Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Car's Point of View

By “Good Car” (the most extraordinary car in the world)

Good Car here. At least that’s what Joann calls me, as she lovingly pats my steering wheel. We’ve been together for almost seven years now. And, since car years are like dog years, I’m getting up there in age. But I’ll never forget the first week after I left that boring dealership parking lot seven years ago. I was a brand spanking new Buick Rendezvous and eager to see the world. So I couldn’t believe my luck when Joann just handed Ruth the keys and let her drive me to Pennsylvania.

A day later, Ruth and I picked Joann up from the airport and then we spent a week touring the backroads in search of wonderful things to photograph. That was my first big trip. Come to think of it, that was their first big trip, too. And I must say that they have gotten a lot more organized since then. On that trip, there was stuff piled to the ceiling and it was “sort of” organized at the start of the trip. But by the end of the trip, I felt like a cyclone had passed right through the middle of me.

These days, though, when we take a long trip to other parts of the country, they have it down to a science. Everything has a particular place in my luxuriously large cargo area and they are pretty meticulous about putting things back where they started out. Duffle bags on the right; all weather clothing bag and “kitchen”/dry goods bag on the left; large cooler and picnic bag in the middle; bag of extra tripods stuffed along the left side; jackets, pillows, bags of popcorn on top; and a box of nature and lodging guides in the far rear, along with jugs of drinking water.

My back seat gets a good workout, too. Extended tripod on the floor; Rubbermaid container full of camera equipment secured with a bungee cord on the driver side; laptop and 40-lb. bag of research materials and maps on the passenger side; three backpacks full of extra camera gear, tools, and electrical cords in the middle; boots, umbrellas, towels, and hand wash gel under the seats; gazetteers and photo logs in a pouch hanging on the back of the driver seat; garbage, bug spray, Goo Gone, tape, and other supplies in a pouch hanging on the back of the passenger seat; first aid kit and poison ivy wash in the door.

Now that I think about it, there’s quite a bit of stuff in the front seat, too. Drinks, pencils, markers, and small notebooks in the holder up front; binoculars, bird books, and music CDs in the bin underneath; a mini pharmacy in the driver side door; eyeglass repair kit, magnifying glass, and extra writing instruments in the passenger side door; and a boatload of miscellaneous stuff in the center console compartment. Did I say stuff? Ooh, I’m feeling rather bloated. Yes, I’m stuffed to the gills with everything they could possibly need for two weeks on the backroads. After all, they’re so busy capturing images that they’re hard-pressed to take any time off to stop and pick up anything other than a few groceries every few days.

I’d like to take ALL the credit for the astounding organization and efficiencies achieved, but I suppose I need to give Joann and Ruth some credit for figuring it all out over the years. When I left the assembly line, I thought I knew all the great and wonderful things I could provide. But I am even more multi-talented than I thought. My liftgate is a great canopy for photographing or changing clothes in the rain. My bumper and the handle on my liftgate are useful for roadside exercises. My driver side passenger door, when open, provides a good support for an umbrella under which Joann readies her camera equipment in the rain. My large dashboard is often turned into a work table for Ruth’s gazetteers, maps, and research materials.

One of the other things I need to give them credit for are the tricks they taught me along the way. I was WAY cool to begin with, but now I’m a wiz at U-turns, Y-turns, and (my favorite) ASTERISK-turns, which are often needed to get them out of a jam when they take a narrow dead end road that gets even narrower along the way. And it’s a good thing I’ve perfected this because I’m not so good at backing up, but I blame that on operator error (sorry, Joann). I’m not complaining, mind you. In my whole life, I’ve only suffered a few minor mishaps, and those were usually something to do with the tires. I seem to attract nails for some reason (probably because they’re always driving near rickety old buildings and into farmyards).

A couple years ago, on an early autumn morning, I tried to take them to Baxter’s Hollow, a beautiful Wisconsin state natural area. But the bridge had been washed out in a flood, so Joann turned the car around and they decided to eat breakfast by the side of the road. But I accidentally picked up a nail somewhere on that road. Joann got out of the car to get something out of the back, so I (wanting to make sure they didn’t get stuck way back on that dead end), started hissing as loudly as I could. When Joann realized what had happened, she jumped in and drove like a bat out of hell to get me out of there before the tire went flat. Ruth was a bit bewildered until Joann explained her actions.

In all these years and miles, there has been only one serious mishap and it was an act of nature that did me in. We had been out enjoying fall colors all day and Ruth suggested they take a beautiful gravel road in the Baraboo Hills as they headed towards home. Joann got out and took several photographs of the blazing fall color and then got back in and started me up. As I slowly started to move forward, I felt a strange sensation on my windshield and could see confused looks on the faces of Joann and Ruth. At first, we all thought a branch had fallen from a tree, but all of a sudden there was a HUGE crash as a large tree, that had uprooted itself, fell onto the front of me and bounced to the ground. Joann tried to stop me, but I slid up over the tree, which punctured my radiator and wrecked my A/C compressor, along with my bumper, of course.

Joann has treated me very well over the years – giving me regular maintenance and letting me rest in the garage when she doesn’t need me. But still, I wish I had a name other than Good Car. After all, when Joann first got her license, she and Ruth would go to the movies in their dad’s pickup truck, which they affectionately called Duke. And Irwin (their so-called “trusty” GPS) got a respectable name the first time they tried him out. Oh, well….maybe in my next life. Speaking of my next life, Joann says I meet their needs so perfectly that she doesn’t ever want to replace me. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

As they always say, Happy Shunpiking!
Good Car

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