Sunday, June 25, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Last night, after settling in to watch Miss Marple sip tea and catch killers on PBS, I heard the sound of an explosion from the general direction of the parking lot of our apartment complex. Several seconds later, my phone beeped with a text message from my husband:

"Going for a quick ride!"

I suddenly remembered that several hours earlier my brother-in-law had picked up his '69 Camaro from the shop. The now-in-pristine-condition muscle car of men's dreams had been sitting mere yards from my husband all evening. I was amazed he'd resisted its siren song for as long as he had. Seconds away sat the car in which I'd lost my hearing, gotten light-headed from fuel fumes, and seen my very life flash before my eyes the last (and only) time I'd been coaxed into going for a ride in it.

The explosion from the parking lot merely indicated that the '69 Camaro was back in business.

Steve told me that when his brother pulled into the parking lot this afternoon, a man came out of his apartment and said:

"I wanted to see what sweet thing was making all that noise."

Wherever it's driven, men pay tribute to the Camaro. It even sets off other cars' alarms.

Before I dated my husband, I was one of those girls who didn't know anything about cars. Blissfully unaware, I was happy as long as my car got me where I wanted to go and didn't fall apart in the process. That said, my first car may have been possessed by the devil. The heater turned off and on of its own accord, and the tape deck once shot a tape out with such force that it landed in the back seat. Whenever I gave my friends a ride, they would stroke the dashboard and say sweet things to the car in an attempt to keep it from killing us like that car in the Stephen King novel.

My second car was cherry red, and came with me to grad school. I'll always remember the joy I felt when first I saw it in the driveway, and my parents told me it was a new addition to our car family. It had automatic seatbelts that made a sort of growling, groaning noise as they slid into place. One of my classmates named it "Frankencar." As in: "Grrr! Frankencar no like go up hill!" and "Frankencar is ANGRY!"
I cried when it was time to say goodbye to Frankencar. We'd been through a lot together.

There are now at least two Camaros in our parking lot: my brother-in-law's '69, and my husband's '96. On my first (blind) date with Steve, I waited for him outside my apartment, and as I watched him pull up to the curb in his red Camaro (the sun glinting off the pristine, perfect paint) I thought:

"Oh, puh-leeeeze. Who does this guy think he is?"

Sitting in the tan leather seat on the way to the restaurant, I doubted there'd be a second date. I mean, he'd seemed really nice on the phone and everything, but the car was a little much for a liberal Mormon actress like me.

Steve got a parking ticket that day, and we were married less than a year later.

When we were engaged, he let me borrow the Camaro. Accustomed to compact cars, I felt like I was driving a long, narrow tank. I was terrified that I might wreck or scratch it, even though he told me that it wouldn't matter and not to worry. When I drove it to the theatre, my actor friends surrounded the car, ooooing and ahhhhing. Steve laughed when I told him, and said:

"They have no idea what a redneck car it really is."

"You've got to be kidding me!" I said to him. "Your beautiful Camaro?"

Turns out, I was still one of those girls who doesn't know anything about cars.

Nowadays, things are a little different. I can tell you a thing or two about gas mileage and mufflers. I can tell you that Formula One racing is like a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Nascar is two-for-one beer night at Hooters. I can even tell you the actual name of the car I want:

(A Mini Cooper! It's so cute!)

My brother-in-law has already tried to talk me into another ride in the '69 Camaro, but I think I'll content myself with listening to Steve recount their adventures. And as I sit next to him on the couch, breathing in the fumes from their late-night ride, I'll remember my first glimpse of that shiny red Camaro, and how I had no idea that my future was driving up to meet me in a redneck car.


Layt said...

Just to back you up Em, here are pictures of the car and the engine. I'm posting these strictly out of journalistic integrity, I swear.

(Tip: right click these and open in a new window to get back to the comments quickly.)

Jannah said...

Oh my dear Em, what have I gotten you into? I should have known after my first exposure to these brothers was at a car show where both good boys were oblivious to the busty car wenches (displaying their own upgraded features) but were seen to gasp and drool at what I remember to be foreign and large engined autos.

AzĂșcar said...

I must drive the '69 Camaro

Compulsion is an ugly thing.

Emmie said...

Dearest Jannah,
Do not blame yourself. You may have introduced us, but I'm the one who continued to date him after I saw the Camaro.

Come to our parking lot. The '69 wants to meet you.

layt said...

Look. Don't touch.

Emmie said...

That admonition should also be applied to car show booth babes.