Going for a drive

Considering how much we pay for cars it occurs to me that feigning they’re not there, pretending they blend in with the wallpaper, is just short of outlandish!  Years ago I chatted with a fellow who drove his Rolls Royce across the continent from east to west.  Along the way he would stop at drive-in restaurants and pretend to be the chauffeur – just to avoid having to shelter himself from others who felt entitled to register their disapproval or jealousy of the worldly display. Unquestionably anyone whom I have known who bought a new car – whatever it was – was proud of it even consumed by it. The modern contraption is a mechanical and technical wonder! I have yet to surmount the pinnacle of current manufacturing achievement.  The further projected ascent to the electric hybrids is presently beyond my imagination.

I am such a selfish person – or at the very least, such a narrow-minded person – that I have always felt that whatever vehicle I drove was the nec plus ultra. I confess too that I regularly extol myself for the acquisition, a perceived (but admittedly misguided) reflection of my own ingenuity and taste. It is more tolerable to endure the affection we routinely have for our sheet metal when one recalls that there is no one car which captures the delight of everyone. Jeep for example is right out! Others are content with the comical abbreviation called Deux Chevaux (2CV) by Citröen. The last time I saw one of those oddities in their full splendour was when ambling in a Ford Galaxy 500 convertible from the Costa Brava along the French Riviera en route to Sanremo, Italy. The Deux Chevaux inexplicably careened off the narrow road into a small stone wall where the two doors exploded open and the passengers were politely ejected to a safe but unceremonious recovery on the surrounding grass. The canvass seats meanwhile fluttered in a balmy breeze from the Mediterranean Sea.

By contrast one of my first cars was a Pontiac Grand Prix, a credit to the American devotion to superfluity and pizzazz.  When I happened to meet Henry Davis coming from the gym at Carleton University many years ago I offered him a drive to the parking lot in my new car.  Upon entering it Henry exclaimed, “One needn’t ask if you’re circumcised!” Henry was as you might imagine a hopelessly entrenched Anglican; but I can assure you that his apparent bias is more than excused by his less articulated collection of other  weaknesses and singular preferences.

Although it is not a universal occurrence, more often than not when I am about to switch from one car to another I regularly hesitate because of my fear that the new one will not rise to the standards of the current one.  Why I imagine this impediment is the result of having had on two occasions at least bought a new car which unhesitatingly qualified as a “lemon“. In the words of the former clerk at Grigorio’s watch importers in Toronto, the Breitling watches are “not grown on trees“. Unfortunately for Mr. Grigorio the Swiss manufacturer preferred to identify the particular embarrassment (randomly ejecting pins) as an in-house defect. Generally speaking though the public requires some education regarding the inherent possibilities in any material product (an observation which I suppose applies to everything). The automotive industry’s answer to those swirling contaminants is the so-called “warranty” which in my experience is about as malleable as the fine print in an insurance contract.

I have succeeded to disabuse myself of any hesitancy to revel in this historic American love affair. Indeed I willingly confess my lurid, repeated and unrepentant attraction! Certainly it softens the immodesty to assert that at my advanced age – and during this invalidating and remorselessly diluting pandemic –  driving my car is one of the few innocent but enthusing diversions I am comfortably able to sustain. And repeat. Daily. As proof: the car I bought six months ago already has 24,000 Kms. This detail – combined with its inevitable fallout against market value – inspires me to renew my automobile romance annually. In case you care to know  I have long ago rationalized the imperturbable truth that we will no more defeat the car dealers in their commercial entitlement than we can stop a teething baby crying.