Below in the garage of this building in which I reside sits the Teenage-mobile. A 2003 silver Corolla – owning no hubcaps, doors dented, back bumper askew, scrapes and scratches, with a total of 253,080 miles to its name – well, as of today.
And that car is all mine. Hallelujah!
I have double-edged sworded feelings about driving that thing. Pride and Embarrassment. The pride has always outweighed the feeling of embarrassment. I’d say at about a 90/10 ratio. Until recently.
The Pride Part 90%: Normally, I don’t let more than a month go by without bragging to my closest friends and family about this car that I’ve made last for what seems like forever.
Hey, It’s made it through 253,080 miles. (well, as of today)
Hey, It gets 32-40 miles to the gallon.
Hey, It’s got no more car payments.
Hey, It’s got the lowest insurance payments ever.
Hey, It’s saving the environment from one more car getting dumped prematurely into another scrapyard.
How It’s made it through car seats, freshly double-digited-kids, and teenagers, I don’t know. But…
Hey, I’m still drivin’ It. Boom! Take that – Suckas!!!
The Embarrassment Part 10%: I’m usually good at alleviating my embarrassment by rationalizing away my parking and transportation decisions:
Park It furthest from a store. (Flipside: more walking-more exercise)
Don’t valet It. (Flipside: save money; more walking-more exercise)
Take the metro. (Flipside: helping the environment; more walking-more exercise)
When friends always offer to drive. (one more glass of wine for me!)
And that’s how I’ve been talking myself out of the embarrassment. It always works.
I am now beginning to meet a lot of interesting people, making new friends and dating. At 51, I’m supposed to be a Big-Girl now. I am by most regards, but isn’t part of the definition of a Big Girl in Los Angeles: Has nice car. Can travel? I feel like I want to have a banner something like a telegraph wrapped around my car reading:
RECENTLY DIVORCED Stop RECENTLY JOBLESS Stop KIDS IN COLLEGE Stop
When meeting new people, I honestly am concerned about first impressions. I know about first impressions. I, myself, admit to judgement upon first impression. It just can’t be helped. We see what we see and we make snap judgements.
This is what I might think when a man drives up in a beat up car.
You’re not an actor, are you?
Are you a drunk?
Do you live in that thing?
Will dinner be on me?
He may, actually, be better off with only a bicycle.
You ride your bike to work? Cool!
You want to meet for a date on bikes? Fun!
You can do tricks on that bike? Show me!
And, after peeling back that first impression, I bet I would find that man probably would have that same exact banner wrapped around his car, if he could, too.
So how do I make this car thing more comfortable for myself when meeting new folks? I need some sort of distraction when there is no keeping that car secret. A soundbite? A joke? A cute kitty? Drive naked?
While chewing on ideas on how to put together some grand plan, my mind wonders off to reminiscing about my younger years, and I get an idea.
Name that car!
When a group of friends and I were very young and silly – having fun – creating havoc in our neighborhoods, one of my friends called his old car Bessie. Yep, Bessie. I loved that, I recall. Endearing. Sweet. Humorous.
Bessie’s gonna take us all to the beach today!
Let’s all crawl into ole Bessie and take her for a spin!
Bessie’s taking us all out to the movies tonight!
Bessie looks lonely.
Bessie needs food.
Bessie needs shade.
Bessie is on vacation.
We all loved Bessie. I remember thinking of her with personality and my thoughts never being about her warts. This may be my perfect shtick.
Now what do I call my car?
Bessie? (in honor of) – too sentimental
Henry? (as in Henry Ford – get it?) – too cliche
Buddy – nope
Silver Spur – uh uh
Beauty – dumb
Pondering on a name for the car begins to stir up memories of what that car and I went through in the recent past:
Mommy. Remember that “they” say “all” teenagers have an accident driving during the week after getting their license. (gasp! what happened?)
Mommy. It must have been some kid who backed into the car at that party. (what party?!!)
Mommy. Don’t blame me. I never saw that dent. It must have been always there. (taking advantage of my peri-menopausal memory lapses, are ya?)
