Friday, July 18, 2008

NASA used a lot of them. And TANG, too

Driving home yesterday, I saw what in another time might have been imagined to have been one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and/or another signal that End Times are nigh. Parked near the entrance to the closed-for-the day Toyota dealership, but still idling because I guess it just wasn't consuming enough fossil fuel, was a black Cadillac-one of the large Death Star size cars, not the hip pocket rockets or the trendy Euro-styled sleds.

This was an old school Caddy, the 'as a matter of fact, I do have a deed to the road in the glove compartment, so shut up, peasant' sized car, as black as Christie Brinkley's heart, or Peter Cook's reputation (sorry. I found all of that so amazingly embarrassing and stupidly self-aggrandizing last week. I now know what to get their kids as birthday presents, gift certificates for therapists). The unapologetic flagship of the Cadillac Ranch.

The couple who had been in it were walking around a Prius not peering into the windows, yet, and about as far away as we are from one another in line at ATM's. Not sure they could see the brag sheet on the backseat window on the driver's side, where the paper tells you about all the options, and how much they break out as, plus destination charges and what the EPA thinks the mileage should be. And we both know, these folks have never seen mileage numbers like those in any car they've ever driven.

Nor have they ever needed to. They looked about my age, though since they're driving a Caddy, obviously more successful, but that means we all probably went through the first Gas Crisis together back in 1973 (when gas at the pump in May of 73 was 39 cents a gallon and skyrocketed to 55 cents by the following June) and look at us now. Some of us didn't blink as we went from weekend use of petroleum products, at parties and such, to a little more during the work week, 'y'know, to take the edge off, dude' until we awakened a few short months ago to diesel topping five bucks a gallon, with high test about twenty cents behind and regular on the far side of four bucks a pop. Talk about the Man with the Golden Pump?

Suddenly those Hummers didn't look like such smart ideas, did they? And those pick-up trucks that are so large they come with their own zip codes are rusting on dealer's lots because if you can afford the gas it takes to get one of them to the market for the weekly groceries, you can't afford the groceries. Are you as impressed with your level of physical fitness as I am with mine (despite our years)? When my wife and I married thirty years ago, I couldn't even begin to get my arms around a hundred dollars' worth of groceries. Now, I can pick up a hundred bucks' worth of food without even using two hands. Must be putting steroids and fluoride in the water. Has anyone seen Rafael Palmeiro lately-now that the Viagra gig is over, has a he got a Culligan water service contract?

I figure it was their first visit to their next life-they may not know it yet, that's all. A follow-up visit, probably while the dealership is still closed because we have our pride as human beings, will find them looking at different colors of the car, and perhaps (shading their eyes) looking into the windows to see for themselves that the car has seats and headrests and, yes, a steering wheel. Perhaps on a third or fourth visit, the one just before they actually go and find a salesman (though I've never needed to seek out a salesman on a car lot. I feel a sugar cube at picnic near an army ant preserve.), one of them, probably him, will perhaps poke the car with a stick, looking for some Reason to Believe.

Meanwhile, we tell one another forty is the new thirty. By the time we get to fifty-six being the new forty, I'll be seventy, I suspect. And we didn't cut back or go cold turkey when gas went to three bucks a gallon, so maybe four is the new two, huh? And what do they want for bananas these days, because the monkey on your back looks like it hasn't eaten in a week.
-bill kenny

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