I have bought an Old Man’s Car. Not my father’s car you understand, but the sort of car an old man would drive. The car is a big square econo-box and the first one I have ever owned that didn’t have four, five or six on the floor…a stick shift, that is.
A stick shift is a wonderful feature. I have clung for fifty years to the notion that unless you have a stick shift you are SOL (Surely Out of Luck) if you ever have to rock the car out of a snow drift. I haven’t seen a snow drift since I moved here some thirty-odd years ago but it’s best to be prepared.
My new car may not have a stick shift but it does have a lot of other wonderful features. It has electric door locks. You have only to press a button and slam the door to lock yourself out of your car. That was impossible with my last car, which had door locks that were so cranky it was virtually impossible to lock them at all.
Sadly, An Old Man’s Car has all the modern conveniences except a tape deck. The first two days I owned the car I searched the dashboard for it and finally had to go back to the dealer. I was a confused old guy who couldn’t find his own deck.
“Okay, I give up. Where have you boys hidden the tape deck?"
“There isn’t one, sir. You have a six speaker surround sound system driven by whatever you choose to slip in this little slot. It’s called a CD player.”
Oh, that. It looked like the little slot on vending machines you stick paper dollars into. It seemed odd, because I didn’t think the car would dispense cans of cold beverage, but then you never know.
The dealer helped me get my five dollar bill out of the little slot. Doesn’t serve cold soda and it doesn’t make change, either. A double disappointment.
The absence of a clutch pedal (you used to have to press down on one of these with your left foot to perform an action called ‘shifting the gears’) meant that I was pointlessly slamming my foot into the firewall for the first week I drove my new car.
I say I ‘drove’ the car but that isn’t quite right. It doesn’t describe what my new car feels like. Well, the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t “feel” like much of anything at all. The car is so comfy that you feel pretty much disconnected from it.
Oh, sure, you’re sitting behind the wheel and steering but you don’t feel like you’re doing anything. It’s more like playing a video game: Granddad Takes A Drive.
My old car was as hard sprung as a rock and it kept you intimately aware of the condition of the road. My new car feels like a slice of white bread mounted on four marshmallows rolling on a sea of molasses. And without a stick shift the car is making decisions for you that you used to make for yourself. This was called 'driving.’
I didn’t trade in my old car, the sleek, low, sporty, transverse-engined, spoiler equipped, bucket-seated wonder. I knew I could do much better than the pitiful sum I was offered by the dealer if I sold it myself.
What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t want to sell it at all until I put an ad in the paper.
“For Sale: Belch-fire Six with 300 thousand miles, two speakers, AM radio. Asking 18 thousand dollars. Firm” The ad didn’t work so I re-wrote it.
“Nice car for sale by an old guy who can no longer get in it. Two doors, no room in back seat for elderly relatives unless they have lost both legs at the knees. Asking 18K or best offer.”
The last ad worked: “Help! I must pay for new car. Please buy my old one.”
There is a moral here somewhere: Things change, and it is the wisdom of aging to get used to that. I have adjusted to my new car…affectionately dubbed Old Mr. Comfort…as I will eventually adjust to not driving at night, not driving at all, and loving my hi-tech walker.
If you see me on the road, wave (with all the fingers of your hand, please.) I’ll be the old guy driving 25 in the left lane.