Friday, March 12, 2010

A 21st Century Fox

I am not now nor have I ever been a "car guy". As a kid, my love was sports - not automobiles. While I have a lifelong friend - Mark - and a brother-in-law - Joe - both of whom have a knowledge of and a passion for automobiles that is unsurpassed by anyone I have ever met, and I admire it in them (and those like them who really, really dig automobiles) I have never shared it. And you will never be able to convince me that I have missed out on anything by choosing not to do so.

Me? I am a basic mode of transportation kind of fellow. I have never had a real affinity for or affection towards a particular make or model of car and have in fact been well served by vehicles I have used and/or owned irrespective of their nation of origin in the quarter century-plus in which I have been a licensed driver.

As a high school junior I compacted my father's old Chevy Malibu Classic station wagon one night when I fell asleep driving home. The vehicle made contact nose first with a ditch adjacent to the road's shoulder with such violence that as a result of the impact the wagon's tailgate section extended approximately six to eight feet beyond its rear door - such repositioning having been necessitated by the engine block's decision to move from under the hood to a spot previously occupied by the front seat. Understandable though; right? It gets damn hot underneath that hood. The engine is the one doing all the work. Why should it not want to occupy a seat with a view from time to time? Fair is Fair. After doing the nose plant into the ditch, just for fun the car flipped in a beautiful clockwise fashion two times before ultimately coming to rest on its roof.

I can recall twenty-five years or so after that particular accident the Hillsborough Township police officers who responded to the accident telling Mom and me that given what was not left of the car they half-expected to be notifying next of I walked away from the accident with a cut on my chin, several cuts on my arms and hands and a bruised jaw. Your opinion on baseball, apple pie and hot dogs is your own. You are not however permitted to disagree with me on the life-saving properties of the Chevrolet. Sorry, simply not allowed to happen.

Ironically enough - given the fact that one saved my life - I have never purchased a GM vehicle (although Mom bought me my first brand new used car - a Pontiac Phoenix - when I was in college). The closest I have ever come to purchasing one for my own use was about fifteen years ago when Margaret and I bought an Oldsmobile for her. I have however owned my share of Volkswagens and have also been faithfully served by Mazda and - currently - Toyota. Luckily for me - I suppose - I do not own the stylish, "it" Toyota. I am not cool enough or environmentally-conscious enough to own a Prius. I must confess that I was impressed (in an abstract sort of way) to see the story of the man in California whose Prius rocketed down the freeway on him after its gas pedal apparently got stuck to the floor or some such thing. I was impressed not only by the incredible work of the police officer who saved the man's life, but by the fact that the Prius apparently achieved a speed of 90+ miles per hour. Every time I blow past one on the highway, it seems incapable of reaching such a speed.

No Prius for me. I am a base model Corolla man - with my 5 speed manual transmission and no fancy features save for a CD player and air conditioning. If you pull up next to me at a traffic light please do not think I am being unsociable when I do not put down my passenger's side window to respond to whatever it is you are saying (Hey you are shouting now) from your car towards mine. Although I am an unsociable bastard, point of fact is that I am not rolling my window down because unlike other folks I do not have power windows. Manual windows and 33 inch arms are the enemies of passenger-side roll-down hospitality. Although they do appear to be a fairly accurate precursor of pending expletives and elevated middle least in my experience.

If you are a car person and/or somehow wedded to the notion of your vehicle as status symbol, I do not begrudge you your lifestyle choice - although I am not capable of understanding it. A lifetime ago when I was age-eligible for the gig I was not homecoming king material. I have no delusion about my odds of getting the crown now. My car's purpose is to transport me back and forth to places I have to go; principally work. And it - like its owner - is not the belle of the ball but it performs its job faithfully. Function over form.

Two nights ago my little crimson chariot reached the 100,000 mile mark. While Skate has quite a lot of ground to cover to reach the heights scaled by the Jetta I once owned, which I traded in after it had passed the 183,000 mile mark, hitting one hundred grand is not an unimpressive accomplishment. While I presume I have done so at least on one occasion I cannot presently recall a single time when I have driven Skate outside of Joisey's geographical boundaries. She has accumulated all of her miles performing mundane tasks: carrying me to work, to the grocery store and to play softball. And she has done it all in a fairly compressed amount of time. It took the two of us only 1345 days to make it to the century mark. If you do the math, you find out that it works out to roughly 73 miles a day. Every day. For almost 1350 days.

She is not the prettiest girl in the world but my little Skate is alright. One hundred thousand miles in her rear view mirror moving to the trick of the beat. And yours truly enjoying the ride - as stylish as it may not be - from my spot in the driver's seat.


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