When purchasing a car, I emphasize one feature, difficult to judge when the shiny vehicle is on its best behavior.
Will this car like me?
Some have detested me the moment I sat behind the wheel, e.g., my driver’s education car. Like my teacher, Mr. Doom, the brand-new Cutlass hated all four of us women drivers.
My fellow driver, Linda, paid it back by sideswiping a telephone pole. We learned about police procedure, an educational experience that would serve me well in future, um … situations.
I practiced frequently, using my parents’ dinosaur-sized station wagon. Long before email, that car notified our neighborhood and took bets whether I’d hit something.
When I backed the behemoth, it aimed straight for our neighbor’s driveway. I usually missed her car. But not her roses.
Eventually, I passed driver’s ed, but the DMV examiner’s car didn’t like me. I flunked.
My second attempt, I passed! Neither the DMV car nor the examiner wanted to see me again.
After a few accidents (Not my fault, really!), I experienced a reprieve from mean cars. During college, I was too poor to own one.
Until our honeymoon, when we borrowed a car that died only on left turns.
Even the first car we owned, a deceptively cute, green Opel, hated me. It emitted puffs of smoke when I forgot to take off the parking brake. The Opel delighted in springing leaks in unfindable places.
A later car, my Pontiac, initially seemed reliable. However, it nearly exploded when I drove to a neighboring city to rescue my sister. Her car hated her, too.
Looking back on my ownership history, I should have blamed my mother, who also attracted nasty cars. One barge-sized LTD ground out weird noises as we ascended Oregon’s Strawberry Mountain. I insinuated the car might be disintegrating.
She shrugged. “Oh, honey, that’s just the transmission.”
Mom let the cars know who was boss. Despite hostile vehicles — and, occasionally, police officers — she lived to be 84.
Some insist my continuing problems aren’t the car’s, but mine. They predict as I grow older, cars will like me even less.
Modern technology, though, has created self-driven cars, a solution my children may embrace on my behalf. However, having set up safe routes in my car, they probably won’t teach me how to program it.
They underestimate their mother.
I simply will consult a five-year-old great-grandchild: “Honey, here’s a Jolly Rancher and $1,000” — hey, inflation will hit bribery, too — “if you’ll just program this car to take me to Hawaii.”
My self-driven machine may not like me.
But that newly rich little kindergartner will.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ever own a lemon?