Forget hybrids, forget electric, I know how we can end our dependence on foreign oil and cut air pollution in half as well. And even if you aren’t interested in scrambling for the remaining fossil fuel supplies or breathing air that isn’t opaque, you’re probably interested in paying less at the pump. Now, I’ve got your attention, America, don’t I?
The solution is ridiculously simple: Black cars. Henceforth, all cars must be black, and not with gentle gray fabric seats, either. No, the seats must be black vinyl or leather, so they threaten to sear the back of your thighs on contact. (Don’t worry, the third-degree burns eventually harden into scar tissue — physiological potholders of sorts).
I discovered how effective a black car is for deterring driving, after replacing my old white Impala, Pearl, with a sexier younger sister. She’s my official “I’m not dead yet” midlife car, but not the traditional candy apple red. Red is sexy, but nothing’s sexier than a black car.
Let me qualify that: Nothing’s sexier than a clean black car. You’ve all heard tales of them, yes? Well, let me tell you, they do exist. But not for long. The only thing on earth that gets dirty faster than a freshly washed black car is a freshly washed toddler. And Moms, we’re talking a matter of moments, right? Enjoy it while it lasts. Me, I’m thrilled if Black Peal is still clean by the time she’s dry.
Besides the Sisyphus-like nightmare of keeping a black car clean, I hate washing cars. So, what do I do but buy a car you can’t take to the car wash. The salesman warned me that the only way to keep that sexy black mirror finish from turning into a sexy black matte finish is to hand-wash. Always. Drive-through carwashes are forbidden.
But, I’m not washing Black Pearl every day. I’m just not. And I’m also miserable when she’s coated in Yolo County field dust. The solution? A car cover kept on at all times, and a California Car Duster to gently remove the dust in between washings. Well, theoretically. It only works if the car’s already clean. If not, it just creates nice little designs in the dust.
What irony. Once that black car is glistening like a scrying mirror, you have about two minutes to admire it and burn its image into memory before covering it with a big gray bag. Thankfully, the cover’s not that difficult to put on or remove, but provides just enough of a deterrent for frivolous or unnecessary trips in the car.
So, the disincentives to wasting fuel and money are twofold: If the hassle of taking the cover off doesn’t stop you, the prospect of getting inside a Weber barbecue will. Suddenly, your motivation to find fuel-free alternatives is renewed. Nothing has made me want to ride my bike more than my black car.
But let’s say your errand requires a car, either for distance or transporting large objects or other people. You uncover the car, adapt to the smell of burning flesh against leather, and arrive at your destination. All black car owners immediately search for the sweet spot: that parking space that’s both shaded and at the end of the row, so you can scoot as far away from the next space as possible to help protect you from some jerkwad in a beater pickup flinging his door open while he jumps out for a pack of Marlboros and leaving an ugly white divot on your door. Door dings: yet another bane of a black car owner’s existence.
So, you find your sweet spot, and if you’re really lucky, it’s shaded by a building, not a tree. Overhead trees are another gamble for black cars, because although you’ll return to a nice cool car, you may also discover that your shiny, sexy black car has become a shiny, sexy appaloosa, or Holstein even, depending on the size of the birds perched in the tree above. And even if no birds relieved themselves all over your hood while you were shopping, don’t feel too cocky just yet. If the birds don’t get you, the bugs will.
Say you’re flying down I-505 for home in your glistening black jet, ZZ Top’s crankin’ on your sweet stereo system, the AC’s blasting … you’re snickering at those butt-ugly little Priuses tooting along in the slow lane like billboard signs on wheels that announce, “I am no longer interested in having sex,” and all in all, life is good.
You start singing the “My car’s sexier than your car” song as you zoom past and… splat! A gigantic field bug ends it all on your windshield, usually right in the center of your visual field, so that you’re cross-eyed by the time you get home. But not too cross-eyed to notice the butterfly collection on your clean, shiny grill. And it isn’t even August yet.
Come August, all those little yellow butterflies that flutter over the alfalfa fields will turn kamikaze on cars. Particularly clean ones. When it becomes the time of year when yellow butterflies give up on this cold, cruel world and aim right for my shiny, black hood, I’ll wait until evening to make trips to Davis to keep the carnage — and cleanup — to a minimum.
Yes, owning a black car is a lot of work. And worry. But it’s so worth it, because besides renewing my determination to drive less and bike more, that car is just plain dead sexy. Well, under that floppy gray bag it is.
— Email Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com