Snuck out of the house early Sunday morning, hobbling downstairs to the garage and deserting the Resident Carpenter, snoring peacefully at the other end of the hall.
I slipped into Chiquitita the Porsche, dropped her top, and just … drove, the niggling nags jacketing me like a cement overcoat:
- The backyard slugs and moles and coyotes and birds and squirrels and bugs and probably zombies, murdering the vegetables which need DOING something about
- The stubborn refusal of things to move forward at work
Our obvious need to join the Marine Reef Frequent Funeral Plan, since our reef tank’s saltwater critters turn out to be one of the few pets that regularly EAT EACH OTHER
- Reviewing what everyone thinks I SHOULD have done instead of buying Chiquitita, my silly little Porsche convertible: Donate the money to charity. Invest in someone’s business. Kept the funds in my retirement plan instead of extending my worktime (or I suppose, moving up my death from old age) by a couple of years.
- Figure out how to respond to the folks who are sure I purchased the Porsche with nefarious funds sourced from (a) dealing drugs (huh?) or (b) money I collected from insurance when I fell (gosh, if there were insurance payouts I’d sure like to know), or (c) robbing a bank (me?)
- Punish myself for starting a marine reef tank and screwing up the environment yet again (as if I hadn’t already screwed it up enough by buying a Porsche)
- Feel guilty about not going to more political rallies when, obviously, the cane has remobilized me…
- Feel even more guilty about the friend’s book I promised to edit
- Pile on more guilt about all the blogposts I’ve not finished writing yet (OK, well, that one I’m taking care of right now)
- The studio I’m supposed to be finishing…
- The art I’m supposed to be making…
- The jewelry I’m making…
- The house I ought to be cleaning…
- The laundry I should be doing…
- The taxes I should be organizing…
- “That —– isn’t going to —— itself!” someone reminds me sternly…
Gaaaack! Stop that! I slip into Chiquitita and drive, a big grin busting out all over my face. I swear, just sitting in that car is relaxing. I’m being shallow, callow, probably as politically incorrect as I can be…but that crazy little yellow Porsche makes me happy(ier).
I’ve finally figured out why people buy these things: Porsches go faster than niggling nags.
I didn’t set out to buy a Porsche. I was gonna get a tattoo of a phoenix from guzzle to zorch, i.e., hip to ankle, because I still had a leg. More specifically, last year I promised that if I actually got to keep Elmo and The Leg, I’d do something crazy: Get a full-length tattoo. Lead a wild insect safari into the deepest darkest reaches of the Everglades. Finally learn to skydive. Fly to the moon. Buy a Wildly Impractical Sports Car.
The minute Doc Rich told me the bone was growing, I started making plans. Pretty quickly eliminated going to the moon; I have rotten eyesight and I look awful in a space suit. The Leg objected to yet more needles so the tattoo was out, and me and the wilderness are still at odds, which killed the insect safari idea. My brain and stomach threatened to secede if I went skydiving (and Doc Rich said, ‘please PLEASE tell me you’re joking”) so that was out.
Leaving me with Wildly Impractical Sports Car.
From January to May, I wheeled myself into every car dealership that might conceivably sell sports cars, trying them all on. I had only three criteria for my choice:
- It had to be a roadster (i.e., mostly two-seater) that went pretty fast
- My barely bending leg had to fit into either seat
- It had to be yellow (all sports cars are yellow–long story there)
#1 was easy; #3 was tough but doable. Number two, though…only two carmakers could easily accommodate The Leg without breaking it all over again: Ferrari and Porsche. (Lamborghini, Maserati, and Maybach probably could, too, but let’s not get silly)
BTW, if those are your criteria for purchasing a fairly expensive automobile, dealers will all but try to have you committed. I thought “yellow sportscar that I can fit into” was fairly comprehensive but apparently others take performance and stuff into account.
My budget eliminated Ferraris and new Porsches. A used yellow Porsche is very hard to find, but eventually I located one just outside Manhattan: A bright yellow 2013 Carrera 4 convertible with only 20,000 miles.
I named her Portia. Friends thought Chiquita a better name, for obvious reasons; she turned out to prefer Chiquitita.
