Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Four wheels. Four doors. How are you supposed to tell them all apart?

There are people who very much identify with their cars. I am not among them.

I have a very basic silver Civic, the same one I’ve had for 10 years. And I swear to you, I will still occasionally try to open the wrong car. And then I notice that it doesn’t have a baby seat in the back.

Some of it, I think, is that I am just so in my head so much of the time. But candidly, cars just don’t interest me. There are so many other things to pay attention to in the world.

When I was dating, this car obliviousness worked against the men who try to impress you with their cars. I mean, if they had a car they were obviously proud of, I’d be all complimentary. And features like butt warmers impress me no end.

But if we were walking back to their car and there was a similar one of the same color parked nearby, I’d be just as likely to head for that one as theirs. It would immediately become clear I had no idea.

What? There are a lot of black and silver cars in this world.

You’d think I’d pay more attention.

The summer after ninth grade, we were back in the US, and in Virginia for a couple weeks. We were staying with one of our old neighbors.

Betty and I had gone out to run errands, and she’d needed to stop at the drug store – the same drug store where we bought our tremendous quantities of toilet paper – and I was hanging out in the rented car waiting for her. I was just kicking back looking out the window when I recognized an old friend of mine from junior high.

I got out and ran over to her. We chatted. And then I headed back to the car.

So I was sitting there, seat back reclined, feet up on the dashboard, enjoying the breeze from the open windows, when a very cute teenage guy got in the driver’s seat.

This shocked me into bolt uprightness. “What are you doing?”

I was all kinds of indignant. Even though he was really cute. Honestly! Who did he think he was?

He replied, “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for my mom!”

“But this is my car.”

“It is not!”

“It really is.” He held out his keys. He reached down between the seats. “These are my mother’s gloves.”

At which point I looked around the car. There was nothing actually familiar. It was just…blue. Same as our rental car.


I blushed. I stammered. I wanted to explain. “ in India...”

“Do you need a ride somewhere?” He asked this very kindly.

“I’m...Our car. Is blue! Too...sorry.”

I’d like to say I got out, walked right over to our car, and got in. But the truth is, I had no idea which one it was.

I fled as coolly as possible in the direction of the drugstore to find my mama.


  1. I love you for these stories.

    But I on the other hand, am fond of very large vehicles. The man I marry will most likely have a very big truck. Because anything else around here makes you look like some pansy.

  2. I love your stories! I want a whole book of them! It's such a fun treat to read a new one, once a day. Thank you Lemon Gloria!

    - Jennifer

  3. Oh man, been there done that (kinda). I once had the keys to my grandfather's silver Mercedes convertible and spent 10 mins trying to unlock the thing. Turns out his car was 2 spaces down and I was trying to get into someone else's.

  4. Ha! I've done something very similar. I was in the parking lot of the drug store and went to unlock my car. I had to jiggle the key a little bit for it to work, but that was totally normal because the key was slightly bent.

    I got in, put my seatbelt on, and put the key in the ignition before I noticed the giant scuba tank in the front seat! It was most definitely not my car. Mine was 3 parking spots down...

  5. a similar, though not really at all, story:

    i was, oh, three? at a wedding. decided it would be a good idea to run up the aisle and commence ringing the bells sitting on the altar steps repeatedly. then? i ran back down the aisle and climbed...onto the first grey-panted lap i saw. said lap was not only not my father's, but a total stranger to both me and my poor father. the kicker? i stayed perched there for the remainder of the ceremony (my parents were only a few rows away), completely oblivious to the fact that this man? was soo not my daddy!

    so, um, that's like, all similar-y and all, yes?



  6. I did the same thing after church once - went directly to a car and started trying to open the door, much to the bemusement of the family to whom it actually belonged, who were just a few feet behind us leaving the church.

    Even worse was that the car was similar to a car we had, but very, very different than the car we had actually taken to church that day. I'm sure the family thought I was "touched".

  7. LOLZ!!! There were 2 kinds of cars when we were in India - Ambassadors and Marutis. The very first thing that amazed me about America was that everyone drove a different kind of car. Not just color or style, but 7000 unique makes, models and brands.

    I've spent less than $20K buying cars since 1984, while some of my friends spend $1000 A MONTH on their car payments. This story reminded me of all that. Awesomeness.

  8. Oh how hilarious, handled differently it could have been the start of a beautiful romance between you both and would have made a great "How did you and dad meet" story.
    I wonder if the cute guy still tells people about the time some crazy stranger chick was sitting in his car.

  9. Kate - I hate what gas-guzzlers they are but I kind of like them, too. It's like liking men to eat meat, I think.

    Jennifer - Thank you! That's the BEST thing you could say to me!

    Cass - It's always so embarrassing, isn't it? Oh, nevermind! I see my car! Just kidding with this one!

    Stevie - I find this fabulous and alarming. You got all the way in and your key fit in the ignition. I wonder if you could've driven away???

    Coleen - I LOVE this story. It is adorable. I love that the man just sat there letting you hang out on his lap. So cute!

    Jessica - Hilarious! At least they knew that you were a good, churchgoing citizen. :)

    tex - I know! Everything about America was about 8 gajillion choices! The cars! The cereal! The soda! Crazy. I remember how overwhelming it all was at first.

    Go-Betty - I was 14 and he was maybe ill-fated romance. I remember it clearly though - huh, wonder if he does?

  10. How hard did Betty laugh when you told her?

  11. I was never into cars either, but we always had such unique (read: POS) vehicles, that I could always find them too easily. And then I started watching "Top Gear" on BBC America. And I'm still not really into cars, but the ones they have on are HOT, and the guys are funny and totally nuts, and so now I can tell you that the top speed of the Bugatti Veyron is 256 mph. Weird.

  12. oh my goodness! I love this story! I try to get into other peoples cars all the time. I only recognize my own. Of course, I've never found one to be unlocked.

  13. Hilarious! Do you ever wonder about the alternate universe in which the 14-year-old you went with the boy? :) I think you should write a story about it...

    I am similarly unimpressed by cars and learned early to be suspicious of boys who were overly involved with theirs (or maybe it was just the fact that the one guy was an all-around jerk that made me suspicious).

    But I'm so inattentive about car issues that mine has become embarrassing... It's a 91 Honda Civic, still going strong at 206K+ miles but getting rusty and the plastic bits are breaking off. It's time to replace it, but dang, it's a Honda, so it just keeps starting up every time I go to drive it (which is only a few days a week). And I so hate dealing with car salespeople!


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