Tuesday, April 27, 2004

My white egg car disappeared forever. I didn't even hug it goodbye. I didn't kiss it either. This morning it produced alarming grunts. The radio stopped working long ago. The oil drips under my car could teach the Aral Sea a thing or two. Car salesmen** laughed at the metal bar holding my door together.

Now an aqua ice opalescent Toyota Echo* shares my life.

Everybody loves my blue baby. Out of all the compliments and congratulations on my car I am choosing to share that most erudite of comments, supplied by my grandmother:

"Men don't need to buy new cars when their old one breaks down. They would know how to fix it."

My grandmother is an expert on men. Many years ago, when all of us teenagers were getting braces, she spoke out that the males of the family were spared because men do not need to be pretty.

She further elucidated the subject of men: men could drink to destruction, but - and this is the defining feature of her theory - women could not drink, except when it was not polite to decline. Women thus could drink when partaking the sacrament (Romanians drink real sangre de Jesús), marrying, and whooping it up at a wake. My grandmother knows what she's talking about. She was a beer factory worker for 24 years. Those 4-5 beers she drank daily on the job were daintily sipped. And she definitely an expert on men. She's had three husbands after all.

That's the other thing about men. They can be generalized. Unlike women. Every woman is an enigma. You never know what you'll get. Some cook and some will order Chinese food for you. One might regularly pump out babies, another might bring home puppies from the pound. You treat one like a princess and she wants to be a queen. Or one woman might climb trees, thus defying all logic as to how women function. It is said that a woman - in spite of right-wing anti-abortionist polygamous tax-cutting deaf divorcee Republican voters - may one day become president of the United States.

Men do things in a straightforward, predictable way. You could set a clock by their bowel movements. Men can, in one sitting and without exception, drink an emu's weight in beer. All 3 billion men on the planet love blondes. Every man on the planet has big nostrils. Even the most sheltered mama's boy in the Gobi Desert owns a lot of saws, hammers, ladders and lawnmowers. Just like every other man on the planet.

We can therefore say - without one shred of uncertainty! - that men know cars.

Mankind's rise from monkeydom was a race toward building the first car. Men since the beginning wanted to know something about cars. That is why early man invented the wheel before flushing toilets and washing machines. Predicting far in advance the 575-horsepower roadster, early man domesticated the horse in anticipation.

Aristotle, disappointed that he knew about cars before their inception, defended his beliefs by saying "Plausible impossibilities should be preferred to unconvincing possibilities." He continued to mope about until his death, muttering his mantras "Philosophy is the science which considers cars" and "All men by nature desire cars."

Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, admitted "I was in love with cars." Renaissance poets followed suit with sonnets to dark cars, that only look good in the shade. Shakespeare tried to deny his infatuation with the car as well as his upsetting midlife crisis in his most famous sonnet:

My Porsche's gaskets are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her seats red:
If snow be white, why then her tires are dun;
If scratch's be wires, black wires grow on her trunk.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her breeks***;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the exhaust that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her screech, yet well I know
That dry wipers hath a more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a Volvo go,
My sports car, when she drives, bare treads to the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my car nicer,
As any she belied with Ford Explorer.

Anxiousness for the soon-to-be-invented car reached a fever pitch in the Nineteenth Century. Poets drowned their sorrow in opium and absinthe, penning lines such as Oscar Wilde's "I can resist everything except cars." Teen angst poet Rimbaud threw a temper tantrum and quit poetry after his parents refused to buy him a car. His Sonnet of the Vowels (A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu) referred to the car posters he taped to his bedroom walls: a black Audi, a white Ford Explorer, a red Isuzu, a green Volkswagen, and a blue Oldsmobile. Rumour has it that Verlaine shot Rimbaud over an argument over a brake tune-up. Van Gogh traded his ear for a prostitute's car. (She later claimed her pimp ran away with the car, her life's savings and the thirty grams of cocaine she kept a Chinese snuff box.) Even sqeaky clean John Wilkes Booth, when he discovered that Lincoln was a president and not a car, assassinated the poor man.

Luckily the advent of the age of the automobile occurred in the Twentieth Century. Men all over the world rejoiced. Murders ceased. Ears stayed put. No longer would they have to pass time with chess, mathematics, collecting old Master paintings, and listening to classical music. They could relegate effeminate names like Leslie, Pat and Cameron to women, while asserting male dominance over barbecues and football scores.

What lesson should women learn from this? Get better salaries. Break that glass ceiling, ladies! With all that you have to spend on hair products, frocks, designer makeup, plastic surgery, and dry-cleaning, you might not have enough for that new car when the old one breaks down.

Or you could just marry a car industry tycoon.

*Not 2004. I am unemployed after all.

**I almost wrote csar salesmen. Csar salesmen deserve an entire post of their own.

***Shakespearean English for brakes.

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