Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Monte Carlo: It's not Just a Romantic City in Monaco

Our cat, Skippy, sits here gnawing on my ankles.

"Why are you biting me?" I ask.

"Why don't you do something about it?" I can almost hear him asking back.

So I consider writing about how you can love someone with such a cantankerous personality as Skippy sometimes has. That would be a good Kissy Love week topic, right?

No, but it would be a good way to put off writing about my husband Justin, the most important Valentine's Day topic. I was going to write about him yesterday but chickened out and wrote about love songs instead.

It's hard to write about love. That's why in so many movies it doesn't happen until the end.

And so I'll write about cars instead.

Last night, Justin was driving us to Cinzetti's for a romantic dinner for 30 that my family was having to celebrate my uncle John's birthday. Our car is a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker on loan from my dad because, at age 29, I am no better a driver than I was at age 16 when I failed my driver's exam three times. Well, that's not exactly true. One of those times I got an incomplete. The instructor, fearing for her life, made me drive back to the station as soon as we started.

"Did you see that construction area?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"You almost drove us into it," she said, pointing to an expanse of broken asphalt and unmanned construction vehicles.

Well, now I saw it. I was practically parked in it. But I certainly didn't see it one second ago. I mean I'm not a total idiot...Oh wait.

Anyway, a few months ago I totaled our car in a fender bender in which, thank God, no one was hurt.

Now we drive my late grandmother Mume's New Yorker. I can practically hear her thundering down from the heavens when my dad or I staple the ceiling back up, or jimmy up the back window using those things you open jars with. Mume kept that car in tip top shape. But that's not the point.

The point is, watching my husband drive the New Yorker yesterday transported me back to our first date, when we both lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and when Justin drove another big sedan: a 1980s white and orange--or rust, to be more specific--Monte Carlo.

Unlike me, my husband has never been in a wreck, not even when the front hood of the Monte flew up on the highway when he was en route from Boston to Arizona. It totally blinded him, but I imagine he simply stuck his head out of the driver's side window, nonchallantly sipping on a big gulp, and exited when it was convenient. And that wouldn't be such a great feat except that in order to roll down the window, he would have had to reach across the car into the glove compartment for his wrench, and crank the roller mechanism until the window stubbornly budged enough to allow room for his enormous heed.

On our first date, he told me at the door: "I have to warn you. I drive a really nice car."

"Oh, Geyod," I thought. "If he has a show-off car I'm going to act like I have the chickenpox."

Then I saw it: the Monte. It looked like something from my childhood, when the kids in our carpool used to argue about whose mom drove the biggest piece of junk.

Leaned back in the driver's seat, his elbow resting on the window, Justin drove 35 miles an hour the whole night. I wondered if such an old model could have cruise control. When I went to roll down the window, he handed me a wrench.

It made me think of my teenage years back home, when my brother and I kept a wrench in our 1976 Caprice Classic to unlock the door when some smartass passenger pushed the button down. Our windows were broken, too. We had to crawl through the jagged tear in the back convertible-style window to enter the vehicle. My friend Kara, seeing the tear, asked, "Did a lion attack your car?"

Yes, my husband and his car, though they came from Boston, seemed very familiar to me.

Now, I don't want you to get the impression that all Monte Carlos are Hoopdies and Jalopies. There are some nice ones. One time Justin was stopped at a traffic light beside a guy driving a pimped-out model with gold spinning hubcaps and a purple paint job.

Justin cranked down his window and stared at the guy until he rolled down his window.

"Monte Carlo?" Justin asked.

"Yeah," the guy said.

"Mine, too," Justin said, and as the light turned green, he burned rubber for a few yards, and then went back to driving 35 miles per hour.

Alas, when the Monte was on its last legs, Justin sold it for $50 to a guy he met at a gas station.

Last night, Justin drove us safely in the New Yorker to the kids-eat-free-restaurant, where we ate pasta and salad as our sons and my cousins beat each other up with fuzzy toy hearts.

I could just picture our children getting kicked out of the restaurant--cheering and laughing on their way out--but I'm sure what Justin saw was two little boys eating pasta with the proper utensils while our baby hovered over them, flapping his wings like Cupid. Justin tends to look on the bright side of life.

When the wrestling championship/nice family dinner was over, we walked back out to the New Yorker. Now, nothing against the New Yorker. It is a good car and we're very lucky that my dad is letting us borrow it. But once we got on the road, a couple pulled up next to us in what looked like a gold Porshe.

The driver, a pretty blonde, was shaking her shoulders and singing and turning the volume up on the radio.

"Look at that," I said. "She's 16 years old and she drives a nicer car than we'll ever have."

Justin laughed, but it was a shame, really. Her car had no personality.


Anonymous pat brewster said...

I'm at work, and just had to explain my looking at the computer and cracking up to the nursing student waiting for her nurse to arrive. She smilled and looked back dow at her PDR. What a funny story and so true. I remember looking out the dining room window as Luke drove the caprice to Rockhurst and seeing him dive head first, arms full of books through the back window. I think trashy cars and not quite doing things the proper way in our family is one of the reasons we all laugh so much. There was always a story of how we had messed up in some way that day, which brought laughter, rather than pity. And Justin - you are the greatest - always calm, always kind. You were Bridget's reward for her days of suffering with a crazy fam.. Look at me - going on like I have a blog!!! Love and joy that you and your life turned out so perfectly. Mom

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bridget, Enjoyed this post.
In my days of driving the New Yorker around St. Louis during college, I would assign a duty to each of my backseat passengers. For instance, on nightly runs to Del Taco Joe Van Dyke knew it was his job to take the stapler on the floor in the back seat and start stapling the ceiling back up. And our friend Bulldog new it was her duty to shake out the floor mats while waiting in the 1-hour long line for our Big Fat Chicken Soft Tacos.
When that car was stolen, the thief shattered a window, which was a shame because I had just shattered the same window myself a few weeks earlier trying to lift it up with a wrench. For a few days following the theft, after it was found abandoned, I would start the car with a screw driver under the broken steering column.
I think Mume would just be happy that the car is still in the family and all the turns signals work...well most of them anyway. Josh

9:10 AM  

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