The Metal in Our Genes

intrepidIn my opinion, vehicles are a terrible investment. They’re expensive to purchase and maintain, drain the planet of resources, and spit out waste. Also, if you have leather seats, they can get hot in the summer and burn you in the nether regions. But just as it is with the excess and commercialism of holiday gift-giving, there’s humankind’s tendency to not only get nostalgic and attach emotion to inanimate objects, but the weird anthropomorphic rituals we bestow upon our vehicles. Such as naming them Sally or Betsy or Glenn Close. While I can’t imagine taking it quite to that level, I’ve had a few vehicles that I became… accustomed to.

One in particular that stands out is the 1995 Dodge Intrepid that got me to Oregon while pulling an overweight trailer from Florida. Even without the trailer, it was terrible with gas, the AC barely worked, the radio didn’t work at all – yes, no music from Florida to Oregon – and it steered like one of the teacups at Disneyland. The front seat was uncomfortably the size of a bathtub, and I was pulled over no less than three times by Orlando’s finest because, and I quote, “The computer says this car is supposed to be orange…” a mystery I never solved.

Despite the fact that the only excitement on the trip was near Jacksonville when my dad set his pants on fire with a lit cigarette and put it out with a refreshing Mountain Dew, I can still look back fondly as long as I scrub Texas, northern Florida, and the Grapevine Mountains from my memory. The entire time we were just waiting for this damn car to break down, but it never did. We had to climb everything over a 4° grade at about 15 miles an hour to avoid overheating, but hey, life presents these little challenges all the time, does it not? Same as going back down the other side of the mountain and realizing that your brakes had narcolepsy. All in good fun.

I kept the car for about a year after rediscovering my Oregonian roots, but eventually sold it to a family member for about $200 – and it was barely worth that – for something that had less than 4 billion miles on it. And no offense to the new ride, mainly because if it hears me it’ll break down out of spite – in fact, upon editing this piece, it has since broken down-but it’s just not the same.

Either way, people are attached to their cars, or even the lack thereof. It’s part of our cultural DNA.

by Johnny Beaver