This is the post I meant to write yesterday. But I realized I hadn’t explained the whole new car thing. Which is a thing. A big thing, for us. For as little as we use the car, being a so-called “car lite” family, getting a different car was a BFD for us. And it was a little emotional for me. I don’t know if other people recall eras of their lives by what car they owned at the time. For me, it was a bittersweet transition from little red wagon to, well, a big red wagon.
Not long after I got the new car (new to us, it’s a 2007), I needed to get it washed. The trees that line the street near our house are some sort of bizarre sap monsters. They start in the spring with tiny speckles of sap that wash off easily, but are nonetheless annoying. Our car is sometimes parked in one spot for weeks at a time. And by then, the entire car is covered with sticky dust.
As the weather warms up, the sap droppings get bigger and intensify. By August, it’s like someone is hurling globs of maple syrup down on the street. The pavement becomes shiny. If you walk on it, your shoes will stick. After even an hour of parking under these trees, the car is encased with sticky goo. I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but they fucking suck.
So I was on my way to Oktoberfest, but I needed to wash the car. I normally don’t take the car to drive-thru washes, but the situation was dire. After leaving the car parked under the goop trees for a couple of days, the windows were completely obscured and driving was hazardous. I drove up 82nd looking for a car wash. For those of you who are not from Portland, 82nd Ave is a major commercial corridor on the east side with used car lots, fast food, strip malls, strip joints, crushed hopes and broken dreams. I age five years and get a meth scab every time I have to drive down 82nd.
I found a gas station with a car wash. I didn’t need gas, I just needed a quick wash. I parked my car and spoke with the gas station attendant about getting the code to run the wash. The attendant was filling up some electric blue faux muscle car.
As I approached, I saw the guy driving the blue car. He was over tanned, and blond, with a sharp-edged blocky crew cut. He clearly worked out. A lot. Like, too much. His tan arms looked like roasted turkeys bulging out of his wife beater. Yes, a wife beater. It was almost too cliche to believe. I didn’t know there were still guys like this out there. Yet, there he was, in front of me, in his bright blue Dodge Stealth, or whatever is was.
He gazed at me in equal disdain. As he slowly looked me over, I was suddenly self conscious of my appearance. I was dressed for warmth, since I was going to Oktoberfest, and I knew I would be sitting outside for some hours. I had a big, floppy sweatshirt and a cap. I was still wearing baggy pregnancy jeans, since they were comfortable, and my post twins belly was not yet fitting into regular jeans. I was wearing my square, geeky glasses. I looked like a completely androgynous Portland nerdster. I was driving a snooty Euro family wagon.
His eyes rolled away dismissively. But I was still sort of gleefully fascinated with this guy. He had such a “presence.” Why did he seem so familiar? That blockhead hair. The huge muscles. The tank top. The tan. He could have been the villain in any 80s movie. He could beat up Sylvester Stallone, or Ralph Macchio.
And his car. That shiny, electric blue car. Some nondescript, needle-nosed wedge of fiberglass. It was more than a few years old, but not a classic. Not an actual “fast” car, but some flimsy substitute. But it was that bright blue, and shined to a gloss, even as the body pieces loosely sagged from age. Man, this guy was proud of that car. A rolling temple to an era gone by.
We finished sizing each other up, both respectively falling into our easy self-made stereotypes. The gas station attendant took my money and gave me a code for the car wash. I walked back to my sticky dirty Euro wagon. The blond muscly blockhead started his car, revved the engine, as if to remind those within in earshot that he is not fucking around, and drove off onto 82nd, to points unknown.
I couldn’t help but smirk at what a spectacle I had just witnessed. I didn’t know there were still guys like that out there. They really, really, are out there.
Perhaps it was for the best he would never know, that if we were to race, my car would totally, completely, resoundingly, kick the ever loving shit out of his car.