Meet me by the pink beemer,” I text my son, Juan.
The Linfield High School parking lot is always pretty full; I believe this to be a strong indicator of high school-aged drivers tending to their academic business. I also believe that my son can spot the well-kept, 1989, BMW from most anywhere on campus.
When I pick up my son from school, I always park near the, bubble-gum-pink-colored, convertible, ultimate driving machine because it emanates a truly happy, visually appealing, magnetic pull. I surmised the car's owner is female: probably a senior, very beautiful, unquestionably intelligent and artistically expressive, in one form or another. Simply, the pink Beemer is a girlie fashion accessory on wheels AND it takes confidence to openly depart from the status quo.
No sooner did I have a fleeting thought about writing an article, when a tall, smiling, young lady appeared out of nowhere. Strands of her long, dark brown hair were flying behind her in an electric breeze. Then she opened the trunk of the pink BMW; I was parked near the passenger side.
The moment she looked over toward me, I had to ask:“Is that your car?” She nodded.“Wow. Can I take some photos?” She nodded.
Photos weren’t enough, though. The 17-year-old, Victoria Traudt, said that her dad gave her the car.
She explained that her aunt, who got the car from a cousin, passed the car along. Victoria’s mom asked her what color she wanted the car painted. “I love pink. Everything in my room is pink,” said Victoria. “So, painting my car pink seemed like the thing to do.”
“I bet you get a lot of attention,” I said.
“Oh my gosh. I was driving the other day and this group of girls in another car were pointing and screaming, ‘…I love the pink. Look at the pink Beemer!’ In the beginning, I had to get used to the all the attention. It’s such a cool car,” she said.
Victoria is on the Linfield varsity tennis team (doubles), with team mates whom she admires. She’ll be graduating next year. Her plans are to attend the University of Portland, Oregon, because she likes the region’s cooler weather.
Interestingly, there are university researchers who theorize that cars are the motorized representation of our personalities. Dennis Slice, an associate professor of scientific computing at Florida State University says that future research may look at whether a car’s ‘personality’ is correlated to the owner's driving habits (ya think?). Richard Gray, a science correspondent, suggests that people attribute the shape of cars (especially the front side) to the shape of people’s faces or pareidolia (now there’s a word for y’all).
So, a wide radiator grill and narrow headlights may appear to be dominant, while a four-wheel drive truck, lifted so high off the ground and sporting massive tires, shouts aggressiveness (I know I always get the heck out of their MONSTER-TRUCK way).
I’d like to add that those diminutive, modified Honda or Mitsubishi cars (which sound like a revved-up lawnmower whizzing by) can be equally intimidating as they tailgate, hula-drive and use the emergency lane for passing because they’re small and fast – like gnats. Minutes after a close-encounter-of-the-thoughtless-driver-kind, I’m charmed by the fluorescent-colored rims and the matching rear spoiler being chased by the flashing red and blue beacon lights in the distance.
The Smart Car may be easy on the petrol, but the body style reminds me of itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny, baby shoes (no doubt the gasoline bill is teeny-tiny, too). Does anyone remember when the small Honda cars made their debut back in the early 1970s? I believe they were imported from Japan prior to gas rationing in 1974 and before implementation of the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit, respectively. Honda cars have grown up some, haven't they?
As a grown-up footnote, I’d like to share my non-scientific, absolutely informal, car personality research as follows: Have you noticed that a luxury car like Jaguar oozes highway diplomacy? (Jag-ew-arrrrr is how my friend, Reesie, cites the regal pronunciation of her glittering, royal blue, Vanden Plas).
The same with any model of Mercedes, Cadillac, Lincoln or Bentley, though I’ve not seen too many Bentley’s around these parts (the Chrysler 300 series runs a nice, eye-catching second, though).
It seems I feel a tad more courteous when a Lincoln Town Car inches (rather than barges) its way over in front of me during peak traffic hours (pardon me, would you like a spot of tea while we’re parked on the freeway?).
To me, the Cadillac Escalade evokes a glittering sense of entitlement hinged on a strong work ethic. The vehicle symbolizes monetary success. Did you know the first Cadillac ever assembled was back in 1902 (no custom rims, though)? Limos are in a chauffeured, luxury class all by themselves, largely because the stretch of tinted glass implies: ‘LOOKIE! PARTY OVER HERE AND YOU’RE NOT INVITED, BUT YOU WISH YOU WERE, DON’T CHA, SNOOKIE?’, as the blinking, LED – lighted plates glide and chide on down the road.
Years ago, my very first, new ride was a 1989 Camaro RS (I think the RS stood for Righteously Sweet) versus the V-8 IROC (I did rock back then). I must’ve shopped 10 dealerships (pre-internet days) with a purchase order burning a hole in my pocket. I desired a T-roof, a manual transmission and a V-6, sports car with a back seat (for insurance purposes); a car on the brink of flashy, but not garish, like my friend, Karen, who’s boyfriend, Lonny, convinced her buy a $5000 set of chrome rims for her rickety, Toyota truck. Go figure.
