The Old Girl & The New One

my old van the old girlA hard thing it is to trade in your ride.  My old girl! She was the best of cars, she was the worst of cars.  In her youth how wondrous she was! The way she would slide her rear doors open at the touch of a button! The way she would slide them shut that way too!

In her youth how wondrous was her hatchback that opened and shut the same way! Touch the icon and  – whirrr! – she was open and ready to load.  Touch it again, hear  another whirrr and the great door shut as tight as a mobster’s lips.

She did everything for me:

  • Told me what direction I was driving in.
  • Told me what the outside temperature was.
  • Told me how much farther I could go with the amount of gas in her tank.

And then there were those Stow ‘n Go seats, which no one but Chrysler has been able to come near to. You want to take six people to the movies? They’ll all fit, no problem.  You then want to carry a giant desk and a six- foot bookcase from your house to the apartment of one of your kids? Tug here, touch there and the seats kneel right down like trained circus animals and then – more magic! – disappear under the floorboards!

Added to all this, she was lipstick-red with pale grey seats of leather. She was the best deal they had for me when I was looking so she was the car I bought back in spring of 2005.

But…. Eventually…. Time began having its way with her. Four years in, her doors began flying back open after you had closed them. They would nearly shut and then – whoosh! pop back open again, sometimes well after you’d walked away from her. Many’s the time I came out of some store to find her whole interior laid open as if under the surgeon’s knife. I began to worry that squirrels would set up a condo association inside her.

And so it happened that last month I went to look for her replacement, as different from the old red lady as she could be.

This new girl is Midnight Blue. Her seats are made of a humble cloth fuzz instead of leather.

  • She won’t open or close her doors at the touch of a button. She likes to see you bring a little effort of your own to the task.
  • She won’t slide her seats forward and back at a button’s touch. You want the seat closer, you reach under for the metal bar and heave yourself forward, the way we all had to do in the old days.
  • Unlike her sister, she won’t tell you what direction you’re driving in.
  • She’s mute when it comes to the outside temperature.
  • She won’t even tell you it’s time to look for a gas station. If you’re such a dope that you let your tank run clear down to droplets ‘til you stall, well, she figures, let that be a lesson to you.

And the funny thing is, I really like all this, in part because with fancy features come fancy glitches.

Also, she fits what I see as the emerging spirit of the age. “Simplify!” said Henry Thoreau and I am  doing that now with my new car that cost  a full $5,000 less than her predecessor did almost eight years back.

But! I should add that she is a Chrysler minivan as well and so has those fabulous seats, whose magic-circus trick can go on for years making my kids kneel down, in gratitude, for all that dandy, custom-delivered furniture. 🙂

Express Yaself

Once, young guys wore briefs and old guys wore boxers. Now it’s just the opposite. Once, it was sailors on boozy shore-leave who got tattoos. Now, even kids in braces and Marching Band uniforms get them. Customs change.

Girls still saunter around with vast crescents of flesh showing between their tops and their pants even though the fashion mag I just read in line at the pharmacy says it’s not ‘classy’ to do this.

People have a wish to expresses themselves, that’s all. This is who I am,” is all they’re hoping to say.

I have a 20-something friend who dresses in a kilt when he’s of a mind to, and he certainly doesn’t do THAT to shock anyone. Yes, he studied the bagpipes once, but he’s also an Eagle Scout, a wilderness survival guy and an EMT. Oh and the computer hasn’t been invented that he can’t get to sit up and beg. So try pigeonholing HIM, you know?

It was back in the mid-90s when our oldest got a tattoo and I can tell you that very few young women were doing that at the time, especially among the other double-Econ-and-Religion majors there at Wellesley College. As I recall, her dad had something to say when he heard about plans for this species of personal ornamentation. “Well, you’ll never get a job in the corporate world!” he told her tartly.

“Oh Dad, I’m not going into the corporate world!” I remember her saying with a big smile. “I’m going to head up a federal agency!”

“But why is she DOING it?” this mate of mine asked the ceiling later.

Neither of us knew – until she came back from that trip with her best college pal Sarah and saw it. The tattoo that encircled her arm just above the elbow was the same daisy-chain pattern of the wedding ring of her grandmother, recently deceased. She had carefully made a pen-and-ink sketch of the ring’s design and brought it with her to Nevada.

So she didn’t get it because of any fashion; she got it it as a symbol of something important to her.

Also I will say these many years later, she DID join the corporate world, MBA in hand. And her equally tattooed best pal Sarah is now in Infectious Disease doc at a prestigious Boston hospital.

So maybe we have to look at all fashions as mere avenues for people to express themselves.

Thoreau said it: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him put on the undies he likes, however tailored or hanging down. 🙂

Here is the girl today with that her grandmother’s wedding ring pattern and her new baby girl.