorry, Toyota (and you loyal hybrid fans), I cannot go from a suped-up ’69 Camaro to a silent kit car. Plus, I thought, there had to be something better.

That’s why I am now the proud owner of a Diesel Jetta SportWagen, a car in which I am averaging 50-plus mpg on the freeway, and 36 mpg around town.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Someday I will have that ’69 suped-up Camaro.

I imagine an older gentleman will see me at a car show, and observing my obvious love for the hot rods, will hand me the keys to an old "barn find."

Sure, it will need some work — but he’ll be convinced I’m the gal for the job and he’ll rest assured that the car will live on — powering down the back roads, where it belongs.

Meanwhile, I will install five-point safety harnesses in each seat, provide discreet nausea bags in the back, and slap two magnetic signs on the doors: "HOT ROD REALTY — BUY A HOUSE FAST."

Who wouldn’t want to rip around town in that? And we could finally forget about idle chitchat as I will have modified the muffler.

But until my new "grandpa" (feel free to email me) calls, I will really enjoy my new Jetta. It’s honestly fun! Plus, I have plenty of room for my own puppy in the cargo area, a zippy turbo engine with lots of torque, and the car seat is perfect smack-dab in the middle of the backseat.

So until I have that glasspack muffler, I figure my 4-month-old daughter, Ava, is a really good mediator for those bickering couples. After all, who can argue over her delightful wailing?

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