In the annals of reality television, perhaps no show is as weird as My Strange Addiction, the show about people addicted to things like eating toilet paper, eating glass, licking their cats. Really. But one of the weirdest — and one of the only episodes I’ve ever seen – featured a man who was having “an intimate relationship” with his car. His CAR!
When I saw the show, I knew I’d never be able to look at an exhaust pipe the same way again.
But it’s not just the extreme car lover who befuddles me. I don’t even understand people who “love” cars in the usual way. People who go to the Auto Show every year just because. They’re cars! I’ve never cared even a little bit about them- beyond caring that they can get me where I’m going. And I’ve never understood how anyone could be attached to a car.
But earlier last month, we bought a new car. Well, new to us. It’s used, or in today’s there’s-a-euphemism-for-everything parlance, a pre-owned vehicle. And when we drove that pre-owned vehicle off the lot, leaving our 14 year old station wagon behind, I got choked up. And here we are, a month later, and well, I miss my car.
You could’ve knocked me over with a radiator hose. (that’s a thing, right? I think I heard Freddie Prinze mention it once on Chico and the Man.) when I realized I missed my car. Who misses their car?
Why? Our 2000 Audi Station Wagon was a mess. It was dented and dinged and noisy. (Oh, now noisy!) When you tried to drive with the windows down, they rattled so much inside the car doors that it sounded like the car might fall apart as you drove. The leather upholstery was cracking – showing the foam underneath. The speakers only worked intermittently, and only when strategically placed kicks to the passenger side dashboard landed just right.
How could I miss that car?
Well, that car took my babies home from the hospital. It picked up our puppy from the shelter. The stickers on the back passenger window attest to the fact that it was that car that carted us to the country for the final 12 (out of more than 40) summers spent at my family’s Southampton home before it was sold.
Our car had a cassette player. Where am I every going to be able to listen to my star turn in my High School production of How to Succeed now?
Of course I have pictures of all of these memories. My babies in their car seats, my puppy on it’s first day home. Even me, as Heddy La Rue. And of course I have the memories themselves. But that car was the physical manifestation of those things.
My kids aren’t babies anymore. My puppy is now a sleepy adult dog. My HS singing career is long behind me. I left it all behind when I left my defiantly decrepit, dinged, ancient old car in the parking lot of a car dealership somewhere in Connecticut.
That car was the my last bit of youth. Like Michelle Obama talking about how the water came in through the floorboards of their first car, I’ll talk about the rattling windows, the in and out radio, the leather peeling off the interior doors. True, it had once been a luxury car, but it lived long and hard enough on the streets of NY to die a jalopy.
Now, I drive the anti-jalopy. My certified pre-owned Lexus is every inch the luxury car. Dual control AC, seats that move 547 ways, wipers that automatically detect the rain and change speed accordingly. My new car reads me text messages as they come in. I can talk to my car and it talks back. “Gas station,” I’ll say, and it will find me a list of the gas stations nearby and guide me there, turn by turn.
My old car was built before there was such a thing as bluetooth. It never even heard of a USB. So why on earth do I miss it? Why aren’t I thrilled with the bells, whistles, and remarkably quiet ride of my new car?
Because this new car is the symbol of my absolute acquiescence: I am not struggling young mother with spit up stained baby seats strapped into the back of her car. I am not a young anything, scrimping and using duck tape to hold together my old jalopy. I am a yuppie, my car says. I am middle aged, it says. And then it reads me a text from my doctor, and sends me, turn by turn, to nearest drug store, to buy some Geritol.