Just a quick post to let you know that I’m going to have a piece on the back page of the Boston Globe Magazine on Sunday, October 30. Check it out! If it’s online, I’ll post it up here.
When I talk about my wife, my friends envy me. See, she’s as interested in cars as I am. But they don’t know what it’s like.
I first met Lisa when we were both at Framingham State College. Around the same time, I’d been noticing a car on my way to class. It was a 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta, T-tops, no spoiler, black rally wheels and judging by the dual exhaust tips poking out under the rear bumper, sporting a V-8. I walked by checking it out every day for months. One day I saw it leave as I was walking across campus. When it lit up that throaty exhaust, my knees turned to jelly.
Lisa and I started spending more time together, and one Friday morning, I walked her to class. As we walked up to the Camaro, which was parked in the same spot on the street every day, she grabbed the doorhandle and opened it up. It took a second to realize that this car I’d been ogling for months was hers. I was all done.
She grew up with a father and two brothers that took pride in their cars, whether it was for quality (Steven, eight years her senior still has a 1967 Pontiac GTO he had when he was 17) or quantity (at last count, Scott was hovering around a hundred cars since he’d obtained his license). In a home dominated by men with cars, she was understandably afflicted. At a time when her friends drove four-door Mercury Topazes, she was tearing around town in bona fide Detroit muscle.
Lisa keeps cars longer than most people hang onto their marriages. In the nearly 20 years I’ve known her, she’s had seven: a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham, the Camaro, a 1986 Oldsmobile 442, a 1973 Olds Cutlass, a 1997 BMW 318ti, a regrettable adventure with a 2001 VW Jetta wagon, and now, a 2002 BMW 525i Touring, with the M Sport package and a five-speed manual transmission.
All way cooler cars than I’ve owned, by the way. I have gotten used to saying “No…it’s my wife’s,” when I’m dispatched to put gas in her cars.
When I tell other dudes her automotive interest, they always express profound envy. But these are the same guys whose wives go from one non-descript, vanilla driveway-filler to the next. The only question during the purchase decision is “What color is it?” They can buy cars on the way home from work on a random Thursday.
It’s not so easy with a spouse who truly enjoys automobiles. The purchase decision is protracted and arduous. On the one hand, she steadfastly refuses to purchase anything brand new, so we do save a lot of money in car payments. But Lisa’s very specific in what she wants. She’d no sooner buy a Toyota Camry than she would ride a donkey. In the latter third of our two decades together, two kids have come along. Do you know how hard it is to find a cool five-passenger car with provisions for two car seats and a manual transmission?
After I’d convinced her to buy that Jetta wagon (a car she ended up cursing the car daily the four years we owned it) I decided I was out of the car-suggesting business. If she wanted something, she was going to find it on her own. She expressed interest in a 5 Series wagon, and my only demand was that it not have an automatic transmission, not only because she likes a manual, but replacing an automatic in a BMW is likely and about as costly as raising the Lusitania. I figured I was going to do an end run around the issue, since 5 Series wagons with manual transmissions were as rare as Whitey Bulger sightings used to be. Imagine my surprise when a week later, she’d located one three hours away.
It’s been about four years now. That wagon has been a good car, but it’s coming up on 200,000 miles. It’s eventually going to need replacement, but I’m not sure what we’ll do. Since we bought it, the automotive industry has essentially abandoned her, first by making manual transmissions largely obsolete, and then by packing cars with all sorts of annoying “technology” that ends up being more frustrating than the minor inconveniences they set out to eliminate. Backup cameras, touch screen climate control and iDrive have all left Lisa unimpressed, and completely uninterested in anything the industry has to offer. So as we ponder replacing her car, we’re scouring the internet for something she might like.
Enjoy your Camry, fellas, and pick me up a coffee while you’re out. It could be a long night.
Here’s the link, which I think is open for non-subscribers to read: