I really don’t have an agenda today. Well, I do but I don’t think I want to go there. So instead I want to write about my relationship with my car. Not my specific car (which sadly, I just realized, I have not named. Isn’t that bad luck? Like a boat?) but the cars I have had in general. My car is currently in the shop because a taxi driver sideswiped me. He made a right turn from the middle lane. While I was in the right lane. At a full stop. Can you sense my frustration?
My relationship with cars began when I first learned to drive. Before my permit I begged my mom to let me drive in the parking lot of a church while waiting for my brother to finish some sport of some kind. We had a mini van with an enormous console between the two front seats. She finally agreed after I nagged for probably days and I jumped out of one door and into the other.
We were in an empty lot. She told me what to do, and I put it in reverse. As mom told me to ease up on the gas, I did the opposite. I floored it. She screamed. As this occurred, a cop pulled in, just to check out the situation (NOTHING ever happened in our town). We both being complete chickenshits, knew we’d be hauled off to the slammer. Without a word spoken, the two of us finessed a dance between the console because of course, opening two car doors in a church parking lot on a quiet fall afternoon weekday would be too obvious. Two tallish women desperately scrambled in the front cab of a minivan. By the grace of God, he kept rolling. Probably because some old lady in town saw a “suspicious character” walking down her street.
Dad on the other hand, taught me to be an offensive driver. He tossed me into his diesel Mercedes which caused dead leg from thrusting the gas pedal into the middle of next week to finally hit twenty miles an hour after 45 seconds. My sole experience merging onto the freeway in that wreck nearly cost my entire family our lives. But, I have to say, Dad taught me to hang back and lay off the break. He also told me to stay the hell out of the right lane, which I have taken to heart. We joke–I drive like a bat out of hell under the grace of God because of the difference between my two parents teaching methods. 19 years and never been pulled over, touch wood.
I saw my first car today on 101 while I drove with all four windows wide open in my rental car. Why you ask? Because the previous driver chain-smoked 2 packs of Marlboro Reds with the windows up in the dead of July in the Mojave. Max 2000, my red Geo Prism. I loved that car. It survived three round trips to Boulder, a vacation to Mexico (oops), street parking in The Richmond district of San Francisco, my two brothers (I still don’t know and I don’t think I want to know), and a near-fire because of my best friend.
I don’t know why people don’t think cars have personalities or even souls. I knew that Max hated the snow, but liked me more and made sure I stayed safe despite snapping his front axle. I know that Guido, my Jetta, lit up like a pinball machine and journeyed me through much of New England. I know that Jezebel, my Subaru wagon, is laughing somewhere in the Subaru graveyard at how much money I threw into her. And I know that I miss my unnamed Legacy.
I would have thought that this playlist would supply me with a name but I guess I am out of luck. Marshmallow doesn’t work. Dean was my grandfather. Clapton doesn’t help me–at all. Toad is just angry in this song (unless I called it Toad but it doesn’t fit), Lyle’s song is just seven words on repeat, and the other two offer up love, forgiveness, and the dawn. Could I dare call it Kink? Sprocket? That one might work.
I don’t have to drive the rent-a-wreck this weekend. For that I am thankful. And I am swapping it out tomorrow morning for a non-smoking equivalent. Probably an orange PT Cruiser if I play my cards right. I don’t think we give our cars the respect they deserve.
I spend two solid hours in my car, five days a week. I give her a rest on the weekends and steer clear. I house private calls there to family, friends, bankers. I sing off-key like a maniac. I rehearse what I want to say to people when I am upset, even though I never say what I practice. I think up corny jokes and tell them to my nephew. I coax her to go a few more miles so that I don’t run out of gas in a bad part of town. She holds everything from golf clubs to essays to old notes that I can’t part from, to my car atlas that has been with me in three different states. How can I not love her? Yes, love is lovely, even if it’s only for a car.
It’s a Marshmallow World–Dean Martin
Let it Grow–Eric Clapton
Woodburning–Toad the Wet Sprocket
Aint it Somethin’–Lyle Lovett
The Last Drag–The Samples
Here comes yet another day–The Kinks