My wife Barbara and I were headed somewhere recently, and, as usual, she was driving since we have made the decision as a couple that we’d rather risk a collision because she’s fiddling with her phone than get hopelessly lost because I never have any idea where I’m going.
Sometimes I’ll drive if we know we’ll be parking in a lot at our destination, because Barbara has some sort of deficiency that prevents her from calculating the correct angle for pulling into a space. She’s fine parallel parking, but perpendicularity perplexes her.
But this post isn’t about my wife, although she might opine that it has already been too much about her.
No, this is about what I was thinking during that recent drive, when Barb was behind the wheel and listening to traffic reports on the all-news station which has the absolutely worst commercials you can imagine, mostly for ways to get out of debt (“Let us negotiate with the IRS”); injury lawyers (“Call 1-800-OUCH LAW”); and medical procedures (“Cure your ED without pills”). There was even one that invited people who were overweight, had diabetes, or were taking pills for depression or anxiety to call for affordable term life insurance. The tagline was–and I swear this is true–“Call Big Lou. He’s like you. He’s on meds, too.”
Anyway, while Barb was waiting for a traffic update, out of sheer boredom, I decided to see if I could remember every vehicle I’ve ever owned or leased.
I ticked them off in my head and then wrote them down when we got home. I think I’ve got them all, except one that my father-in-law gave us when we first moved to the suburbs from Manhattan over 30 years ago. I recall that it was old, and beige, and under-powered, and that the rear-view mirror kept falling off, but I can’t think of the make and model.*
Other than that, though, I believe the list would look something like this: AMC Gremlin (remember AMC?), Datsun B-210 (remember Datsun?), Plymouth K-Car (remember Plymouth?), Ford Pinto, Buick Century, Honda Accord. Then there would be a pause while I lived carless in Manhattan for six years. From then on, we’ve always had two vehicles at a time: Mazda 626, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Accord, Nissan Pathfinder (2 of those in a row), BMW-X3, Acura Legend, Acura RDX (2), Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry (used, after giving the Accord to our daughter), Toyota Camry Hybrid (2), Toyota Rav-4, Toyota Rav-4-Hybrid.
You might notice a distinct lack of variety in later years. There are two reasons for that: 1) It’s just easier to keep getting the same thing and, 2) When I don’t like a car, I ban that company for life, and we’re running out of acceptable brands.
The Buick Century, for instance, was a car I owned during the brief period in the 70’s when I lived in San Diego. You could not imagine a less California-y vehicle. There was something wrong with it, too, but the dealer could never figure out what it was. There was also something wrong with the wife I had at the time, and although I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was with her, I couldn’t find a repair person who could deal with that, either.
I got rid of the car and the wife when I moved back to New York. And not only did I ban Buicks for life, I issued a prohibition on all General Motors cars.*
The Pinto was my last Ford. No, it didn’t explode horribly as those cars tended to do, but it was still a shitty car. The Jeep had a chronic electrical problem that occasionally prevented the windows from going up and down so that you had to open the door at a toll booth or drive-up window. I never got another one of those.
The BMW was the only German vehicle we’ve had, and it drove really well, but there was a design flaw: the passenger-side cup holder was placed so that it ground into the knee of the passenger, which was usually me. I know that sounds like a petty reason to ban a car company for life, but it wasn’t your knee.
And I can really hold a grudge.
The Mazda and the Hyundai were okay, but they lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. The Acuras had some je ne sais quoi, but I didn’t think the additional panache was worth the additional cash. Of course, my current wife would say that I couldn’t recognize je ne sais quoi even if it smacked me in my visage.
As you can see, there are no “classics” on my lifetime list of automobiles. There are no convertibles and no sports cars. I didn’t even have anything remotely sporty when I was young and wild. That’s because, while I was once young, I was never wild.
I have never aspired to go zooming down a winding road in a Corvette, the wind blowing through my hair (when I had hair). Those commercials of Land Rovers plowing through mud don’t appeal to me. I don’t understand the appeal of a car with only two doors, or with no back seat. I think the idea of a Jaguar SUV is about as silly as a Lamborghini lawn mower.
What can I say? I’m just not a car guy. To me, “driving excitement” is when a mattress goes flying off the roof of the car in front of us, and I try to avoid those thrills whenever possible.**
So our vehicles will just stay middle-of-the-road. Especially now that we’ve figured out how to turn off the damned lane departure warning in our Toyotas.
See you soon.