My mid-life crisis is proceeding on schedule. Recently, my Jeep and I moved to a little town near the mountains. As much as I like my old CJ-2A, it's far from the most practical vehicle for everyday use. Heck, it's not even moderately practical for such duty, having skipped across the border to downright impractical. Be still my beating heart-time to go shopping for a car again.
For many folks, buying a car induces a level of pain comparable to root canals, childbirth, and '80s cover bands. Maybe it's because I grew up near the power lines, but I rather enjoy car shopping. The only question is what to purchase. I looked at the newest Jeeps, but I didn't want any sibling rivalry in the garage. Living in the mountains, I'd certainly need something sure-footed when the roads become icy. I didn't want to blend into the crowd, so I ruled out one prolific option: the Kerrybu wagon. Judging by the outrageous number of them on the road, it seems like Subaru was installing John Kerry bumper stickers at the factory, or perhaps it was a dealer option.
A little more searching finally revealed the perfect car for me: an Audi A4 Quattro. What a factory hot rod! There were several choices for color. I looked at Cubicle Green and Accountant Blue, but finally decided on Mid-Life Crisis Red. If you're in my neck of the woods and see a bright crimson blur, be sure to wave as I fly past in a four-wheel power slide.
As the proud owner of a genuine rip-snorting sports car, I'm aware of the potential danger. My previous vehicular history included some beauties with questionable handling properties. With a tired beater sporting broken shocks and mismatched balloon-skin tires, you're never far from that line where control waves goodbye. Thinking back, some of my rolling adventures never had much in the way of control in the first place, so there's no way to lose something that never existed.
Now I'm behind the wheel of a land rocket that laughs at hairpin turns. I realize that judging an old Jeep against a late-model sports car is an unfair comparison, but it's going to happen anyway. My Jeep will best the Audi in the mud or on a deep-woods trail, so those points obviously go to my old CJ. Comparisons aside, my only concern is that some terms are no longer accurate when talking about my old Jeep.
Take, for instance, my Jeep's steering wheel. I don't mean that in a literal sense, even though it's quite simple to remove. I need the steering wheel for steering, but that description is a stretch of the imagination. The Audi has a bona fide steering wheel. Turn it, and there appears to be some magical connection to the front wheels, which then predictably steer the vehicle in the desired direction. As monikers go, "steering wheel" is very apropos on a sports car, but not so on a Jeep. While round like a wheel and capable of turning side to side as if actually part of a steering system, that is where the similarity ends. "Random-direction generator" would be closer to the truth. After turning the alleged steering wheel, the front wheels respond in haphazard fashion at their own unpredictable pace, and the Jeep does indeed turn. I'd settle for simply knowing which way the Jeep is about to turn and when, but that might be asking too much.
Other parts of my Jeep probably couldn't pass modern truth-in-labeling laws either. Before the boys in Toledo unleash their lawyers on me, I'm not accusing anybody there of being deliberately deceitful. It's a different story in other situations, however. While at the movie theater, the potential for trickery with names became apparent when I was asked if I wanted buttery topping on my popcorn. (I should clarify it wasn't some stranger asking, it was the snack-bar attendant.) That's "buttery," as in having vaguely butter-like attributes yet not meeting normal standards for the same. Sadly, this chicanery is like those off-brand tools with names suspiciously close to those offered by the top manufacturers. Such pathetic wordplay is another attempt to knowingly foist something inferior onto an unsuspecting public. Excuse me while I step down from my soapbox because it's time to bid adieu until the next issue of this magazoon. I hope you've enjoyed this month's coloom.-Dr. Vern