Sometimes we stand in the parking lot, hit the unlock button on our key fob, and head toward the car whose headlights blink.
We didn’t intend to buy a white car but my wife wanted leather seats and this one had them. I wanted a car that wouldn’t break down as often as my old SAAB. My brother, a fan of vehicles made by this company (notice how I’m avoiding product promotion?), said he hasn’t had any in several years.
We didn’t want the gadget that yells at you if you wander out of your traffic lane. My wife didn’t want a key fob that could start the engine from a distance, or via our cell phones. She liked turning a key.
We thought we’d buy a station wagon, but the engine configuration of the version on the lot had been judged by Consumer Reports to be under powered. The SUV had a different, more capable engine. The difference in price was almost insignificant.
I sat at a traffic light and watched so many white cars go by. Some were SUV’s. Some were small sedans and crossovers. Some were old, some new. They seemed outnumbered by the miscellaneous silvery grays. After a while, the differences among the cars blurred. I felt as I did when I watched a long freight train at a grade crossing: after a while, the novel, colorful, practical, clickety clackedness of the train cars changed into a thing in my path that temporary blocked my way.
Then the train left. I watched the gate rise and I said to the cars in front of me: “Go.”
We’ve owned the car for more than a year but we still have difficulty finding it in a crowded parking lot. The exterior of this car seems to have been a knock-off of another company’s. I don’t fault that: if you look closely at popular culture, you’ll find the production of successful knock-offs is far more imaginative than the creation of the boldly original. You want your product to appeal to a specific demographic, so you include what has appealed to that demographic previously, with something extra, some tiny characteristic that says this is…something else.
I’m sensitive to hues and shades now because most rooms in our house, except the one in which I write, are about to acquire new paint. My wife has agonized over the colors. I agonized over the relative discomfort that such a change may bring. Today we took the television screen off the living room wall and packed away some books and so many other things that reside on, or near walls. For a week, people will come in and, during the day, rain or shine, will apply differing colors.
The strategy of color varies in a house. Usually, you want to feel it more than see it. You want it to “go” with whatever you put in, especially if you change your mind about an old thing, and bring in something new.
It’s been less than a century since people throughout the world decided they wanted cars, and set about changing the landscape of the planet to accommodate them. Cultures shifted to embrace, and condemn the automobile. Soon we may have cars that drive themselves, and temporary lease situations so that your car won’t slumber faithfully in the driveway in front of your house when you aren’t using it. If you need a car, you summon one, and it takes you where you want to go.
I’m sure there will still be people who want to drive themselves, and own vehicles outright. Like the cowboys on horseback, they will seem to the rest of us a romantic ideal of freedom on a dangerously beautiful landscape.
Until the gate rises, and we go.