Talked with the dealer, talked with the guys managing my retirement savings, talked with the dealer some more, and bought myself a five year old Porsche. Five days later, a guy showed up on the east side of town with a boxful of Chiquitita, and handed me her remote. (They shipped her out in a container from New York to avoid putting any more miles–or a scratch–on her.)
“Uhm…how do you turn her on?” I asked, blushing, looking for the start button. He just stared.
“Haven’t you ever driven one of these?” he asked, incredulously.
“Uhm, no,” I admitted, “But I sat in one once.”
He shook his head. “OK, well, what you have here is a 2013 Porsche Carrera 911 4 Cabriolet. This is a Very Nice Car, ma’am. Don’t hurt it. That’s the key you’re holding. You put it in there and turn it. Clockwise.”
He pointed to a little slot on the LEFT of the steering wheel. Later I would learn why. “You’ll be fine?” he said hopefully.
I sat in the car, adjusted the seat, put the key in the ignition and turned it. Chiquitita responded with a throaty purr, and we hit the road together. I couldn’t find the cupholders–as far as Porsche is concerned I’m a peasant–so I wedged my coffee between my knees and drove to work.
We’ve been zooming around ever since. I’m not a skilled racedriver, but she fits me like a glove, and we like hanging out together. She is–not kidding–the most comfortable chair in the house. Sometimes, when I’m really achey, I just go down and nap in her.
Porsches are not like Toyotas. Chiquitita has a learning curve, and I read the manual a lot, trying to figure out how to do normal car things with her: Find the cupholders (they’re hidden behind discrete metal panels over the glovebox). Work the convertible top (pull the console switch UP). Switch to manual shifting (whack the gearshift to the left). Play music from the phone (punch about two million buttons).
I was planning at some point in the future to allow The Resident Carpenter to touch The Car (when we speak of other cars, we call them “The Suburban,” “The Camry,” or “The Jeep,” but The Porsche is always “The Car.”). In my mind, I’d decided to allow Nathan to first touch The Car in mid-2020. Maybe late 2019 if I was in a really REALLY good mood.
In reality, I came home from work on that first day, saw the RC’s big brown eyes* wistfully turned in The Car’s direction, and relented.
“OK, Nathan. Would you like a ride in The Car?”
And off we went. In the first mile he’d pretty much bitten his fingernails down to the quick and was working towards getting them down to his elbow.
“Uhm…Cynthia…I don’t want to hurt your feelings but…may I offer a suggestion? Maybe you don’t want to brake at THAT PARTICULAR POINT IN THE CURVE?”
“Well, if you brake back there…ouch…no, there…ouch..wait….”
“Nothing, I was just saying that you might want to…ouch.” He grimaced as I hit the curve and stopped, carefully creeping around the steepest part. “You want to brake back THERE and then accelerate where you’re braking now…NO… the exact opposite…”
“Grrr. Look, Nate, do YOU want to do this?”
Turns out Nate’s raced before and knows about driving a fast car around curves. In his practiced hands, Chiquitita stopped bouncing and started, well, schwooping. And she wasn’t anywhere near as fast as she could be, Nate was quick to assure.
“This car,” he said solemnly, “Can easily do 200 miles per hour. And she’s got 4-wheel drive so you’ll have a hard time making her drift or slide off the road. Well, most people will.”
I’m presuming this is a good thing, and guess she won’t have any trouble with my typical 20 mph commute, then. In any case, she sure is fun to drive.
So last Sunday morning, we drove. And, gradually, all my niggling nags clumped into balls, bounced out the back and off down the road.
Bump, bumpity, bump.
I pulled into a little garden shop that also serves Sunday brunch, hobbled into the restaurant and just relaxed. Then I was sitting, reading, and nibbling at my eggs, watching a spectacular view down the mountain and thinking about nothing in particular, something I hadn’t done in a long time.
Maybe I’m going too fast. Maybe I’ve been pushing so hard to get back into the fast lane, away from the last two years of disability, that I haven’t thought enough about how much fun it can be in the slowish lane.
“There’s nothing wrong with slowing down every so often, going for a sanity drive,” says the Resident Carpenter, “Going to the beach. Going fishing. Doing something for yourself. Keeps you sane.”
He may have a point.
“As long as,” he warns, “I get to come too.”
* Actually, his eyes aren’t brown, they’re grey or blue or something, but I can’t remember which and brown works better in the story