It’s been pointed out to me that what I know about cars can fit into my bellybutton.
I hate to admit defeat, so I probably should learn, but I just have no interest.
And I’m interested in almost everything else other people have to say. I’ll strike up a conversation with every person sitting next to me on an airplane and come up with 25 custom questions about their profession, whether it’s software sales or speech therapy or training guide dogs for the blind. But when my seatmate was the owner of an auto repair shop, I prayed for turbulence. A heart attack — even my own — and a conversation-stopping call for a doctor on board. Anything but an upcoming conversation about transmissions.
“So, what do you drive?” he asked me.
“Me? A car.”
“What kind of car?”
“Oh! Right. Sorry. A gray one.”
Despite that opening line, we engaged in a 20-minute discussion about cars. It was slightly one-sided. My contribution was a story about my first car, a dark brown Mustang that my coworkers named The Armored Car because my mom’s neighbor covered the rust holes with bolted on white sheet metal. And I didn’t care.
At the end of the flight, as I gathered up my things, he said, “It was nice talking to you. Here’s my card.”
“Great! I’ll bring in my gray car sometime soon,” I said and shoved the card in with my crumpled old used boarding pass.
“You should have told him you drive a Mercedes,” my husband said when I recalled my flight. “I didn’t pay all that money just so you could tell some car guy you drive a gray car.”
“Our car is a Mercedes?”
True story, I didn’t know our car was a Mercedes, let alone a Mercedes SUV. I was at the Enterprise car rental desk and the guy was apologizing for not having available the car I had requested. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you an upgrade. What do you drive at home?”
“Um, a car. No, wait! A gray car,” I said proudly. “Oh! Oh!! Wait! I know this! It’s a Mercedes!”
“Is it an SUV? Because I’ve got a Mercedes SUV I can give you.”
“No, it’s not an SUV.”
“What??!!” my husband was beside himself when he heard this. My recounting conversations with strangers about our car was giving him heartburn. “You’re kidding, right? You didn’t know that our car is an SUV?”
“Well, it doesn’t look anything like an SUV.”
“Have you ever looked at the outside of our car?”
I thought about that. “That explains why I can’t find it in the mall parking lot, like ever.”
Also, and this is important, they changed SUVs when I wasn’t paying attention. SUVs used to look like trucks, all boxy, and didn’t you have to practically get a step-stool to climb into one? Our SUV (if it actually is one) is like a car with more headroom.
My daughter knew and cared more about her Heart Family mini-van than I ever did about any of our cars, SUVs, mini-vans and pick-up trucks. (Yes, we owned one of those, too. At least that’s what they tell me.)
The only time I picked out a car of my own by myself and without restrictions was in 2007. I wanted a Prius but when they asked me what color, I didn’t give a single hoot. “I’ll be inside the car during all of my interactions with it, so let’s talk about the interior. Will it have an FM radio?” I hadn’t noticed that cars no longer were made with those little skinny triangle “wing” windows so those in the front seat could flick their cigarette ashes outside without scarring the faces of the kids sitting in the back.
And I also didn’t realize that car bumpers aren’t chrome anymore.
“When did that happen?” We were out driving and my husband pointed out an old Pontiarola Coupe de Skymaster Imperial Something Something. “And look, it has the old chrome bumper,” he said.
“They stopped making chrome bumpers?” I said. “You mean our car doesn’t have them? What are they made of now?”
“I’m gonna drive right into this telephone pole. And then a lake if I can find one. Better open your wing.”
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