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Twilight of the gearhead?

August 2, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
I love cars, have all my life, but ...

Driving was fun all the time when I was 16. The power of the (smog-emasculated) V-8 in my dad’s Buick, going places I wanted to be, figuring out just how quick I could get between curves, FM radio cranking some Frampton or Springsteen. Life was good.

It got to be less fun during the ensuing 34 years as the increase of idiots behind the wheel of other cars seems to have increased logarithmically.

I remember all kinds of great moments driving or as a passenger that stand out. There was riding in the 1969 Satellite while my brother was moving to Wichita when I was 13 or 14, listening over and over and over again to Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver,” which was a hit at that point. Oh, and there was news of the swine flu and Daniel Schorr’s troubles with the government for being a great reporter. And a night we had to spend in Missouri waiting for the snow to clear.

Or heading across Missouri in the predawn light in the 2000 Neon, alone, nothing but me and a Jimmy Buffett compendium in the CD player.

Or any drive in the evening with Norman Thunderbaum, the 1996 T-Bird, sunroof open, V-8 roaring, perhaps some Golden Earring on the stereo. I had one of those moments a few weeks ago, driving home from work, sunroof open on Enrico the Cruiser when a live version of “Stairway to Heaven” came cranking out of Pandora, linked ot my car sound system from my phone, through a Bluetooth box on the sunvisor. Surreal good audio that made me think I was 18 and in the Buick again.

But the fun just from being in the car happens less and less now.

Which brings me to last Saturday. The Boss had dislocated her shoulder and broke her ankle in a fall on the last daytrip of our summer 2013 vacation. She was doing 90 percent of the vacation driving this year, and I was happy to have given her the duties.

We were a hundred miles from home. She got patched together in an emergency room, set up in the back of her Honda Civic and I had to drive home. At night. In the rain. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike and through Pittsburgh.

It didn’t help that the wipers on Mr. Sulu are worn out. I hate to say this, but I am not really sure how to change them. They appear to have absolutely no mounting mechanism on them. Another auto duty relegated to someone else. Sigh.

I won’t forget last Saturday’s drive. But it’s not because I enjoyed it in any way. I hate driving my wife’s car because I am afraid of her, even in her injured state. She has these weird other-worldly bonds that form with her cars, and this one, being her first new one in a generation (really, since the kids who are in their 20s were tiny, no exaggeration), the bond is strong.

Then, there’s the blindness in the rain at night thing and the nuts in other cars thing and the fear a bump would make my wife hurt more than she already was thing.

It's the first trip I can think of that is burned into my memory on the wrong side of the joy file.

Yet, in retrospect, the daily commute actually is just as straining to me most of the time, only thankfully without an injured wife in the back seat. I’m not sure when the fun of driving became outpaced by the not-fun of driving, but clearly, fun is much fewer and further between than it was at 16. I’m not sure it’s really the fault of cars and other drivers, or just me losing the joy of it.

A sorry admission for a gearhead, eh?


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