When I talk about my wife, my friends envy me. See, she’s as interested in cars as I am. But they don’t know what it’s like.
I met Lisa in the early ’90s, when we were both at Framingham State College. Around the same time, I’d been noticing a car on my way to class. It was a 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta, T-top, no spoiler, black rally wheels, and, judging by the dual exhaust tips poking out under the rear bumper, sporting a V-8. I walked by checking it out every day for months. One day I saw it leave as I was walking across campus. When that throaty exhaust lit up, my knees turned to jelly.
Meanwhile, Lisa and I started spending more time together. And that Camaro was parked in the same spot on campus every day. Then one Friday morning, Lisa grabbed the door handle and opened it up. It took me a second to realize that the car I’d been ogling for months was hers. I was all done.
She grew up with a father and two brothers who took pride in their cars, whether it was for quality (Steven, eight years her senior, still has the 1967 Pontiac GTO he got he was 17) or quantity (at last count, Scott has owned around a hundred cars since getting his license). At a time when her friends drove four-door Mercury Topazes, Lisa was tearing around town in a bona fide Detroit muscle car.
She keeps cars longer than most people hang on to their marriages. In the nearly 20 years I’ve known her, she’s had seven: a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham, the Camaro, a 1986 Oldsmobile 442, a 1973 Olds Cutlass, a 1997 BMW 318ti, a regrettable adventure with a 2001 VW Jetta wagon, and, now, a 2002 BMW 525i Touring with the M sport package and a five-speed manual transmission.
All way cooler cars than any I’ve owned, by the way. I have gotten used to saying, “No . . . it’s my wife’s” when I’m dispatched to gas hers up.
When I tell other dudes of her automotive interest, they always express envy. These are the same guys whose wives go from one nondescript driveway-filler to another. The only question their wives ask during the purchase is “What color is it?” They can buy cars on the way home from work on a random Thursday.
It’s not so easy with a spouse who truly enjoys automobiles. The purchase is protracted and arduous. On the one hand, Lisa refuses to buy anything new, so we do save money on car payments. But she’s specific in what she wants. She’d no sooner buy a Toyota Camry than she would ride a donkey. Things got more complicated when we had kids. Do you know how hard it is to find a cool five-passenger car with provisions for car seats and a manual transmission?
After I’d persuaded her to buy that Jetta wagon (a car she ended up cursing daily), I decided I was out of the suggestion business: The next car would be her choice. She expressed interest in a BMW 5 Series wagon, and my only demand was that it not have an automatic transmission, not only because she likes a manual but also because replacing an automatic in a BMW is likely about as costly as raising the Lusitania. I figured I had done an end run around the issue, since 5 Series wagons with manual transmissions were as rare as Whitey Bulger sightings used to be. Imagine my surprise when a week later she’d located one three hours away.
It’s been about four years now. That wagon has been a good car, but it’s coming up on 200,000 miles, and I’m not sure what we’ll do for a replacement. Since we bought it, the automotive industry has made manual transmissions largely obsolete and packed its cars with all sorts of annoying “technology.” Backup cameras, touch-screen climate control, and iDrive have all left Lisa uninterested. So we’re scouring the Internet after work every day, scrolling past hundreds of ads for the cars everyone else drives, on a quest for the one cool car left in America.
Enjoy your Camry, fellas, and pick me up a coffee while you’re out. It’s going to be another long night.
Craig Fitzgerald is an editor who lives in Holliston. He blogs at yankeedriver.wordpress.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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