Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My cadillac conversion

Yawning, I stepped on the accelerator, hit my turn signal, passed the annoying white F-150 with the oblivious driver on my left, popped into the fast lane, and passed the smoke-yellow Cadillac with the peeling tint windows and the dangling driver-side mirror on my right. Finally out of that clump of stupidity, I sped off toward work and suddenly thought, When did this become a normal part of my life?

My old friends know that I don't drive. I grew up in downtown Toronto. I know the transit like the back of my hand. I have a very nice Brody mountain bike. I have at least two taxi cab telephone numbers memorized. And, after all, I rent, and parking spaces are expensive.

Evening driver's ed lessons were offered through my High School, before I dropped out. There was a small fee, quite a manageable amount, but I lived with my father, who had neither a car nor a license. I knew I wouldn't be using a license if I got one. And if I ever actually left Toronto, I'd only be moving to New York, or London, or perhaps Vancouver. City people don't leave the city. That's ridiculous. Small town people move to the city, and sometimes they don't like it and they leave again. City people are city people forever. What did I need a driver's license for?

Then I made friends with a military guy in the U.S. He knew cars. He apparently knew everything there was to know about cars. He actually owned more than one car! I'd shake my head and smile. What a quirky, funny interest to have. How frivolous. How exotic.

In January 2000, this same friend drove his Mustang convertible up to Toronto to fetch me for our third date. I tucked my trusty VCR, blue-glass wine glasses, and oriental rug into the small back seat, and put my Brody on a rack on the back. We drove South through snow. Partway to our destination, I helped replace a thermostat. And he did something with a whole lot of pepper. We arrived at what was instantly, patently my new home, and I unloaded my bicycle and started my new adventure.

And learned, very quickly, that one cannot live in middle Georgia without a car.

I fought this reality, I really did. I love my bike. And I was scared of driving. In the end, though, I wanted that driver's license as a kind of declaration. I've moved. I'm not going back.

Now I am a driver. And about 50 pounds overweight, because like everybody else here, I drive from point A to point B, and "exercise" is that effort of getting out of the car... and getting back in again. I miss the city more and more these days, the walking, the hailing of cabs, the way my sister and I could stand in the Subway without holding onto anything, and know which side's doors would open at any given station on the map. I miss riding my bike.

But I can't go back, you see. Because I also love my car!


Vehicle profile:

Name: Rocinante

Specs: 1994 Honda del Sol Si, manual, red, with ABS, CC, A/C, some kind of exhaust modification so it buzzes rather than growls, and a truly crappy little stereo (but no antenna)

Purchase date: August 2005

Repairs: In March 2006, the clutch self-destructed while I was on my way to work. In May 2006, we took the car back off the jack stands and I drove it with a new clutch. Very nice! Three days later, on my way home, the brakes failed. A week after that, Luther installed a new brake master cylinder. The next day, I drove to work and back again, and the car was better than ever (well, except for the CC, A/C, and stereo, but whatever). Really great brakes, really great shifting, all beautiful. I took the top off. Life was good. The day after that, we decided to take this little hotrod to the base for some shopping, and it wouldn't crank. Windows go up and down, fuel pump makes that fuel pump sound... but I can't actually drive the car.

For some reason, I still love my Rocinante. Go figure.

1 comment:

bekbek said...

For those that are curious... Car runs good now. Vrooom!

Now if I can just stop forgetting to turn the headlights off when I park at work in the morning...