WELCOME TO THE GRAND ILLUSION
“Getting in a new shiny bad ass car is like a great push up bra,” my long time incredibly body confident friend, Sara said so matter of factly as we discussed the car the other day on the phone. She called me because she had read my writings chronologically last week and thought they sounded like something was awry. We share the same birthday and have known each other for over twenty years. She is a great friend and knows me on a highly spiritual level and she has witnessed my sometimes erratic shopping behavior as well as lived through several of my previous car purchases. They usually are symbolic of something going on and as usual, she was right. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that push up bras are unnecessary these days, my upper body is a walking push up bra, but point taken. Buying new cars is clearly connected to something deeper and complex, but in the moment, all of this is completely out the window.
“No I don’t want the apple car play,” I kindly said to Gary Garafolo, the smart salesman at the car dealership. “I actually have this in my car right now and I find it incredibly distracting. As a matter of fact is there any way to get this car without the almost ipad look alike screen daring me to tap it as the bluescreen simultaneously screams at me “Warning, using the screen while driving can be distracting!” No shit. But there is no option B, this car as all the cars on the lot come with the blue screen, your only choice is apple car play or just blue tooth. But as I sighed with the knowing that when you are purchasing a high end car that looks like a cross between a bat mobile and a shiny black portable Royal typewriter, tinted windows and all, there are certain notions assumed by the people designing them. I am trying to not see the car as one of those black beasts frequented on THE HANDMAIDS TALE sending shivers in my spine every time I watch just one more episode. I am guessing that the majority of the design team are men and I am making a broad assumption that like a bathroom layout in a sporting arena, they aren’t thinking about a woman behind the wheel as the one hundred percent driver and purchaser.
A new car is invigorating, the smell, the neatness, the shine. Learning all of the buttons is a full time job in itself and with all of the computer generated commentary going on every time I get in and out of it, Gary let me know when I purchased it that the car would take some time to get to know my style. Creepy to say the least. Why did I even want this car, one may ask. The main reason (at least on the glossy outside who people on the outside think I am) is the pick up and delivery, the your wish is our command at the dealership, the we’ll pick it up, pick you up, bring you a car, drop you off kind of service I just really was willing to pay for the older I get. And older I get is what I hope for.
There are bells and whistles and more bells and whistles, there are three different navigation options, not including the voice command I have to practice like a language enunciation class so that the she voice recognizes my tone. She still hasn’t figured me out and I haven’t appreciated her help when I am trying to dictate where I want to go. This happened last week when I got lost in Fall River looking for Flint Street so I could take my aunt to Sam’s bakery for our beloved Lebanese pies. After speaking in a calm tone, then a slightly raised voice, then a slow deliberate one, I finally had to pull over and put it in my iphone and use Google maps which completely defeated the purpose. Then I remembered about an app on my phone that allows me to put the address into it and like magic, the address was projected into navigation. The app, by the way also allows me to lock and unlock my car and turn my car on from my living room ten minutes before I am ready to depart. No wonder the world is getting lazier and fatter by the minute. I can’t believe I have purchased a car that does these things. In most ways it is completely out of character. At least my inside character to people who really know my insides, not the glossy outside chick that people assume is the one on the inside too. It’s like I live in a camoflauge. When I pulled up last weds after picking it up to drive my friend Chris, the first words out of my mouth were, “Does this car make me look too Jewish?” He had no idea what I was talking about. Leave it to a full bred Wasp. “What does that even mean, he asked, somewhat startled by my question. I didn’t have the heart to explain to him that if I had to explain it, he likely wouldn’t get it anyway.
I brought the car over to another friend’s house to show him, it seems that this is the protocol when purchasing a crazy car like this and he looked at the back of the car where it said 4matic. “Does this car have four wheel drive?” he asked curiously. “I have no idea.” Among many other features the first week that my new set of wheels likely has that I have no idea about because honestly it never would occur to me that someone would even think to put a feature in the car in the first place. He asked me where the spare tire was, yep forgot to ask that too. “It must be somewhere.” I half said. I love the weird button by the super large skylight that I can push at any given time and be connected with the magic Mercedes person. Need a dinner reservation? Push the button. Need help on the road? Push the button. Who needs Triple A when I have Mercedes on demand. Running late for a meeting? Push the button and Mercedes will send to the navigation an alternate route. I love America. Or maybe I should be saying I love Germany, but I can’t bring myself to say that. I love the absurdity that I can decide I want a new car, go to a dealer and in less than 24 hours, drive away in one. Irresponsible, impractical, careless, all these words spin wildly like my grandparents voices in the back seat telling me to be more pragmatic, my father rolling his hippie eyes from the grave disbelieving he has a daughter who would even want to drive a car like this let alone buy one. But see this is what cancer does, it gives you a quick jolt into the LET’S LIVE NOW.
As I approach my second week with this new sparkly set of wheels, I looked down and noticed that I have a cd player, old school. I also remembered that on my last minimize jag of cleaning and having a yard sale I didn’t end up selling my stellar collection of CDs. I went into my basement where they have been patiently waiting for my return, like they knew I would need them again someday and pulled out a few round discs to take with me hoping they wouldn’t skip. Mary J Blige, a cd I had purchased when I bought my Cooper convertible when I was forty. Seal, a cd that my brother turned me on to when he was alive, we had listened it to in in a rent a car driving from North Carolina to Dc to our cousins’ Bar Mitzvah a million years ago. Santana, because the guitar at almost full volume makes you feel like Carlos is in my back seat giving me a private concert. And Styx. Welcome to the Grand Illusion. I put it in the player at as loud as my ears could handle and I was transported to an CYO dance in the basement of St. Marks Church, I was time traveled to times spent hanging out with my friend Joe, whose nickname in his former pre AA life used to be Toad smoking joints in my 63 vw bug at Beavertail. The music made me smile as I reminisced about a group of us misfit kids with absent parents hanging around an island with barely a hint of adult supervision, walking barefoot, around town and not realizing how great our little and free lives were despite our missing mothers and fathers. I had to call him immediately to tell him, he didn’t answer, but I knew he would recognize my zest for these times. It is easy to sensationalize the good stuff and forget about the painful parts.
Life is and can be a grand illusion. There is something energizing in approaching my second year of the cancer survivor story- something that makes me throw cares to the wind, live on the edge, jump in naked and full throttle. No one gets out alive. Why not enjoy the ride?