Maybe 40 years ago I gave a student a ride home from school following a meeting for the literary magazine, of which I was faculty advisor. She followed me into the faculty parking lot, spotted my boring non-descript car, and burst out laughing. “It’s a teacher car!” Yes, it was boring – no doubt purchased used.
Well, things are changing. I’m buying a Jeep.
You know those shallow people who take their identity from the clothes they wear or the car they drive? It appears I’m becoming one of them. Kim has told me that the clothes I wear make a statement about me, and my statement has been, fairly consistently, “I really don’t give a shit about my clothes.” I still don’t, but what may be changing is that I’m going to become a Jeep Guy. The car won’t be built and delivered for maybe three months, but I’m already starting to feel the difference. I’m becoming a Jeep Guy. It’s a Wrangler, so I suppose I’ll be using it to round up some horses to break.
I’m trying to recall the highlights of my car-owning history. Here are a few:
My first car, “The White Streak,” was a prized VW Beetle powered by, as I recall, a 26 hp engine, but I loved it. Its message about me was understated to the point of near-invisibility, which was fine. It was followed by a more powerful Beetle that I used to tow a U-Haul from Boston to Ann Arbor with my very few belongings. I slept in the U-Haul on the way.
There follows a series of teacher cars – unmemorable used (a step below “pre-owned”), seldom washed, practical ways to get me around. Yawn. The recent series of reliable Toyota SUVs has become boring.
I’m about to become a Jeep Guy, and that has given my spirit an automotive Viagra boost. We noticed that there’s a lot of Jeep stuff for sale on their website – shirts, hats, coffee mugs, toys, pens, blankets. So what if it was Kim who really decided to buy a Jeep? I’m still a Jeep Guy. And yes, the gas mileage will not be great, but we don’t travel much these days, and the heavy hybrid version only gets 25 miles on a battery change. To make up for the Jeep’s gas guzzling, I’m wearing my socks an extra day.
Being a Jeep Guy means I need to seek “off-road” experiences. I’ve had a little experience with them, but none with a car. Riding my bike to school for 20+ years is a bit “off-road,” as is my not wearing a necktie decision in the ‘90s – and not just on Fridays. My more off-road adventure as a writer was my inventing a poetic form, “low-ku,” which involved writing obscene haiku poems, none of which, thankfully, have survived. Our bark house is also “off-road,” though technically speaking, it is on a road.
Yes, I know, having a non-Toyota means I will have to learn where’s the button to open the flap to the gas tank, how do I spray salt off the windows, and, importantly, how do I program the GPS to find my home. But of course, as an off-road Jeep Guy, I’ll see getting lost as exploration, shift into 4-wheel drive (not stick shift, thank you, but something shifty) and head into the woods. That’s who I am now. As soon as I finish balancing my checkbook and vacuuming the bathroom.