Mommy. Everyone steals the hubcaps from Silver 2003 Toyota Corollas. It’s a known fact. (yeah, right! I’ll google that)
Mommy. But I cleaned it with that cleaning pad you use to scrape out the pots and pans. I thought you’d appreciate it. Extra clean. (no words)
All of a sudden, a lightbulb moment burns bright! THE TEENAGE-MOBILE!!! I’ll call It the Teenage-mobile!
Is that your car?
Yeah…you mean the Teenage-mobile?
Where’s your car?
It’s right over there – you see, the silver Teenage-mobile!
Can you drive?
Sure… but today I have the Teenage-mobile.
Can you pick me up at the airport?
Yeah…just look out for the car with no hubcaps – the Teenage-mobile.
It’s a short quick fix to explaining away the unsightliness. Blame it on the teenagers! Brilliant!
Shortly after my shtick is established, I get a call from a friend who is in town for a couple days and wants to know if I want to meet her for a drink. She’s staying in one of those hotels buried into the secrets of Los Angeles. I agree to meet her there. For her, time is limited.
I get out my Googler and map it to:
1. Check where the hotel stands
2. Where to hide the Teenage-mobile
Hmmm. Too far. Can’t take an Uber. Too isolated. No nearest neighborhood or parking on the street. I am seeing no other option other than to valet the Teenage-mobile. I am imagining driving up to one of those roundabouts right in front of the entrance to the fancy hotel where every car sits in a queue waiting to be valeted. I can just see it now. Maserati. Mercedes. Mercedes. Range Rover. The Teenage-mobile. Range Rover. Prius. BMW.
Okay. I can do this. I know what I’m in for, and I’m not – not going just because I own and drive that Teenage-mobile. I decide to wear one of my best outfits – an outfit that shows I’m a woman, well put together. A lady of taste. I need to feel extra-confident when steppin’ out of that Teenage-mobile and into the bar of that fancy hotel. Lookin’ like it’s no big deal.
I drive down the long cobblestoned driveway toward the entrance of the hotel. I see the classic turnaround where there is no escape, no choice but to drive forward and join the queue up ahead. I lean forward over the steering wheel, squint and note up ahead Mercedes. Mercedes. Prius. Escalade. And, I think, that’s a BMW behind me. I take a deep breath. Gladly knowing it won’t be 10 minutes more before I’m holding a glass of wine inside at the bar, I suck it up and wait in line. The valets are youngsters and as I step out of the car with confidence, one high heel at a time, I puff myself up like a New York gangster. I practice in my head: “Yo! Kid! Park this car! Pronto!” “Yo! Kid! Park this car! Pronto.” “Yo! Kid! Park this car! Pronto!” As the fourth “Yo! Kid! Park this car! Pronto!” is looping in my head, out of my mouth through a flirty smile comes out “Hi, there…I’ll just be a couple hours. How much for the Teenage-mobile?” (showing it off like a showcase deal on the Price is Right) I get smiles and chuckles. They tell me the price. My tactic works. And not more than 5 minutes later, I am sitting at the bar, drinking my wine, and catching up with my friend, forgetting about all things Teenage-mobile.
Driving home only two hours later…with only $7 less in my wallet, I feel good that I have made it through…me and the Teenage-mobile. I’d even do it again. It really wasn’t that bad. I fared the hotel. Nowhere else could be worse.
Until it is…the very next day. Kinda.
The very next day, thirsty for Gatorade after a long, hard work out, I stop at the 7-11. There is only one parking spot left. Parked in that parking lot: Porsche. BMW. Lexis SUV. Mercedes. Mercedes. Prius. Not to forget the one illegally parked Mercedes over to the side. Good God! It’s the 7-11 for Christ’s sake! Not thinking twice, I park that Teenage-mobile in that one empty parking spot in between all those cars. ‘Cause I’m not – not gonna get that Gatorade. I get out of the car. Walk in. Walk out. But this time I don’t feel the need to say the word Teenage-mobile. Not once.
Ciao for now!