Bender

I gotta check into rehab

'Cause baby you’re my disease

--Rihanna, "Rehab"

*

Hi, my name is Tina. I'm an importaholic.

Like any addict, after a few months staying clean I thought I was cured. I even went on a couple of radio shows and bragged about all the imported stuff I could've scored but passed up. And a few months back, just to test my resolve, I went into Costco, browsed Made in China booty, and walked away. It was winter. I was cold. And as I left the warehouse store, a bit shaky but determined, I watched other women push their carts to the checkout stand to purchase Michael Kors red wool pea coats for under fifty bucks. I thought How can they buy those impossibly cheap and cute coats? They disgust me.

Yes, people, I was smug.

At the end of June I reached my six-month point. I wanted to celebrate. Instead I should've called Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan or, at minimum, their publicists so they could warn me that an addiction doesn't ever leave. It hibernates until, at some unpredictable moment--maybe at an outlet store on an otherwise deserted highway--it awakens and you are powerless. It's insidious.

Not to blame anyone else for my failures {Don / Richie C}, but I have a partner who is also addicted to imports. Oh sure, he sounds strong. And yes, he has hung in there with me since January 1st. He knew we faced challenges trying to kick the imports habit, but he figured we could beat this thing. Together, our confidence grew into what could only be termed cocky. We'd drive past Trader Joe's and think Let others contribute to the German economy. Others are weak. We are strong. We pity those not up to the task.

But then, a few weeks ago--oh, how the guilt has weighed on me!--my aforementioned partner asked me to accompany him as he searched for a new car to replace his old Honda. "I have done my research," he announced. "Ford Taurus is still 100% Made in the U.S.A." We were pumped. We were going for the brass ring. We would tell friends and family far and wide: "Huzzah! We bought an American car!"

The air was hot that Sunday, my friends. "It's gotta be 102 degrees," I said to Mark, the 20-ish Ford salesperson in the pale blue dress shirt. He unlocked a White Platinum 2011 Taurus SEL, opened the doors. The three of us settled into the car. The new leather smelled good. From his backseat spot, salesman Mark told Don how to crank up the air. Sort of. "Actually, I'm still learning about the Taurus," he said. Off we went, toward the highway.

As I mopped the sweat off my forehead, Don checked his rear view mirror. "The visibility could be better," he said. "But there's a rear camera, so that helps." I peered up, trying to see over the enormous dash. "Do you think these seats are sort of low?" I said. "I feel like I'm sitting in a hole. And it's still so hot."

Salesman Mark couldn't hear us over the sound of the air conditioning on its highest setting. I leaned in close to the vent and shouted. "Can we make this any cooler, Mark?" The air felt cool-ish, not cold. "Um, I'll have to check into that," Mark said. "Would you like to see a Fusion?" That would be a no, Mark.

Back at the Ford dealership we bid Mark adieu. I wanted to advise him to find a job in anything but sales, but it was too hot for small talk. He'd figure it out soon enough.

"Maybe we should look at a Honda," my partner said. "Just to compare." He said it the way a thirsty drunk says "I just want a sip."

But let's be honest here. I agreed. "Good idea. Just to compare. No harm in looking."

Don pulled up to the Honda dealership, parked his aging white Accord. Over 150,000 miles on it. Still ran like a top. And the air worked great. Ah, Honda. The brand called to him--to us both--like a Siren's song. Come to me. We would look, do a test drive, and give Ford another shot.

River in Egypt. I know.

"I can see so clearly now," Don / Johnny Nash said, looking in the rear view mirror of the 2011 Honda Accord EX. "No obstacles in your way?" I asked. But he was lost in his own world. The one where the tan leather seats with lumbar support fit him just right and the visibility was perfect no matter where he looked. The one where the salesperson, a no nonsense gal in her mid-50s, knew just what to do and say, just how to be there in the backseat but somehow remain invisible. Don and I talked and laughed. The air blew from the vents, frigid. Come to me.

We finished the test drive. Got out of the car. Examined the printed-out information taped to the driver's side window: "Made in Marysville, Ohio." Hey, good enough. I said it before Don did. "Let's take it."

A week later, on our way home from visiting college-daughter Michelle, I spotted the outlet stores. Come to me. We'd driven past these outlet stores many times since January 1st. "They should call it Import Stores," I would say. Smug. Cocky. Choose your own descriptive, spot-on word. But this time was different. I had a craving; an overwhelming urge to buy our three-month-old grandbaby an outfit.

"Maybe we should stop by the Carter's store," I said to Don, who was driving. "There might be something Made in the U.S.A." Don, enjoying unobstructed visibility and a free trial run of XM Satellite Radio, didn't blink. Yup, we were barreling along the road to perdition.

Three ridiculously inexpensive Made-in-China-by-slave-labor baby outfits later, we were back on the highway, our purchases stowed in the Japanese car's spacious new trunk. "Let's stop at Target," I said. "We really need one of those Graco Pack 'N Plays, so the baby has a cozy place to nap when Steph and Dennis bring him over…I know they're all Made in China but…we have no choice, right?"

Come to me.

And now, with Don's new Honda on the driveway and the Pack 'n Play safely installed in one of my grown kid's old rooms, I ask for forgiveness. I will, from this day forward, turn my importaholic-plagued life over to a Higher Power. I will watch "Celebrity Rehab." I will see if Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen want to meet up at a café in L.A., swap binge stories, and motivate each other to change. I promise to never ever buy foreign-made again. Unless my computer battery gives out. Or the microwave dies. Or my washing machine--20-years-old and making funny sounds--stops working.

Really. Pinkie swear. This time I'm cured for good.