Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cylinder Envy

At my age, motoring down the road has become more of a dull homogenized chore than an adventure. Especially now when so many vehicles look alike and sound alike – where’s the excitement? But today I saw one of those tiny ‘Smart’ cars kids drive, which is about half the size of an average NBA player’s high-tops.

You would think the sheer diminutive size alone would be enough to spark any bored driver like me from slumber. But this car had more, in fact this car had it all! Now don’t think I am so unsafe as to drive down the road staring out my side window. We were all stopped in a left turn lane at an irritatingly delayed traffic light.

The little car was handsomely painted in that fancy color changing paint that High Schoolers drool over. So depending on the angle at which the sun hit parts of the car, some of it was metallic green, blue, or purple all at once! I had a friend whose small motorcycle tank was painted with that stuff and it cost over a thousand dollars. So just the paint job on the little car alone must have been worth half of its purchase price?

Yes, first class paint is stylish, but what put the cherry on the top of this motorized sundae was the guy had mounted a cool ‘V8’ placard in gleaming chrome script just under the shiny silver appliqué air vents. You know it had to be real because it said so - RIGHT ON THE SIDE OF THE CAR! My car is twice the size and I’m not sure if it even runs on 3 out of 4 cylinders most of the time? But eight cylinders! – oh those were the days - I was much younger then...

My first car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass. It had 8 glorious cylinders. I did not race or have any interest in that, but to impress myself I would turn over the air cleaner cover. Oddly it would not sound any different outside the car – but inside, it growled like a panther. The car was silky smooth and built around that giant motor and 11 miles per gallon highway. For a car that was 18 feet long, half of it was the hood. Even then, it irritated me that the back seat only had 6 inches of legroom. It seemed with so much space on the outside, there should have been something left over for the inside too? Still it was a V8 and all mine.

Of course the irony was, at 16 years old, ANY car is pure internal combustion joy. You could care less how many cylinders you had as long as your parents covered the gas and insurance. The excitement then was the mystery if your car would start, not what it sounded or looked like. Ahhh, those were indeed the days.

As the light finally changed, I managed to get a gander at the lucky kid driving the highly accessorized little roller skate - some snobby high school ‘letterman’ no doubt. “Why don’t you join the rest of us in the real world and start paying for your OWN gas, insurance, and taxes? When are you going to grow up and quit bleeding Mommy and Daddy dry?” I chortled.

Through the swaying Mardi Gras beads draped over the car’s rearview mirror, I was momentarily blinded by the sun’s blistering reflection. As the prismatic ‘Chiclet’ accelerated away, the sun’s hot glare rolled towards shadow to reveal the distinct form of the soft, wrinkled dome of the pilot's ... BALD HEAD?! Now “That’s Exciting” I thought. “I Wonder if my parents will pay for MY gas and insurance too?” … maybe? - as long as I keep my grades up!

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