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How to Get Dumped and Crash a BMW 5 Series

A teenager, an old Bimmer sedan and a priceless lesson about baggage.

The Car: 1997 BMW 540i

The Crash: Eighteen-year-olds generally cannot afford a BMW M5. Some, however, might see their way into a haggard, high-mileage BMW 5 Series. The car had enough dashboard warning lights to illuminate a black hole. Also, a V8 and manual gearbox. I emptied my savings account and limped it home. The peeling window tint and aftermarket taillights made me look like a Triad cocaine dealer.

That was autumn. Just before winter, I had a drag-out argument with my then-girlfriend, mostly because she didn’t realize we were dating. On the drive home, I listened to Tom Waits and thought about buying a piano. Unrequited love is a bitch. So are dump trucks.

To be clear, I didn’t hit the thing; I just failed to realize it’d dropped gate and spilled loose gravel across a 90-degree right-hand turn. The car yawed over surface change, jackknifed and climbed a curb. The damage wasn’t so bad, actually: a collapsed rocker, tweaked front control arm and two bent wheels. Knife twist? Textbooks and boxes of spare parts convinced BMW’s seat sensors that three passengers were present. Eighteen-year-olds cannot afford to replace a half-dozen erroneously deployed airbags, either.

The Damage: A write-off—for both car and ego.

The Moral: Put your luggage in the trunk; it’s O.K. to cry listening to Blue Valentine.