Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Day in the Life of My Car

I've realized that it must really stink to be a car. Especially MY car. My poor little Volkswagen Jetta has been having a rough go of it lately. And when I began to think about it, I realized that the life of any car is really no walk in the park. I mean, just think about it, from the moment you get driven off the showroom floor it all goes downhill.

You are sat on day after day until your seats are worn and often times ripped or otherwise devalued. You are forced to talk or sing constantly (oftentimes at unhealthy volumes) just for the musical entertainment of your dwellers. You carry people from place to place until your feet are so worn they have to amputate them and replace them with new feet altogether, which despite their quality could not possibly ever feel quite the same as the ones you were born with. When the weather gets nasty and you just want to relax by the fire, you are expected to endure the conditions and trudge through them. You surely resent the day the speed bump was invented and tremble whenever you catch one in your sights. You unwillingly kill harmless animals everyday and watch as their limp bodies stick to your skin for days, weeks and sometimes months. This is the case for each and every vehicle on the road regardless of owner. Just think about the cars who REALLY got the short end of the stick.

Now if you are my car, there are even more unfortunate conditions that you must suffer. You are only fed when you are absolutely starving and you have to turn orange in order to remind me that you may just possibly be hungry. You are not entitled the regularity of bathing, and are sometimes forced to go months without a single scrub. You are bumped and bruised for two and a half years by the other vehicles in the UC Davis parking lots on a daily basis, without a soul to witness these discretions and offer consolation. And we won't even begin to discuss what it was like when I was learning to drive stick...

Well, in the past few months this tortured little Jetta has begun to fight back. My Jetta has a personality, it is a trickster for sure. Over the course of our three year history together, it has played some nasty jokes on me. While living in Davis, it up and decided one day that it would continually rev the engine, even when stopped at a red light or other controlled intersection. This little joke caused many glances from passersby, as I sounded like I was preparing to tear down the road at the first opportunity leaving behind a trail of rubber and smoke. On a drive through San Francisco, my Jetta decided to play another nasty little trick. My passengers and I jumped as one of the rear windows plummeted into the greatest depths of the door frame with no hope of being raised without professional help - this little episode caused me to run a red light on 19th Avenue. This Jetta has also abruptly halted the air conditioning during the hottest months of the summer (during which time I was forced to always carry a second shirt in the car to change into after I had sweated through the first on those 100 degree summer days in Davis). And these past few months have been no exception. During a rainy weekend, I rolled down all four windows quickly to clear off the foggy glass, at which time my Jetta decided it didn't feel like rolling the windows back up. That was a wet weekend for us both. It no longer allows me to lock or unlock the doors from the driver's side, so I am forced to walk around to the passenger's side to unlock the doors before entering the vehicle.

Well, yesterday proved to be an especially rough day for this little Jetta of mine. It took quite the beating as an older man in a pickup in front of us threw his car into reverse and smashed into the front end of my dear little Jetta. Its hood sticks up in a teepee shape, its teeth are looking a little buck and some are broken, and it has a handful of scrapes covering its face. All the other cars are looking at it and laughing, not to mention the pedestrians and other drivers. My poor little Jetta looks pretty pathetic. But, this tragic event has forced me to forgive my Jetta for all of its practical jokes. For all that my little car has put me through, yesterday's events made me realize that my car has suffered much more than I have.

After these most recent wounds have healed and the bandaids have been removed, I am certain that we will rejoin forces and get back on the road in harmony, at least for a few months.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Art of Being Gentlemanly

Oh, the awkwardness. I've never been comfortable with having car doors opened for me on a date, or otherwise. If my hands aren't full and I'm capable of opening the door, I'd just assume do it myself. I'm stubborn when it comes to allowing a guy to pay for dinner or the movies or whatever the event may be. Don't get me wrong, on occasion it is appreciated, but I am not of the school of thought that it should be expected. I open doors, and often times stand impatiently while I refuse to enter a building first. I don't know if you would consider this a result of my own stubborn nature, or if I should attribute these actions and reactions to the evolution of social expectations.

