Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Missing Gene

Built To Spill--"Car" (mp3)
Strand of Oaks--"Used Cars (Springsteen Cover)" (mp3)

I am missing the crucial gene that every red-blooded American male is supposed to have. I could give two shits about cars!

Right now, as of this moment, at this point in time, in calendar year 2010, I am driving a 1995 Toyota Camry. Aside from its sheer age, this Camry has some other special features. For one, both of the front seat door handles have broken off, so to get out, you have to put down the window and open the door from the outside. Unless you forget, and then there are other ways to get out. There was also once some kind of customed tinting which I spent one Saturday a few years ago trying to remove, but like eczema, there are still huge patches of it on the windows. The antenna is missing from the time I tried to fix it. The radio gets almost no reception and is only any good because it has a cassette player that I can stick one of those tape adaptors into to try to play songs from my Ipod. The speakers are factory installed, or were factory installed 15 years ago. The air conditioner does blow cold air, but it also sometimes blows pieces of insulation (I think) and sometimes blow a foul, mildewy smell. Because the car was originally purchased by my frugal father-in-law, it has no extras of any kind. And it rattles hellaciously whenever I go over any kind of bump.

And yet, if it would keep running, I would be happy to drive this car as is for the next twenty years or so. That's the kind of weird I am.

Contrast that with my father who loves to "trade cars" and is now on his third car in the last 4 years or my friend who has become so close to a guy that rehabs Volvos that the car guy practically spends Christmas with his family and has provided every member of my friend's family with between 2 and 8 cars over the past 4 years or my friend who has two cars even though he is the only driver in his family.

A normal man has to have a convertible for the open road; a normal man at some point gets a hankerin' to drive a truck. For haulin' stuff, you know?

Not me, all I need is a piece of shit with 4 wheels. Admittedly, I would prefer a safe piece of shit, but that's about my only criterion. Oh, and a piece of shit that runs reliably. That would be nice. Those are my two "would like to haves."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not stingy. My family has 4 cars for 4 drivers, and both of my children drive nice Subarus (one nicer than the other because it's only a year old). My wife drives a Buick Rendezvous that would be pretty cool if it could go in reverse; after all, my dad bought it so it's loaded with DVD player and all that kind of stuff.

But when it comes to the Camry, I can see my wife calculating when we are planning to go somewhere if the car is going to look okay in a parking lot or if we have to use a valet or someone we know might see us driving in it. If I hadn't pulled most of that tinting off, no one would be able to see us in the Camry, but that's water over the dam.

Of course, I've tried to figure myself out. Who wouldn't? I guess I'm that unusual person who got it in his head somehow (I really don't know how) that a car is just intended to be a mode of transportation. Nothing more. Certainly not a status symbol. All I ever got out of a convertible is funky hair for the rest of the day.

Or else it's just the path of least resistance. I don't really like the looking, comparing, bargaining, pretending to walk away, financing, waiting in car dealerships, buying, monthly payments aspects of buying a car, and so maybe I just don't want to deal with the realities of life with up-to-date car.

Or I've just become such an adaptable person over the years that I'm good at making do with whatever I have, so if I can handle a car or a house or a situation where everything that is supposed to work doesn't, I know how to make do.

But I also think that by now it's gone well beyond that. I like the challenge of getting more out of a car than I have any right to expect, the challenge of still driving it when anyone else would have traded it in.

Or maybe I'm just not American enough. Maybe I'm violating the memories of Henry Ford and James Dean, Jack Kerouac and Bruce Springsteen. But I don't think so. I'm actually all about the journey across this great land, all about where a car can take somebody and help to fulfill a dream. But I just don't care which car gets me there. As long as it runs.


goofytakemyhand said...

Violating the memories of Bruce Springsteen? It might be for the best that you aren't driving a Stolen Car.

Daisy said...

My husband told me this weekend that the grief he will suffer if I make him get rid of the Dookey car (1982 Datsun currently taking up space in my garage)will equate to that of a death in the family. Apparently he's not missing the gene. It had just mutuated so that he cares about the wrong cars.

Jimmy said...

Cars are one of those things without much middleground. Guys either obsess over them or they don't. I know more guys like you than the other types. I must be a teacher!

Like your blog, by the way. First time visitor.

Neil said...

Long May You Run

Thom Anon said...

Besides, didn't you find a dead body in the trunk of your car once? Kind of demystifies the whole Springsteenian Car-Love Mythology right there.


Bob said...

Let me be clear. I'll drive any car as long as there isn't a murdered woman in the trunk.

jed aka Captain Slow said...

just watch "Top Gear" on BBC America, channel 114. if you are not an American clone of James May, i give up. just because you don't have the cool cars doesn't mean you can't love them. you'll be a PetrolHead in no time flat. British humor can make you love anything.