Me, My Cars and I
by Verena Berger
Cars are important to most people. I learned that thirty years ago when, while introducing my boyfriend, I received eye-brow-lifting nods of approval - not for him - for his car. Even my boss was impressed, "I like this young man already. He drives a Volvo."
So that's what the metallic green car was;
so that's what the "V" on the hood stood for. Volvo. All
I knew was that I didn't like the seats; they felt
either cold and slippery or hot and sticky. They were
For me a car is nothing more than a means of transportation. It gets me from a to b. As long as the engine starts when I turn the key, I'm happy. Over the years I have driven different cars but all I remember about them is their color. And their temperament.
There was the schoolbus-coloured VW van. (I remember VW because they are my and my husband's initials.) This van's "tic" was the battery light. When it came on, I had to pull over, get out, squeeze under the front of the car and wiggle a wire. This became a real problem once I was seven months' pregnant.
We traded the yellow van for a used aqua-blue station-something that stopped running whenever it felt like it. Naturally, it mostly happened on the hottest summer days while my baby and toddler exercised their vocal cords. We pushed the vehicle to a safe spot and let the car (and kids) cool off.
Five years later, a second-hand sandy-beige van replaced the aqua-blue station-something. The van was a real bargain and was supposed to be perfect for chauffeuring kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, its maintenance cost more than mine. It was notorious for its engine failure.
We matured to a two-vehicle family and I received an olive-green hand-me-down all to myself. That rust-speckled car earned me the title: "Queen-of-flat-tires" at a local tire store.
Obviously, I was ambivalent about "bonding" with cars. I liked them when I needed them and hated them when they didn't perform. I never gave a car a second thought; I had much more important worries.
Worries such as how to efficiently make my way through
the aisles of the grocery store and hopefully pick the
quickest moving line at the cash register. (I have a
busy life.) By the time I was done with my shopping I
often had forgotten where I left my means of
transportation. Pushing the full buggy, I would circle
the parking lot from the outside in, searching for my
car, hoping nobody noticed my incompetence.
One day, as I marched toward the sandy-beige van, I grabbed the key out of my purse promising my kids dinner at McDonald's, if only they would behave a few more minutes. I inserted the key, but it wouldn't turn in the lock. While the children started a fist fight around my freshly bought eggs, I wiggled the key out and tried again.
Suddenly, the window was pulled down from the inside and a friendly young woman asked, "Can I help you?"
I did what any mature mother would do: I jumped, threw the keys in the air and screamed.
My life changed drastically though, when we bought my brand-new Honda CR-V. "The perfect blend of freedom and sporty fun." My CR-V has an "In-line-4-cylinder engine" , is fully loaded with "air conditioned filtration system" , "power door and tailgate lock" and includes a "five year no-nonsense warranty." From the first day I owned it, I felt it. The bonding. I breathed in deeply the new vinyl and fabric-scent. I caressed the dashboard. I wanted to name it. I loved it. I wiped my dog's paws before allowing her to jump in; I became a regular at the car wash. I took detours driving home. Me and my car, we fit.
My husband placed two colorful stickers, reading "I am Canadian," on each side window so that I would no longer embarrass myself (and him, we live in a small town) by fondling with other people's car locks. But that was not going to be a problem anymore. I had bonded with my Honda. Or so I thought.
Last week I parked, grabbed a buggy, rushed inside the grocery store and - as always - worried, how fast I could get my shopping done. Once again I picked the wrong line up at the cash register. The customer ahead of me wanted this and that price-checked, demanded the groceries boxed and finally needed a carton of cigarettes which had to be fetched from the other side of the store.
Finally done, I hurriedly pushed my full shopping cart toward the Honda CR-V. I took the remote control key out of my jacket pocket and pointed to the back door. Nothing happened. 'Could the battery be empty already?', I wondered.
"Just a minute," I heard someone say. "I'll open my car and you can fill it with your groceries."
Dumbfounded I looked at a middle-aged man who laughed, "That is my car."
After a moment he added, "Your silver-grey Honda is probably the one over there, the one with the stickers on the windows."
"Thank you," I mumbled, turned my beet-red face and my buggy around and marched in the opposite direction.
I think my next car should be Barbie-pink.
About the Author:
Verena Berger lives and writes in Williams Lake, the heart of British Columbia, Canada. When she is not struggling with cars, traffic, kids or dogs, she is probably shoveling snow or counting the days until it snows again.