I’ll never forget my first drive in a car…. possibly because it may never have happened. I was six years old at the 1939 World’s Fair. The big attraction was the Futurama exhibit by General Motors. I could have sworn we got into a car and it drove itself around a series of what we now know as highways and cloverleafs looking down at the City of Tomorrow. No traffic. No horns. No road rage or fender-benders. The vehicles were driverless and set apart at reasonable Intervals from each other. Yet when I now Google the adventure it seems to be a model of a city we were looking down upon from a revolving seat.
My relationship with cars went downhill from there. Driving in reality could never live up to that first encounter. Cars have never got much love from me. As a kid in NYC cars were that hulk intruding on our stickball game in the street. With a subway stop around the corner my family didn’t own a car until I was in college. I couldn’t tell a Studebaker from a De Soto. I marveled how my friends could identify the make when I blindfolded them. To me a car was a horizontal elevator. It wheeled me from A to B. I learned to add water to the radiator and oil to whatever it is one adds oil to… but I didn’t know a gasket from a flywheel.
I suppose a lot happened in my car over the years. I lost my virginity and found fallen keys, credit cards and smart phones. One day while driving on the slow lane a driver suddenly decided he needed the off-ramp and cut in front of me. To avoid a collusion I swerved up the embankment into the landscaping. Better to go up the greenery than down into it. This was to be my fifteen seconds of fame, as a helicopter flew overhead, I was the morning’s Sig Alert.
My other incident happened on a very foggy Thanksgiving evening in 1954 or ’55. I was traveling through the thick with zero visibility on a freeway. I exited at what I thought to be the off-ramp. It was, instead, a few bushes and a boulder. To commemorate the occasion one might say my Plymouth landed on a rock.
Our present car is the color of dust or duct tape. It blends in with an overcast day or a marine layer of off-shore flow. If it weren’t for the license plate I’d never be able to find it in the parking lot. It has a pre-existing condition of being a salvage car and I’ve already added a few scratches to its pedigree. Past cars I’ve owned were named Burgess, Trevor and Fred. This one remains nameless. It may be our last one before we turn to Lyft.
If driverless, electric cars take over it will be a return to the Futurama as promised by General Motors. I have another powerful memory of that World’s Fair. I was walking along holding on tight to my father’s coat when I looked up and saw it wasn’t my father. I was lost in the crush of human sardines between the Trylon and Perisphere. If this were Dickensian times I might have ended up in a workhouse begging for more gruel or salvaged by some real estate magnate and sent to a private school full of little Donald Trumps. But, alas, my real father plucked me from such a fate.
I think I’m ready now to get into my nameless Toyota and take a leisurely drive to Oz where there’s no rush hour nor ever any jacked-knifed big-rigs or looky-loos.