We sent our reporter to check out a new driving app. That was a mistake.
When you live life like I do — full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal, one hand on the steering wheel, the other flippin’ the bird — you need a car that can keep up.
And lately, my old Hyundai just hasn’t been cutting it. First, it was the headlights that couldn’t seem to stay lit. Then it was the burnt oil smell that arrived a few years back and decided to stick around. Most recently, it was the year or so it spent broken down in the Globe parking lot.
By last month, when the brakes started to go, it became clear: Our days together were numbered.
So when I heard, around that time, about the Boston arrival of Getaround, a smartphone app that allows you to quickly and conveniently rent other users’ cars on an hourly basis, it seemed like a sign.
Here was a chance to expand my vehicular horizons. To do all the things I’d never been able to in my plain Jane sedan.
With the push of a smartphone button, I could burn through town in the fanciest sports car on the market. I could feel the rumble of a truck engine as I steered it down the highway. Heck, if the mood struck, I could even get myself into a little mischief!
Behind the wheel of some stranger’s car, I could do anything I wanted to do, be anybody I wanted to be. Live out each of my vehicular fantasies, one by one.
And over the course of the next two weeks, that’s exactly what I did.
Car No. 1: The Chick Magnet
Since around basically the 1700s, women have been really attracted to men who drive fancy cars.
Take my friend Kyle. Back in high school, he drove a Mustang convertible, and he was always locking lips with girls, which I know for a fact because one of the girls he always seemed to be locking lips with was my girlfriend.
The point is, the best way to impress girls is by driving a fancy car. And as pretty much everyone in the world can agree, it doesn’t get much fancier than a Toyota Prius —
So on a recent afternoon, I fired up the Getaround app, scrolled through the selections, and, for the reasonable price of $14.12, placed a two-and-a-half-hour reservation on a dark blue, 2015 Prius that would be ready for pick-up later that afternoon.
Settling into the driver’s seat a couple hours later, I immediately felt my confidence soar. In my old Hyundai, maybe, I was just another average Joe. But in a Prius? I was a somebody, an environmentally conscious “hunk,” a guy the girls couldn’t help but notice, no matter how hard they tried not to.
I just hoped I had enough room in my pockets for all the phone numbers I’d be getting.
Over the next few hours, I set about doing all the things you’re supposed to do when driving a really fancy car. I blasted the stereo with the windows down, even though it was raining. I drove well under the speed limit, the better to let girls get a look at me.
Twice, I parked the car on Newbury Street, then stood leaning against it with my arms crossed, to make sure everybody knew it was mine.
“It’s a hybrid,” I said, nodding at the car as a couple girls walked past. “Barely even uses any gas.”
In the end, though, something must have been wrong with the car, because even though I was doing absolutely everything right, none of the girls I came across seemed all that interested in me.
By the time I returned the Prius later that evening, in fact, I hadn’t gotten a single phone number, which was totally fine, because I had a lot of other stuff to do, anyway, and to be honest, I’m really just trying to focus on my career right now and don’t really have room in my life for anything else.
Car No. 2: The Pick-Up Truck
Blame it on my Missouri roots, but there’s just something about a good, old-fashioned American pick-up truck that really gets me going.
The size. The power. The replica bull testicles you can buy and hang off the back bumper.
When you drive a truck, you send a message to the world. And that message is: “I’m a man. I love Budweiser and huge steaks. And all of my body parts are definitely above-average in size.”
Now, thanks to Getaround, that was a message I’d be able to send to the world.
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered, the app isn’t brimming with pick-ups, and so I was forced to go with the next best option — a Scion xB wagon, which, while technically not a pick-up truck, will nevertheless be referred to, going forward, as “the truck,” “my pick-up truck,” or “my rig.”
Since about the manliest thing you can do in a pick-up truck is load a bunch of lumber into it, I decided to steer my rig over to the Somerville Home Depot on a recent Sunday afternoon and see about buying some wood.
Walking inside, I immediately set out to let the folks there know what kind of a man they were dealing with.
“Hello,” I said, approaching the customer service desk. “I’d like to buy some lumber.”
The clerk, sensing that he was clearly speaking to a guy who knew his way around a miter saw and probably even a belt sander, directed me toward a back wall filled with various types of wood, which I perused for a few minutes before settling on three 88-inch 2x4s.
Lugging my haul over to the checkout, I paid the cashier, and — after letting him know that I’d go ahead and “pull the truck around” — soon found myself standing in an outdoor loading zone, proudly shoving a bunch of lumber into my truck.
I didn’t keep it or anything. I just drove around the parking lot with it for a couple minutes before taking it back inside and returning it for a full refund.
But I’ll tell ya, in those couple minutes, steering that rig full of lumber around, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like more of a man.
Car No. 3: The Getaway Car
It goes without saying, of course, but cars aren’t just for hauling lumber and getting a bunch of phone numbers. They’re mostly for that, but they’re also for doing other stuff, like committing crimes.
And as it happened, I recently found myself with a crime in need of committing.
For a long time, my friend Steve and I had endured near-constant bullying from a colleague named Nestor Ramos. Nestor is one of those really, really old people – like, probably in his 40s or something — and he’s always grumbling about how millennials are lazy and weird and blah, blah, blah…
Anyway, Steve and I — who happen to be millennials — decided it would probably be a good idea to teach Nestor a little lesson in the form of dressing up in dark clothing, driving to his house in the middle of the night, and unleashing a hell upon him he wouldn’t soon forget.
All we needed was a getaway car.
I queued up Getaround, placed a reservation, and a few nights later, Steve and I were creeping up outside Nestor’s house in a bright-red Smartcar ForTwo, which might look like a washing machine with wheels but is actually the perfect getaway car in that it is tiny and shifty and would come in very handy if we happened to find ourselves in a police chase, which we almost certainly would.
I won’t get into the details of what happened next, because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a prison cell. But let’s just say that ol’ Nestor Ramos is gonna be pulling toilet paper out of his trees for the next couple weeks.
Our mission complete, Steve and I hightailed it back to the getaway car. We didn’t hear any sirens, but it was probably only a matter of time before the fuzz showed up.
And so — looking a lot like Vin Diesel in those “Fast and the Furious” movies —
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll get us out of here.”
And with that, I hit the gas, cranked the stereo, and off we went, into the night.