One more thing: I couldn’t help but look (as if I stood a chance at buying ANY one of them) at a few, notoriously fast, exorbitantly expensive cars. You know: those aerodynamic bodies situated dangerously low to the ground, like a Corvette, a Ferrari or a Porsche Turbo Carrera. I took a Carrera on a test drive. The rear spoiler resembled a subtle wing on a road-hugging jet. Contact! Air traffic control, I’m ready for take-off eastbound on Highway 50. Zoom, zoom! Wee! Weeee! Weeeeeeeeee! Let me take one more, hairpin curve in the hills of Folsom, pleeeaaassseee! I must say, once IN the car, I had trouble getting OUT; everything fit like a rack-and-pinion glove, except the sticker price.
When I got home, I cried myself to sleep over the brief, impassioned, sports car dalliance. Then the very next day, BAMM! My good ol’, jolly salesman, Murph, at Elk Grove Chevrolet near Sacramento KNEW I didn’t want to test drive the captivating, black beauty beckoning on the showroom floor.
Patiently looking over the rim of his reading glasses every so often, Murph diligently filled in the blanks on the sales contract as I did all the talking (smart man).
“Murph, why would I want to test drive the darned thing? It’s brand, spankin’ new, right?” I asked.
“Five years and fifty-thousand-mile warranty, right?” I asked.
“V-6 engine and I really, really think the T-roof looks cool, right?” I asked.
“AM/FM Stereo with cassette player and Dolby speakers, right?” I asked, he nodded. “Murph, it’s like this: I need to kick up a little dust every now and then. I can’t be plunking that baby into drive, letting it ride nice and easy all the time. I mean, what’s a sports car without a stick shift and overdrive, right?” I asked.
“Where do I sign?” I asked and he nodded, pointing to the bold, black line beneath the fine, lengthy print.
I drove the Camaro even after I married, finally trading it in with 200-thousand-plus, noteworthy miles on the odometer. A little while later, we purchased a Ford Explorer (Eddie Bauer, bells and whistles); a more settled, roomier vehicle. It even had six – count ‘em – six cup holders for little munchkins (though I only had one child) riding along in passenger compartment AND it had a tow bar. Hey, howdy! On occasion, I’d haul the jet skis to nursing school in Riverside, making my way home via Lake Elsinore for a full-throttle spin across the late afternoon white caps.
We sold the Explorer and traded up to a Ford Expedition (more bells, whistles and chrome wheels). The selling points were: 17 cup holders, a passenger compartment with an extra, removable back seat AND a DVD player. Blue’s Clues, Sponge Bob and Rocket Power entertained my son, Juan (who was around five years old at the time), during long drives. There’s nothing like listening to smooth jazz on a Sunday morning, cruising toward San Diego; a cup of Starbuck’s in one cup-holder, a Diet Coke (extra ice) in the other. Juan had his own sippy-cup-holder-gig attached to his car seat.
Shortly before I divorced, I purchased another Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer which disappeared somewhere into the community property vortex. I sensed that gas prices were going to escalate, so a V-6, Ford Escape (sans the gadgetry as I know it to be) seemed (GASP!) ever-so practical. My GPS is a compass placed on the dashboard – a two-dollar, basic accessory. It has a roof-rack for my surfboard and sideboards so that my elderly parents could easily get in and out when they were still around.
I call it the red ‘surf-mobile’. I can spot my truck in a parking lot, too (good thing, because half the time, I vaguely remember where I'm parked).
I suppose the whole idea of cars resembling the owner’s persona isn’t too far-fetched. It’s a documented observation with pets and their owners, as well, lifelong mates who begin to resemble one another over time.
Restrospectively, I’m aware that the vehicles I’ve owned reflected an evolving lifestyle directly related to the type of traffic violations for which I was cited: mostly speeding, parking infractions and California stops in my intrepid youth.
Then there was lull for about 20 years.
Most recently, registration issues and turning right on a red light when the small, new sign that wasn’t there last week says not to do so (all fully resolved).
I tearfully confess that I still pine whenever I see a Porsche Turbo Carrera. I reminisce whenever a Camaro speeds on by ( Sammy Hagar, Def Leppard or 'Retha must be musical passengers). I stop, look and tingle whenever I hear a muscle-motor revving up; it sounds like the car (perhaps the driver, too) feels the need to cut loose with some serious acceleration over a long stretch of deserted highway.
I’m an SUV woman these days, but the pink BMW, along with my attendance at a recent, MSJC car show has me thinking: Watch out! I may be cruising the internet, delving into the plethora of available car personalities in search of a few polished, tangible, vehicle nuances compatible with my lifestyle and my lead foot (it’s genetic on my mom’s side).
Take a peek at the musical, photo collage accompanying this piece and see the cars’ personas for yourself.