Sunday, August 10, 2008

Become a misanthrope—Get a SmartCar

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.



Comrade Kevin said...

I've never been the sort of person with the kind of automobile fixation as is true for so many. Guess that makes me un-American, or something.

Steven Rowe said...

I have to admit that I stopped when I got to the part about being in the parking lot at Hardees in Calabash - all those fish places and you stop at Hardees? Glad to hear that it was just a flat tire and not a desire for a thickburger over deep fried perch....

PG said...

This is part of why I bought a Civic when I got a hybrid, instead of a Prius, back in 2002 when they were still relatively unusual. A Prius screams, "look at me, I have a hybrid!" With the Civic, you didn't know I had a hybrid unless you saw the back and read the little "hybrid" sign. And even then, I had someone ask about the car about once a week for the first few months I had it. But I wanted more people to buy hybrids, so I was more patient about answering questions.

Anonymous said...

My first car was a Geo Prism, and my second (and current) car is a Daewoo. So, needless to say, I cannot relate. =)

Anonymous said...

Hey CC,
If you had a crowd people asking you questions, why didn't you ask one of them to pump up your tire for you? At least that way, although annoying, they would have been useful. :-)

Hey Sofia,
Same here. I've owned a used Dodge Shadow & a used Ford Contour - neither of which are in production any more. When you drive a POS, you tend to blend in. :-)


ogre said...

Oh dear.

Good thing I'm not innately as misanthropic as you, CC, because I reserved an Aptera. And if you're getting annoyed by the contact over a SmartCar, that three-wheeled thing from sometime in the next century is going to be, well... extreme.

Maybe printing out business card sized FAQs that you can just hand out would help. What it is, what it runs on, the mileage, the (list) price, etc. When someone approaches you and asks about it, just hand them one. It can even say "I've gotten so tired of talking about my car that I made this. I hope it answers your questions!"

PeaceBang said...

I got stopped by a cop on Saturday afternoon at Nantasket Beach and AS I WAS PULLED OVER a girl came up and asked if she could take a picture of my license plate ("WALDEN").

Feelin' ya, but you've got it much, much worse.

Lisa M. Orange said...

It *will* get better, CC. I see more and more Smart cars on the road (although I do still think of it as "your" car), and it won't be so startling after a while. I had a RAV4 in '97, and it was so unusual to see one that the other drivers and I would wave at each other. Now RAV4s are all over the place.