Cars just aren’t my thing.
I appreciate men and women who cherish their vehicles, who wash and wax them all four seasons and know every nuance about what’s under the hood. I’d like to be more like them, but I’m not.
From time to time I look under the hood of my 2011 Chevrolet Suburban. Recently, I found a mouse nest under there made of weeds, scraps of paper and shreds of an old work glove I lost last summer. These smart little rodents know how to get from my car’s engine to my glove compartment, where they’ve started a second, more modest nest, next to the owner’s manual I’ve never opened. My guess is the mice think of it as a vacation home, like Milwaukee folks have their cottages up in Door County.
My car was gray and blended in with most other vehicles in shopping mall parking lots. I’d lose track of it and go from row to row using my car clicker to sound my horn. When people looked at me in a concerned, sympathetic way, I’d pretend to be a security officer. When all else failed, I’d say a prayer to St. Anthony, who helps Catholics find things they’ve lost. Immediately, due to the response of my mother’s favorite saint, I’d hear the honk of my horn and find my Suburban. But there was no feeling of exaltation. After all, it was just a car.
Then one day a wise friend of mine told me I pay too much attention to reaching a destination, that I fail to appreciate my journey getting there. “My goodness,” I thought, “I need to reevaluate my relationship with my car.” I did two things the same day. First, I gave my Suburban a name. I chose “Homer,” in honor of the great Greek poet (not to be confused with Homer Simpson).
Next, I painted Homer a unique color, a blend of cerulean and lapis blue, making it a standout car in any parking lot. My automotive journeys took on new meaning.
I’m getting better. I change my own oil. I know how to check the air pressure of my tires. Someone showed me where my carburetor is, although I’m a little foggy on its function.
Now, I enjoy grasping Homer’s steering wheel, hearing the hum of the open road and even the occasional scratching sound coming from my glove compartment.