Tuesday, February 11, 2003

California Vehicular

When I left Jackson to go to college, I remember being uncomfortable with a number of things in the The Big City. (Eastern's campus is a beautiful estate set in a peaceful and prosperous old suburb of Philadelphia, but compared to downtown Jackson, it's a city.) I was mildly and weirdly uncomfortable with the number of sunny days, having grown accustomed to Jackson's sensible ratio of 6 cloudy days out of 7. I had also forgotten how to cross a city street, though I spent four years in elementary school living in Ardmore, just about ten miles down the Main Line from Eastern.

And I was uncomfortable with the cars. It seemed like one out of every three cars was a Mercedes or Cadillac. Yes, the Main Line is a wealthy area — though God knows there is poverty there as well. (This is something I know firsthand. Trust me.) But there are prosperous farmers in Jackson. They just don't show off their money with expensive cars, designer underwear, fancy jewelry, or any of the other popular ways to show off wealth (incidentally draining you of it).

Silicon Valley has so many expensive cars I don't even look twice at a Jaguar or Range Rover. I do look at the Cadillac Escalade, but only to curse it as possibly the ugliest conveyance ever designed. There were tumbrils with more grace and style. Nor do I notice the cars on the other end of the spectrum — the thirty-year-old Gremlins (look, it's a pregnant roller skate!), the 1964 Falcons, the innumerable old Beetles, the many cars from the 70s and 80s that continue rolling rustlessly along California's salt-free highways. Recently I've spotted a number of the tiny little Cooper Minis, a British car approximately the size of a can of Spam.

Twice, recently, I've really looked at a vehicle. The other day I spotted a gorgeous 1930s-era Rolls-Royce sportscar. That I noticed. And today I saw someone chugging along the sidewalk on a Segway, the motorized scooter that's supposed to change the world.

I myself drive a truck — a Ford Ranger new the year I got married, which had a Phillies sticker on it even before I bought it. (Clearly it was Meant to Be.) Every household needs a utility vehicle, and the Ranger is ours. But what I would really love is to live someplace near enough to public transit that I could take that to work. It's just a dream.

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