Friday, January 4, 2008

"Tell me about your car!!!"

We all know this town is fairly flush and what better way to say "I'm successful!" than with a flashy, bling-worthy, name-dropping car? There are more Beemers, Jags, Benz and Ranges here than you can shake a stick at. I bet 28203 gives 90210 a run for its money when it comes to automobiles...

Unfortunately, I don't own one of these. My car is the much less desirable, poor-man's Volkswagen otherwise known as an Echo. (mind you, it's the sporty two-door kind) Back in the driveway-challenged metropolis of Toronto, Echos are a wise choice. They are economical, drive well in traffic (we're talking hours of idling here, not minutes) and can fit in the most minute parking spots. We didn't have a driveway or garage back home and welcomed a cheap and cheerful ride that could be left out on the street all night.

Many agree. Echos are really popular in Toronto. Two of my very best friends drive Echos, in fact. So does my step-daughter. I could go on, but won't.

Not surprising though, I haven't seen many Echos here in Charlotte. I think I've seen a total of four in the five months or so that we've been here. What did surprise me though was the reaction I got when I pulled into the driveway of a prospective interviewee in my sporty wannabee sports car.

No sooner had I stepped out of the car when this gentleman exclaimed (and I say this in the nicest way) "Wow! Tell me about your car!!". Now the Echo is rare in these parts but it's not exactly a George Jetson-mobile... I swear this man had never laid eyes on this particular Toyota brand. I didn't really know what to say. "Uh, it's a sporty Echo that gets great gas mileage and can park anywhere" is what I responded with a "everyone in Toronto drives one" for good measure.

As extreme as it sounds, picture this. We are driving down a main thorough fare in Charlotte in a prosperous section of town when we pull up next to a Beemer at a red light. Not only is it brand new, it's got "Sweet Sixteen" and "Happy Birthday" written all over it, like it just pulled off the lot of "Richie Rich's BMW of Lake Norman". What sixteen year old needs a 2007 BMW??? I didn't get my own car until I was 23 and working full-time. Even if my parents had the dough to buy one, I very much doubt they'd sign me up for a brand-spanking, accident magnet car.

My 2001 beater (fully paid off, I might add) with it's unidentifiable Canadian plates has become a sort of badge of honor. It puzzles people. Machines too. Once, a couple of months back as I pulled out of the parking garage at the airport, the parking attendee stopped to ask me which state it was from. I told her PEI. The computer didn't recognize it and settled on PA instead. Ha! It's not only sporty, but mysterious too.

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