Saturday, March 01, 2014

Drive He Said

I confess I'm not a car person. Yes, I drive one. Yes, I prefer to have one that looks better than worse. Yes, I can tell the difference between a Mercedes and a Chevy. But beyond that? Let's put it this way: when we went to buy a new vehicle for me, and the question of color came up, my wife said, "Give him a green one. His last one was green, and that way he'll remember which is his."

At this point I drive a Jeep (black, I should point out). It was the car I always wanted. Not a fancy, upscale model, but the basic two-door Wrangler with bucket seats in the front, and a bench in the back that you have to be a contortionist to get into (not that I care; I sit up front). It's more than a little bouncy, and you have to climb up to get into it, but complaining about those aspects is a little beyond the point: if you want a Jeep-esque vehicle, there's a nothing like the original.

But with 80,000 miles on the odometer, it's starting to hit its half-life. I know there are people who keep their cars well into the hundreds, and that vehicles of that age tend to develop "character." Some might even argue that the quirks I'm seeing are endearing, from the emergency brake that refuses to hold to the windshield wipers that turn off in any position but down. But endearing? I think not. For me it's about transportation, pure and simple, and if it stops getting me from A to B, it's time for the car equivalent of the glue factory.

So I've been watching car commercials with more interest than usual.  I'm looking at models and features, technical specs and pricing. And while I have a certain feature set in mind, I'm open to just about anything that might fit the bill. But having paid close attention to my options, I have some thoughts.

I don't really want a car that can tow a space shuttle. I don't really want a car that can drive up a ski slope. I don't really want a car that can teach me Spanish. I don't really want a car that will help me reach my highest potential as a human being. I don't really want a car that can jump on top of a train, drive along the roof, then jump back off. What I actually want is a car that will get me to the train and back. Yes, I now it's boring, but it's me.

Yet identifying one that can accomplish that very simple task from the ads is a difficult thing to do. If I'm running from a "doberhuahua" dog, want to buy a car that shows my solidarity with the people of Detroit and helps that city climb out of bankruptcy, or need to carry the cast of the Muppets movie, I know what to buy. And it's entirely possible a that a car like the new Kia that bends the spoons of people eating in restaurants, causes street lights to blow out and the other cars to flip over would be fine for my morning commute. But do I really want to take the chance of causing that kind of mayhem on Route 22 at 7:02AM?

So here's the wish list. Good mileage and a comfortable ride. Where we live, four wheel drive, while not a necessity, is certainly a good idea. I like sitting high as opposed to looking up at the world, and a stick is nice but not a deal breaker. A good sound system is a plus, and I confess I've grown fond of being able to put the top down in warm weather. And I shouldn't have to mortgage the house to get it. After all, we just got out from that debt, and I really don't need to do that again.

I have yet to see a commercial for a vehicle that answers those needs. But if need one that Ironman Tony Stark feels at home in, I know just what to buy. That being said, I do wonder what Tony would do if he was stuck behind a school bus. Now, if he can make a legal move to get around that, I just might consider buying what's he's driving.


Marc Wollin of Bedford isn't sure how many cylinders he has. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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