After a trip to Medford, Oregon this weekend to visit the grandparents, I began to revisit the idea of "the gentleman". I watched as my 94-year-old grandfather would rise out of his chair every time I entered the room, and wouldn't sit back down until he was satisfied that I had found my own seat (always offering his own chair as the first option). And when we had finished eating lunch together one afternoon and headed out for his afternoon walk I noticed that as we walked along the brief stretch of sidewalk before getting to the park, he always maneuvered ever so slightly so that he stood streetside. While each of these things struck me about my grandfather, what really caught my attention most was every afternoon and evening when we would stand up to leave their assisted living facility, my grandfather, without fail, followed us each and every time to the front door to see us out and thank us for our visit.

What I began to realize is that these actions simply aren't expected of my generation, and in fact, are rarely expected of my father's generation. I don't recall having ever seen my father open the car door for my mother (for which I surely would have ridiculed him endlessly), and the same can be said of my brother (with the exception of his wedding, when I'm certain I remember somebody whispering in his ear that he should probably help his new wife and her voluminous dress into their getaway vehicle before himself). And something should be said for the fact that I very distinctly remember the first time a car door was opened for me, when my homecoming date opened the door to his parent's car before walking around to the other side of the car and climbing in the back seat with me. It caught me off guard and has continued to do so the few other times that I have had the awkward experience of having the car door opened for me.

After thinking about the phenomenon of the gentleman over the weekend I realized that I think it simply boils down to the fact that these actions haven't remained natural for our generations. My grandfather, who retains no short term memories, doesn't even think about his gentlemanly actions. They are so engrained in his personality that he performs these actions without even thinking about them. Of course, I understand that this is also a regional issue. One of my roommates in France had all of these "traditional" expectations and was constantly relaying stories of the abundance of true Texas gentlemen.

But, I am so unfamiliar with these qualities that I have begun to reject them altogether. It was not until my grandfather displayed them with such ease, that I recognized it may be an issue that lies more in the delivery than in the actual act itself. When my grandfather stood in his chair, I didn't blink an eye. When he woudn't eat a peanut m&m without first making sure that no one else in the room wanted one, I wasn't uncomfortable. And each time he grabbed another couple of m&m's he would remind us that anyone else was welcome to the m&m's. More than anything my heart swelled with love for my aging grandfather, and it does make you reconsider the desirability of a true, old-fashioned gentleman in today's society. It's an art that seems lost on my generation, and while I'm certain that I will continue paying and opening doors, it's nice to step back in time for a moment or two and experience the respect and tradition of another time.

I'd be curious to see whose parents (as a young boy) taught them these gentlemanly acts along with not hitting your sister, eating with your mouth closed, and all of the other very important lessons we learn as youngsters. My guess is that the number is quite small.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dragging my feet into the blogging world...

Alright, so I've never been a big fan of "the blog". Maybe it's the name? I mean just say the word out loud one or two times and pay attention to what your mouth does. Blog. Blog. It's verbal vomit. Or maybe it's the resounding belief that no one should have to submit themselves to hearing everything that I think. But, nonetheless, I've dragged myself here.

Why then, you might ask? Well, turns out my English degree turned me into a writer. Not in the way that you might think... I don't sit around and toil over the storyline for my next novel. But, I learned to process the world through this literary medium and I came out on the other side with a passion for writing (and reading). And while I may have been talented enough at this whole writing thing to get myself through my degree with minimal effort, it has been sitting at bay for the past twelve months post graduation, and it's struggling. (Not as much as the French I haven't used in a year and a half, but nonetheless, struggling it is) Thus, the blog.

Now, I'm done with analytic essays from every possibly perspective (Good riddance psychoanalysis!). Instead I figured I'd take up the writing that is me. So here I am, in all my glory, hoping to revive the writer's spirit within me while simultaneously exploring this life and offering my perspectives to those who care to listen. I don't offer the promise of profundity, in fact I aim to reject it.

So, feel free to come along for the ride, I'll try not to disappoint.