I drive a “cool” car. I know this for a fact because the first day that I drove it to school one of my students said, “Hey, Mrs. M! Cool car!” I know this because countless ticket agents, store clerks, station attendants, drive-thru cashiers, and car wash operators have said, “Hey, cool car!” I enjoy their approval, but to be fair, I must admit that the cool car was my husband’s idea. When the odometer on my 2001 Mustang started edging ever closer to 100,000 miles I envisioned replacing it with a small pickup that would transport me to work AND handle my weekend gardening chores. My husband’s Thunderbird had found a home with our son and I assumed he would now drive the Mustang and thus maintain his “car dreams”. Have I mentioned that I’m married to a car fanatic? Well, only a small portion of my “assumption” was correct. My husband is now driving the 2001. But through a series of discussions and events worthy of another blog, I now drive a dark blue 2005 Mustang. We are a two-Mustang family and my husband is a very happy car fanatic.
Even so, we were dumbfounded by the attention our car elicited during our recent road trip to Vermont. I suppose because the East gets so much snow its residents tend to drive more sensible, practical vehicles. (Our daughter owns an Aztec and a Subaru, but we love her anyway.) We saw lots of vans, SUVs, pickups, and station wagons. We even saw a few other “cool cars”. However, our car was an invariable draw for the curious. When we returned to it after an hour of mall shopping in Buffalo, NY we were amused, but not surprised, to find a couple peeking in the windows. The same scene was repeated again and again. I once returned to the car to find a young boy looking inside. When he saw me he yelled to his mom in the van next to him, “It’s hers, Mom, it’s hers!”
The truth is it’s mine AND my husband’s AND the bank’s, but I do enjoy driving it. I love the secure feeling of driving a new car. I know any car can have mechanical problems. Any car can be involved in an accident. I hit a deer a couple of years ago, and believe me, deer don’t care what kind of car you are driving! However, after years of driving old, unreliable cars it’s nice to drive a new one. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stranded by “car problems” of one sort or another. I’m not very mechanical and my usual solution is to be rescued. Of course I do remember my younger, more aggressive days and going to a job interview in my old Pontiac. It had a muffler that was attached to the body by a piece of baling wire and, yes, it fell off when I was about three miles from the interview site. I pulled over, crawled underneath the car, reattached the muffler, dusted myself off and continued on my way. Thank goodness I was wearing a black and white hound’s-tooth print suit that didn’t show a lot of dirt. (Give me a break- it was the sixties!) And many people in our area still remember the old station wagon I drove that had plastic sheeting taped over a broken window. I drove that thing for years!
There are, of course, drawbacks to driving a cool car. I have to watch my speed because my car is going to be pretty obvious if I’m racing down the highway at 85mph. (My son says he doesn’t believe I’ve ever driven that fast.) I also have to be aware that right now I must have the ONLY dark blue 2005 in our area. Otherwise students wouldn’t say things like “Saw your car at Braum’s, Mrs. M.” or “Were you at WalMart last night?” and be so-o-o right!
Driving a cool car has also made me question some very basic principles. After all, it’s our fascination with cars that drives a lot of the American economy, and the American culture. It’s our love of cars that makes us choose one over the other. Why don’t I drive a “plain white-bread” sedan? Am I trying to make some statement, or just having a little fun? Is the car an expression of me, or am I trying to be a manifestation of it and its image? I like my car. I’ve come to the conclusion that driving it has changed some of my actions and ideas. But in the end it’s just a car. I could honestly trade it in tomorrow for that little pickup, or the white sedan, and still be me. There have been lots of cars in my past. There will undoubtedly be other cars in my future. I don’t ever want what I drive to change who I am. That’s why there is always gardening equipment in the trunk of my cool car. That’s why I haul bags of dirt in it. That’s why I listen to old Dolly Parton songs as I drive to work. That’s why I still drive the speed limit…most of the time. It’s just a car. And even though it’s a cool car, I know I don’t have to be a cool driver. I can just be me.