FREE-WHEELING

Driving found me late in life. Having always lived in cities where having a car was more of a hindrance than a convenience,  subway, buses and trains were my friends. Then came the move to LA. Even with its improved transportation system, it’s impossible to envisage LA without its car centric culture. And while ingenious people find ways to get pretty much anywhere with alternative means, a car, any car, will improve the experience of living here.

I passed my driving test after the third attempt on a rainy January day – let’s just say that driving didn’t come naturally which is why I probably stayed away in the first place. But it has since blossomed into a passion. I cherish getting in my car and rounding the curves of the canyon or driving along the ocean or finding a meditative state along the freeway – when not in a gridlock…I might not have been attracted to driving but I always loved cars, since my father introduced me to long Sunday afternoons spent watching Formula 1 Racing. I was the only girl I knew with a penchant for racing cars and if I grew up not knowing how it felt to hold a steering wheel, I could recite which curves required which gear on which circuit. To those who perceive Formula 1 as a bunch of testosterone driven guys going round a circuit, let me assure you there is tremendous beauty in understanding tactics, engineering, pit stops and listening to the droning noise of the engines.

As long as there are wheels

I always dreamt of a sports car. I took the plunge 12 years ago, at a point in my life when I found I could afford one, after 3 hours of haggling in a dealership (which has made me an invaluable instrument to any friend wishing to buy a car but frightened by car salesmen). I couldn’t believe I was actually driving away in my brand new sports baby – I was so scared and excited, a feeling I will never experience again because it was just that – a first. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and drive to work and it had nothing to do with status symbol. To this day, I can turn the radio off and just listen to the engine roar or push the car to its (or mine) limit and I still find it exhilarating. Most of all, it hadn’t been a gift but it was truly mine, payed with my hard-earned money – some girls wish for diamonds or shopping sprees, I just wanted to give myself a car.

But I have recently been asking myself how old is too old when it comes to sports cars? In LA it is not uncommon to see older women slide out of convertible Mercedes or Jags, immaculately kept and hardly driven. Somehow we associate fast cars with men with cash and young, beautiful women. Was the man who talked to me at the traffic light yesterday, some inane question about my car, expecting for someone much younger to turn around and answer him? Singing off-key at the top of my lungs, dancing unseen to 80’s music and driving with the top down make me forget how old I am – but should I try to be conscious of it? There is nothing more off-putting than an older person not acting his/her age.

The mini-van stage passed me by and, for now, the Lincoln Continental seems still very far away. At some point, it will get too hard on my back to pretend that sliding in and out of a car whose seats pretty much sit on the tarmac is easy. For now, I will keep tangling my hair in the wind, Ottie strapped in at my side, ears flapping. His whiskers are getting grey and he doesn’t have the benefit of colouring but, for now, we don’t care what people think. We are having a ball!

 

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