A Current Setting

When I was ten the Beatles were really big. “Drive My Car” was a catchy song on their Rubber Soul album. It’s playing in my head as I write this piece.  Beep beep’m beep beep yeah. 

The thing is I never wanted a car.  I was green way back when. 

In a supposedly personality determining quiz in a day long motivational type class when I worked at IBM in the 1980s question one was, “what is your favorite make of car?”

My answer was, “none, I don’t have one”.  This response did not make the rest of the exercise meaningful.  Apparently you were what you drove.  What did that make me — some kind of existentialist?

Now we have a car that we bought new in 1998.  It has over two hundred thousand miles on it.  I do not live in this car, not yet.  When I am in it I am most of the time driving.  I curse when two lanes merge to one and the drivers of other cars cut me off, for example.  But, that is driving.  My self-diagnosed road rage is a mild case and I strive to overcome it, to heal myself.  Having a car I now believe is somewhat of a necessity as we made a poor choice I suppose of the location of our house, as there is no real bus service.

The exterior of the car is gold.  I gave a ride to Port Washington to one of my village polling place co-workers.  Port Washington is the county seat of Ozaukee County.  It was a mandatory session on election processes and state laws.  We car-pooled.  She asked if we could stop at the new Costco on the way back.  We did.  I bought a big box of onion rings for my wife.  Costco takes only cash or check and I just had a few bucks.  My passenger corrected me on the color of the car as a way of saying why she did not recognize it at our designated meeting place, an upscale mini-mart gas station.  The car is champagne colored I learned. 

I like the inside of the 1998 Toyota Camry.  It is comfortable, the colors muted, the air bag warning on the sun visors is in English and French.  “Danger de MORT ou de BLESSURE GRAVE” doesn’t that sound horrible?  So far we have been okay.  I avoid driving the car in Quebec.

When my wife is shopping at a Michaels or her favorite thrift store in Plymouth, Wisconsin, I stay in the car and read or turn on the radio and tune around.  This is when the car is its most comfortable.  The windows down, weather permitting, a good book, a thoughtful article, these beat out AM radio’s senseless chatter, always.  But sometimes you run across a nice clear FM stereo station. John and Paul are together again singing, “baby you can drive my car, yes I’m gonna be a star, beep beep’m beep beep yeah. 

[Written for my “Fiction: Form and Function”class at UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education, July 2009.]