I want a car.
I’d prefer a Smart Car, but a Fiat will do.
It’s not intelligent. It’s not rational. But, like my dog who has taken to staring at the treats at the top of the refrigerator, wishing she can will those unreachable nuggets from their great height to the floor, I, too, wish for the unwishable. I wish for all those undated, united states to be at my beck and call.
Owning a car in New York is a terrible idea. First, there’s the parking situation. There’s insurance. There are scrapes and dings and angry livery car drivers who push their way past you on a narrow street. There’s gas to buy and radiators to care for. And dirty looks from pedestrians like me.
It’s irrational, at best, wanting a car so I can more easily date in Delaware.
It’s beyond ridiculous. It’s silly. Stupid. Impulsive.
It’s a Bad Idea.
But Smart Cars are really cute.
And Bad Ideas are sometimes Good Ideas in disguise.
I’ve lived a Very Interesting Life pursuing Very Bad Ideas.
So, a bad idea is not a deterrent.
“I want a car,” I tell Paul. “I want a Smart Car.” We’re sitting in his East Village art gallery. My dog is chewing her bone. He’s trying to sell me a painting.
“Hold on,” he says. He disappears outside and comes back in with his friend, who hands me a loaf of bread.
“Thank you,” I say about the loaf of bread.
“I found you a car,” Paul announces.
For five hundred dollars I can own a 1989 Oldsmobile with worn in bucket seats and a steering wheel rubbed smooth by the loving palms of the car’s single driver. There’s a Harley Davidson sticker on the side window. Dings, scratches, dents. This car’s been around.
“It just keeps going and going,” the owner tells me.
I feel a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. The bread weighs heavy in my palms. This might be the mother of all bad ideas staring me in my face, but not a single cell in my body screams “no.”
“Let me think about it,” I say. If I had five hundred dollars in my pocket, that car would be mine right now. I am giddy at the idea of trying to parallel park this boat.
Later, at work, I tell Ricky I’m buying a car. “A 1989 Oldsmobile. It’s not quite a Smart Car, but it’ll get me to Maine.”
“Are you sure?” he asks. “As your backstage mother, I have to ask. Old cars.”
“Its a must for my blog,” I answer.
“Just think about it.”
“I’m thinking of buying a car,” I tell Kelly.
“Oh,” she says, tilting her head to one side. She’s a pro at appearing interested, even when she’s not. “You’re finally getting your Smart Car?”
“No! It’s a 1989 Oldsmobile. It’s huge. So I can drive to Virginia for a date.”
“Oh. My boyfriend had an old car. It didn’t do so well.”
“If I get only two trips out of it, it’ll pay for itself.”
“And when it dies?”
“I’ll donate it.”
“Shame you can’t just take the plates off when you’re done.”
“Should I get a 1989 Oldsmobile? Five hundred dollars,” I ask Davis. “I think it could make the five hour drive to New Hampshire.”
He shrugs. “Depends if you mind being stranded five hours away.”
“It’ll make a good story,” I offer.
Like the time I had to drive my 1977 Buick Century backwards down the highway and off the ramp to the repair shop because the transmission kicked out. Or the day I had to walk to work in my pajamas because I had locked myself out of my apartment on a Saturday morning. Or the day my car died on the way to meet the love of my life. We never got together and I never saw him again.
“Sometimes making stories isn’t as much fun as telling stories,” he says. “Especially when it’s cold outside and you’re stuck on the side of the road.”
When my mother’s station wagon died, it was also the death of my stand-up bass career. One year my dad bought the biggest boat of a used car, lime green, that floated down the street. I was so embarrassed that I slid the passenger car seat back and down so no one could see my face above the dashboard. My sister’s little white car had Grateful Dead decals that made me feel so cool, even though I never listened to the Grateful Dead, and the red Toyota I inherited from my mother when I was in college was a sweet, boxy ride until my sister took it and I moved to California and started riding bikes.
The brakes kicked out on the first bike I bought from the Salvation army and I’d stop it by running it into walls.
Maybe I’m better off walking.
Paul emails me a couple of days later.
“Do you still want the car,” he asks.
“I don’t think so,” I write back.
I want a Smart Car.