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Quick and Angry (part 2 of 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Nevertheless, Rover’s standard 5-speed pistol grip shifter, framed with the gray plastic cup holders and “random sundries” bin, redefined grace, elegance and functionality for me. (It makes me salivate—and start to sweat just a little—just to reminisce about him.) Alas, I was unfair and abusive to Rover during the course of our relationship. I guess we just stayed together too long, and I gradually began taking him for granted, regularly alternating on him cruel cycles of abuse and neglect. I can see that now, of course—too late.

I customized his gray carpets, mostly on the passenger’s side, with a shade of pink only achievable with an appropriate volume of Sonic Cherry Limeade never properly tended to. And when the inevitably hard highway miles I forced on him began showing chips and flakes across his bow, rather than waste good money on a $99 Earl Scheib paint job, instead I splurged on a couple of 99-cent cans of white Krylon from Walmart, which I applied to his hood like a tagging felon in my own garage.

As Rover began to approach 100,000 miles, the money his life support was costing our family simply became too much of a burden. I had already spent more on him than his blue book value said he was worth, and the auto physicians still refused to offer me any guarantees they could even save him, let alone return him to his glory days. My eye began to wander, and before long it settled on a dark blue Honda Civic with adorable curves. She smelled soooo good. I decided I had to have her. I planned to call her Roxanne.

On the day Roxanne was ready for me, honestly I was a little embarrassed making Rover drive me to the dealership. But not for me—for him. Of course I didn’t tell him we were going there to pick her up—let alone that he would not be coming home with us. To add insult to injury, the last formality of my business transaction with Roxanne’s dealer was when, standing right in front of him, I unceremoniously handed Rover’s keys over to the guy. Rover really was just pathetic that day, disgusting…and I was glad to be rid of him.

Roxanne and I would run errands together all over town. Sometimes we’d go for a drive just to get outside and spend some time together, rolling her windows down and listening to her radio. For a while, when we’d be out on one of our “adventures,” we’d see Rover here and there. He’d try to smile at me, but I’d scowl back, and then he’d just look away, all embarrassed, and scuttle off, pretending like he hadn’t seen us.

After a while, we stopped seeing him altogether. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved away somewhere. For all I know, he may even be dead. It’s probably a little cruel of me, but I honestly don’t care. I mean, after all, he’s just a car.

Does YOUR car have a name? If so, what is it? Do you think I was too hard on Rover? (Before answering, keep in mind: You didn’t know him.)

Quick and Angry (part 1 of 2)

In 1999,  my friend Blair had a primo white Ford Bronco that was completely paid for. Blair had a strict (and not-at-all insane) policy that all of his vehicles had to have names. His Bronco was “Rog,” a manly label he had borrowed from some science fiction novel.

But Blair had a problem. Blair was a dyed-in-the-wool Ford man, and 1999 was the first year Ford began trying to seduce customers with 0% financing. They piloted the idea with their new Escorts. At first, Blair tried to talk me into one. “It’s like free money!” he more grinned than said. But I was perfectly happy with my Geo Prizm (a GM-rebranded Toyota Corolla)—a car which was also completely paid for.

Now of course I don’t have to tell you the storied history of the famous Ford Escort ZX-2’s from NASCAR. Absolutely everybody has heard tales ad infinitum of their legendary (some might even say notorious) performance dominating the circuit. Let’s just say it was a good thing the ZX-2 had a spoiler on its trunk lid; otherwise, I imagine that tail would start floating once the monster got up to speed. Without that spoiler, it’s highly possible that over 70 MPH, he would have careened into a front flip death cartwheel.

And then sadly—as of course everybody also knows—Dodge dropped their Neon 1/8 of an inch and added a spoiler of their own. And that was all she wrote for the Fords. Mazda would also likely have had a shot, had they been allowed to compete. Once they stopped the foolish practice of calling their car the 323 and went with the simpler “3,” the weight loss and aerodynamic gain they discovered by dropping that “23” off their badging would have given them just the edge they needed to rewrite the history books. Alas, it didn’t happen.

So as you might imagine, when Blair’s little brother bought a ZX-2 and started bragging to him about what a sweet ride it was for the money, Ford’s tractor beam finally caught Blair once and for all.

Rog got a new little brother of his own: a white Escort ZX-2 with a gray interior. Blair named  him “Rover” because he imagined him being like the little lap dog version of a car. Escort ZX-2’s came in two trim models: “Hot,” which was lighter and sportier with a manual 5-speed transmission, and “Cool,” a little smoother, fatter, more refined—and anemic. Blair opted for Hot, of course. He loved Rover, and he would coddle him the 2 miles it took him to drive to work every day. But after just 13,000 miles, representing one year of being a single man who lived alone and owned 2 vehicles, Blair and little Rover just couldn’t outrun Blair’s sensibilities anymore.

Blair offered to sell Rover to me for what he still owed on him. It was a great deal; Rover was really fun to drive. (And most importantly, Kendra said it was okay.) When I got the papers, my insurance agent tried to convince me I should list Rover as Cool instead of Hot because the parts were essentially the same, but the rates would be cheaper. Rover and I were insulted, and we were having none of it. But honestly, the longer we were together, the more I realized that Rover was more bravado than actual musk. He wasn’t zippy enough to be what you could call “fast”—maybe “quick” on his best day. And he wasn’t mean enough to count as “furious”—more like “angry,” I guess.

Have you ever had a love affair with a car? Do tell! And be sure to come back Monday for the thrilling conclusion. (Okay, maybe not “thrilling.” But you won’t be disappointed. Let’s call it “twisty.”) Do you like NASCAR? If so, what do you think it is that’s wrong with you?

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