Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So I Went Automobile Shopping...

So I went automobile shopping the other day... I know, I know, you're probably thinking “Why would you do such a silly thing as that, a man of your age..” but hear me out. Automobiles are becoming quite popular, I'm sure you've seen them around. I understand in places like Portland they're actually more popular than bicycles. There are all those public service advertisements about sharing the road and it got me to thinking that maybe I should get one of those automobile things that all the hipsters are “driving” these days.

So I cycled over to one of my local “car” dealerships to see about purchasing an automobile and what I found was quite enlightening. When I first entered the shop a young fellow there was vigorously engaged in conversation with a customer about the merits of one particular transmission brand over another, something about how the latest electronic syncromesh whosits made last year's syncromesh hopelessly obsolete and how he couldn't believe anyone would still considering driving such junk. This discussion went on for quite a few minutes so I kept myself busy by examining the various automobiles displayed in the shop. They were shiny and looked expensive and frankly I had no idea exactly made one better than the other or why I might want to select the red one over the blue one. Eventually the car fellow noticed me and asked if I had any questions. “Oh yes,” I assured him I had plenty of questions. “I'm looking to buy a car,” I began.

“NASCAR or Formula One?” the fellow queried.

“Excuse me?”

“What kind of racing are you going to do?” the man asked.

“Uhm, I wasn't thinking of racing, more like maybe driving to the store. I understand people do that?”

The man sighed. “Well,” he explained, sadly, “you could do that. I mean, some people do, but once you get a car, you'll want to race. You're really better off getting something race-worthy to start with.”

I could tell I was fortunate to have come into a shop staffed by a man so willing to educate me. “I'm afraid I'm rather new to this whole 'driving' thing.”

“Oh, it's quite simple,” the man assured me. “Thousands of people drive, you'll pick it right up. Here," he said, "why don't you try this one.” The man opened the door of something very red, sleek and low to the ground. I settled into the seat.

“Um, the seat isn't very comfortable,” I noted.

“Well,” the man explained, “you're not wearing driving pants. Of course, you'll want driving pants.”

“Really?” I asked. “I was thinking I'd probably just drive around in my normal clothes.”

“Oh no,” the man laughed, “you'll want driving clothes. We have a nice selection in a variety of bright colors with a variety of logos on them.”

“I see,” I said, although I wasn't quite sure that I did see.

Looking at the floor of the car I was surprised to see there was no gas pedal. “Isn't there supposed to be something I push with my foot to make it go?”

“Oh,” the man explained, “the nicer cars don't come with gas pedals. That way you can select your own. We can install a test ride gas pedal for you...” He then went on to explain the virtues of the various gas pedal systems, how they would hold my foot in the optimal driving position and that all serious drivers had such gas pedals. I could get a simple pedal if I wanted to but...

I opted for the gas pedal that the car man assured me that he himself used.

Of course, I'd want a helmet. I mean for gosh sakes, who would drive without a helmet? Didn't I value my brain?

And so I got the helmet. It was red, like the car, and made from some material developed by NASA.

It turns out the stock tires were “junk” and I'd need to upgrade those right away. When I insisted that I might park at some time the car man sighed a very heavy sigh and told me he could install a parking system in my car but it would just be an extra thing to lug around and how often was I going to park anyway? He also vigorously worked to dissuaded me from any thought of fenders or carrying luggage but I convinced him I was willing to pay extra to get these features. He looked very sad as he added these items to my bill.

In the end it was my credit card that saved me. The car man actually looked rather relieved when it was declined. “Maybe driving's not your thing,” he consoled, “it's not for everyone.”

And so I'm back on my bicycle. It has a kickstand and fenders and lights. It has a rack on the back that holds bags that carry my groceries. It's got big plain pedals that work fine with my normal shoes. It's just a bicycle and I guess it's how I'll continue getting around.

I imagine if buying a bicycle was as complicated as buying a car they wouldn't be as popular as they are now...
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