I often wonder what it is about men that makes them so attached to their cars. I swear, there are some men who, if a police officer came to the door and said, “Your wife just accidentally drove your car over a cliff,” their response would be, “Ohmigod! Is my car okay?!”
These are the same men who think nothing of shelling out thousands of dollars to make their cars look beautiful, yet would make their wives get a second job if they wanted to buy a new dress for a party. A few years ago, I even saw a news item on TV about this man who was so in love with his car, he actually held a wedding ceremony and married it! The news footage showed the guy kissing the hood of the car and hugging it.
You might be wondering what got me started on this “some men love their cars way too much” kick today. Well, it all began this afternoon when I happened to see a vintage Corvette zooming down the highway. The moment I set eyes on it, I was transported back to the year 1968 - the year I first learned just how deeply a man can love his car.
It began on a Thursday night in downtown Manchester, which, in 1968, was THE place for everyone under the age of 20 to hang out with their friends. You might say Elm Street back then was like a giant shopping mall - only completely outdoors.
A couple Thursday nights in a row before that night, my friend Alice and I had talked to these two cute guys, Bob and Norm, from Central High (we were from their rival, West High). Finally, on this particular Thursday night, as Alice and I stood waiting at Thom McCan’s (one of the main downtown bus-stops back then) for our bus to come, Norm and Bob offered to give us a ride home.
Alice, being much more daring than I was, immediately said yes. I followed her and the guys to what I thought was their car. As Alice and Bob climbed into the front seat, and I started to climb into the back, Norm stopped me.
“I brought my own car,” he said. Then, smiling proudly, added, “It’s a '56 Corvette convertible in mint condition.”
The expression on my face remained unchanged. I didn’t know the difference between a Corvette and a Winnebago, nor did I have any desire to learn. All that concerned me at that moment was that Bob and Alice were zooming away, leaving me alone with Norm. I was ready to dart back to the bus stop.
When Norm pointed out his car to me, however, I nearly laughed. It was so small! And the convertible top was down, which made it look even smaller. The car barely came up to my knees, it was so low to the ground. And, I thought, with a small sense of relief, if Norm tried to get grabby (though heaven only knows where he’d find the room to make a move in a car that small) I could climb out of it as easily as climbing out of a bathtub.
Norm looked disturbed when he noticed how unimpressed I was. “Don’t you like my car?” he asked. “Everyone LOVES it! You should see people stare at me and point when I drive around in it! It was really expensive, but believe me, it was worth every penny.”
“Expensive?” I repeated. “It’s so small, it looks as if it should have tricycle pedals on the floor - you know, like one of those kiddie cars for toddlers?"
Believe me, his expression told me I wasn’t earning any brownie points.
I soon learned just how important Norm’s car was to him. During the ride home, I wasn’t allowed to wear my shoes in the car, because they might dirty his carpet. I wasn’t allowed to touch the dashboard because it would leave fingerprints. And he nearly drove into a tree when I took a piece of gum out of my purse.
"There is no eating allowed in my car!" he told me.
"But it's not food," I said. "It's gum!"
"Have you ever tried to remove a wad of gum from upholstery? It's a nightmare!"
I wanted to ask him if he thought I chewed gum like a cow chewing its cud, and would allow the gum to fall out of my mouth and land on his upholstery, but I kept silent and put the gum back into my purse
Despite Norm’s obsession with his car, he seemed like an okay guy, so I accepted a date with him for that Saturday night.
As it turned out, he arrived 45 minutes late because he’d spent all day washing and waxing his car, and hadn’t noticed the time. After a nice dinner at a fairly expensive restaurant, we “cruised” up and down Elm Street for the next two hours so (according to Norm) all the guys could turn green with envy when they saw him in his freshly polished Corvette.
All that riding around with the car’s top down not only chilled me to the bone, it made my hair, which I had spent a good deal of time styling for my big date, look as if it had been combed with a pitchfork.
When Norm finally took me home that night, I got out of the Corvette and slammed the car door a little too hard.
“What are you doing?!” he shouted, clutching his chest. “Do you want the door to fall off? Be gentle with her!”
“Her?” I repeated.
“All cars are female!” he said. “You can tell just by looking at the shape of their headlights!”
That convinced me. The guy was a bona-fide lunatic.
Still, glutton for punishment that I was, I accepted another date with him to go to Canobie Lake Park. An hour before he was supposed to pick me up, he called.
“I can’t make it tonight,” he said, sounding frantic. “I just found a scratch on my car! It must have happened when I stopped at the supermarket on the way home.”
I tried to sound sympathetic. “That's terrible, " I said, imagining a foot-long chainsaw type of gash across the door of his car. "How big is the scratch?”
“Three-quarters of an inch!” he said in a tone that normally would be reserved to describe a head-on collision.
“But the car is still running fine, isn’t it?” I pointed out. “And a little scratch never hurt anything. There’s no reason why we still can’t go to Canobie Lake.”
“Are you serious?” he cried. “How on earth can you possibly expect me to have a good time when I’m so upset about the damage that was done to my poor baby? And when it comes to Corvettes, NO scratch is little! I am literally sick to my stomach over this! I'll talk to you later. My baby needs me right now."
Now that I think about it, I should have paid closer attention to that news report about the guy who married his car. I have this sneaking suspicion his name might have been Norm.
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