Sunday, November 23, 2008
yet another reason why I love Ralph...
I didn't learn to drive until I was 30, and when I did, my first set of wheels, the car I used to tool around Chicago in, with a very young Alex and Kath buckled into their car seats in the back, was a rather battered 1976 VW Rabbit with a stick shift. In the winter time, sometimes the heater didn't work, and in the summer it was hot because it had no AC, but I loved that car. I liked to drive barefoot so I could feel the pedals and clutch. It got 38 mpg and it had, for a small car, a huge amount of cargo space, which was one of the major selling points, if I remember correctly.
I learned to drive in that car in Chicago in July 1980. At 10:30 each night, after the girls and A were asleep, I'd slip out back, into the hot summer night, and get in the car and drive around and around the block. This was trickier than it might sound. For starters, we lived in the middle of the city, in a lively neighborhood that was always just beginning to hit its stride at that hour of the night. To further complicate matters, we lived on a one-way street, except that it was a two-way street for the first few hundred feet, coincidentally to the front door of the building of a city alderman who, word had it, got the variance because he didn't want to have to drive around the block to get onto Lake Shore Drive to go to work each day. That little variation made for some interesting traffic, as people who didn't know the neighborhood often exited Lake Shore Drive onto our street only to discover, in a few hundred feet, huge signs announcing that the street was now ONE WAY ONLY, against them. Only in Chicago...
Well, you know how it is with first loves. If your first love smoked...well, I hope your first love smoked, in the sense of being hot, but let's say he smoked cigarettes...well then, no matter how much time goes by, and no matter how much you may have grown up into being a non-smoker who hates cigarettes, there will always be a part of you that remembers with tenderness and fondness the faint taste of tobacco in a lingering kiss...and it's exactly that sort of illogical sentiment that I blame for my lifelong love affair with VW's. With a couple of exceptions, they're all I've ever driven, but this last summer, when it had clearly become time to replace Emma, my beloved 10 year old VW cabrio (not that Emma could ever really be replaced), after doing a lot of research and some test driving, I ended up buying a Honda Fit that I immediately named Ralph.
I wasn't sure how I was going to like driving Ralph. After all, I was giving up a convertible with heated leather seats for a mini-mini-van that doesn't even have a sunroof, but...one of the selling points was the huge amount of cargo space (57.3 cubic feet, with the seats down, to be precise). As it turned out, there have been so many improvements in the past ten years that there was no way I could not like Ralph. And this afternoon as I walked through Pottery Barn I discovered another reason. PB was selling as floor samples (translated: a little over 75% markdown) the chairs I've been lusting after for my kitchen for the past several months. Needless to say, I bought them on the spot. Then came the fun part.
"When do you want to pick these up?" the clerk asked.
"I'll take them with me now," I said, "I just have to pull up to the front."
These chairs aren't small. The clerk looked at me.
"Uh, what kind of car do you drive?" he asked.
I smiled my best innocent smile. "A Honda," I said.
The clerk wrinkled his forehead. "I dunno if these will fit..."
"There's plenty of room," I assured him. And when I drove up and opened the hatch and put the back seats down...even with all 4 chairs loaded in, there was room to spare. The sales clerk looked amazed. Oh, yeah. And as I drove away, I could almost imagine a taste of tobacco on my tongue...