Monday, October 18, 2010

Driving While Indifferent

When it comes to standards, there are categories in which I have them. "Spouse" and "friends" merit my strictest selection requirements, with "Books I will purchase in hardcover" and "Music I will buy in a format other than MP3" following close behind.

Somewhere in the middle of the scale is "Sprinter I will put money on for next year's Tour de France," "toothpaste brands," and "minimum SPF number for a day at the pool." I have informed opinions on these things, but can be swayed by logic and/or marketing.
At the very bottom of the list, dangling off of it like a Christmas ornament,  is "cars." There is simply no arena that interests me less than the careful selection of a motor vehicle. If it has four wheels and a place where I can throw my purse, I will drive it without complaint. I consider a car to be the necessary metal wrapper around the CD player that I listen to while getting here or there.
Maybe it's because I waited until I was 26 to buy my first car and then only got to drive it for a year before it was stolen, shortly after my husband and I moved to Washington D.C.. Every year on the anniversary of the theft we would get a call from Metro DC police: "Did you find your car yet?" to which my husband would answer, "No, you?" It taught me not to get attached.
I have friends who have named their cars, who talk at length about the storage space they have in back, who complain or crow about how well their car is holding up. There is a section of the San Francisco Chronicle where people send in lovely essays about the specific car they drive, and the meaningful relationship they share with it. The section is called "Cars" and as soon as I figured out it had nothing to do with Gary Numan, I lost interest.

When my sister turned forty she bought herself a red Saab convertible to celebrate, and my brother carefully puts the Jeep that he bought after college graduation up on cement blocks each winter, to protect it from insidious East Coast road salt. 

I sometimes forget which car I'm driving, while I'm driving it.

Have you ever heard that old joke about car salesman who makes the pitch to the husband, pores over all the details and shows him the bells and whistles, and then turns to the wife to ask, "What color?" I am worse than that wife. When my husband bought a new car this year and asked me to come with him on the last visit to the dealership, I shook the salesman's hand and said, "Must I stay?" It was my 12 year old daughter who pointed out that Dad had bought a white car.

"You didn't think to tell him to get another color?" she asked.

"Why would I?"

"Mom. Your car is white too."

"It is?"

So now whenever we leave to go anywhere, there's chaos at the front door. "Get in the car." "Which one?" "The white car." "WHICH ONE?" Come to think of it, the car that got stolen in DC was white too.

There is someone who lives within five miles of me who drives a teal blue Thunderbird soft top convertible. I went to a graduate school called Thunderbird, and teal blue makes me look really tan. Whenever I see that car, I have a moment of car lust, picturing myself in a Grace Kelly scarf and sunglasses combo behind the wheel. In that short few seconds, the standards I hold for car selection jump up, to at least the eightieth percentile of my personal scale of standards.

But it passes quickly, usually as the gas light comes on in the portable CD player I'm driving, and soon I'm just back to the white noise of car ownership.


  1. Loved this one. I relate oh so very well. I too tune out when the subject of car puchase/lease renewal comes up and nod with regularlity and feigned attentiveness while thinking of how wonderful the milk froth on the top of my coffee looks and what a miracle froth is...think about it. Thanks for the smile.

  2. Yeah, but have you checked out the new Audi R8??

  3. Hey! I know that teal blue Thunderbird and I think you would look smashing in it. By the way, I drive a white car and you did notice it. You even asked me a few questions about it.....hmmmmm. Louisa

  4. Thanks Pam - mmm, milk froth, now that's a subject worth having an opinion on.

    James - for all I know I'm driving an Audi R8 right now. I'll have to ask Andrew.

    And Louisa - you definitely have a sweet ride. But if you recall, most of my questions were about how to connect my iPhone to your car stereo, and then the ensuing horror as I realized I'd downloaded the "slow jam" version of Justified and Ancient.

  5. Your husband's response to DC Police "No, you?" literally made me burst out laughing ironically while on the Hertz car rental bus. Great stuff.

    I do not however share your indifference toward cars ... I have a pair cars over 40 years old in the garage which make me smile whenever I see and drive them. As a matter of fact, I care more about the power and handling of my rentals than I do about the quality of my hotel rooms. I enjoy the act of driving when I have a fun car. I guess I'm the Yin to your anti-car fetish Yang.


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