As I sat in the parking lot of the Calabash, North Carolina Hardee’s, changing a tire as half a dozen people watched me and asked questions, I realized my SmartCar was seriously making me start to hate humanity.
And I don’t know what to do about it.
I realize I do own a red convertible. That said, I’m not intentionally being the person who exhibits attention-seeking behavior, then complains about the attention. I suppose some comparison in this direction is inevitable, and maybe I deserve it a little bit. But I like small cars and I’ve always wanted a convertible. TheCSO insisted we buy a red or yellow car because SmartCars are, well, really really small and he wanted me to be as easy to see as possible. I really didn’t buy a SmartCar to meet people.
But meet people I do, constantly.
And I really hate it. I’ve started to look at the world with a suspicious eye. When people approach me in parking lots, I’m already thinking “Don’t ask about the mileage, don’t ask how much I paid for it and for the love of God, don’t make fun of it.”
I mostly drive with the top up, in part because when people know it’s a convertible, they talk to me about it all the more
I can be, I think, a pretty nice person. I do a lot for other people and a lot for my friends. I am fond of almost everyone I know.
But I am seriously starting to dislike strangers.
I’m chubby and fairly plain with nice, even features but on the whole am not particularly impressive physically. When I was younger, I fantasized about being really, really, beautiful and how wonderful it would be. As I got older, I started to suspect that I would find the attention would get old. Now I’m certain I would despise it. I can’t even take people fussing over my car.
This all hit an apex this afternoon, when a tire that had a slow leak suddenly went completely flat. I noticed it in the parking lot of a CVS. There was a Hardee’s two blocks away. I had postcards to write and I just didn’t feel like I could deal with the flat tire this very second. So I drove the car two block and parked it behind Hardee’s, flat tire facing away from the restaurant.
I went in to Hardee’s, got a soda and wrote my postcards. Perhaps half a postcard in, one of the employees comes up to me.
“Does that thing run on water?”
“Huh?” I said. I always play dumb when people ask me about my car. Might as well make the conversation a little annoying for them, too.
“Is that your red car?”
“Is it one of those cars that runs on water?”
“No,” I said. “It runs on gas.”
She went away. Half a postcard later, she was back.
“Does it cost twenty dollars to fill the gas tank?”
“More like thirty,” I said.
I was almost done with the postcards when she came back again. “My manager was taking out the trash and he said you have a flat tire.”
“I know. I’m going to take care of it now, I just wanted a drink first.”
“Ok, because the tire is flat. He saw it when he was taking out the trash.”
“I’ll take care of it.” I said. At this point the lady really was trying to be nice, but I really, really wanted to be left the fuck alone. I threw out the soda, stuffed the postcards in my pocket and headed for the door.
I have a full-sized spare and could have changed it there, but I just wanted to be out of there, so I pulled out the tire pump, a little machine that attaches to a bottle of fix-a-flat-type-stuff. As I attached the pump to the tire and to the cigarette lighter in the car, the lady who worked at Hardee’s and a guy who I assumed was her manager came out to watch. They were soon joined by a couple who had been in the Hardee’s and some teenagers who had been walking across the parking lot.
“It’s such a cute little thing.”
“What’s she doing?”
“Pumping up the tire.”
“I could never fit my kids in that car…”
I couldn’t get to 36 psi fast enough. Finally, it was done and I unhooked the pump and threw it into the passenger’s seatwell. The crown dispersed, I drove away.
But I was left with a sense of unease about the whole situation. Sure, it was annoying, and it would have been nice if someone had actually offered to help, but this IS appreciation, right? I mean people fuss over my car because they think it’s cool.
I tell myself this over and over.