I love driving – it's among the most exciting or calming experiences I can imagine. If I am in a bad mood, I'll go for a drive and the feel of the steering wheel under my hands, the feeling of control, something about it makes me feel Zen. If I'm tired, there's this road I take in the mornings, it's a bit out of the way, but the speed limit is 45 and it's all hills and turns and curves, and even at that speed the mile and a half really takes a toll on the car, and on me – it just perks me up like a good cup of java.
This spring I'd hit a deer with my car and after picking it up from the shop, there still seemed to be problems popping up left and right, so I decided to save up a little money and take it to a different shop to have everything fixed at once. I was a little sad when I dropped off my shiny, sparkly, metallic-painted Titanium Silver BMW, nicknamed Sparky at the garage - I felt like I was parting with a family member, I had spent a lot of time in that car, and had quite a few adventures.
This whole summer I spent riding around with friends in their cars. Road trips, camping, movies, going out to eat – every time someone else drove. I got a new job and got to borrow my roommate's car – a 2003 Ford Taurus. I was ecstatic to finally get some time behind the wheel. The first time I got in the car I felt out of place. The steering wheel was too big and wobbly, the pedals were soft and mushy, the automatic transmission took what felt like a year to shift up or down, the brakes were so loose the car had the stopping distance of a train and the amount of body roll was enough to make anyone carsick. A few weeks of driving it and if my work wasn't so far, I'd have preferred to walk.
However, I got used to it – the sloppy steering, the laggy shift response, the handling and turning radius of a passenger plane, it all became familiar to me to a point that I could even compensate for it. Alas, it was not to last – my time with the Taurus was drawing to a close when I got the call from the garage – my car was finally finished.
I was elated when I went to pick Sparky up – it was a bright, sunny day and the weather matched my mood perfectly. Finally rid of the Taurus, I handed my roomie the keys, and after settling my debt with the mechanic I had nothing but open road before me.
When I got in and shut the door the subtle vanilla scent from the air freshener enveloped me in a pleasant aroma. The soft leather seats were supportive and the sound system crisp and chirping happily with some techno tune. I felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of smooth, quiet comfort, tires hugging the road firmly as I pulled out of the parking lot. The sensation was akin to switching from walking barefoot on shards of glass to comfortable fuzzy slippers warming my feet and protecting them against the harsh realities of a deep shag carpet.
As I drove home I couldn't help but take the long way – 25 minutes in the wrong direction. After 3 months of waiting I wanted to spend as much time as possible behind the wheel of my ride as it drifted along the road like a cloud – soft, silent and comfortable. The shifts felt crisp and precise as I hammered out gear after gear from stop signs and intersections up to the speed limit, the raw horsepower screaming from under the hood and the exhaust, ready to pound pavement into gravel at the touch of my toe, turning the car from a purring kitten to a roaring tiger.
It wasn't just the acceleration of a jet fighter that I'd missed, it was the handling and braking, too. When I finally took my car back to that quiet mile and a half of transportation engineering bliss, I was yet again reminded why I pick this road every morning. Throwing Sparky around every corner with as much force as I could manage, while still staying safe and in control of the vehicle brought a smile to my face.
When I finally got to the driveway of my home, I was giggling. I remembered now that I picked the white and blue badged car not because of the status symbol or it's remarkable safety ratings – it was the pure, unadulterated, uncensored, screaming joy of driving something engineered so well it could change the color of a mood ring with just a glance in its direction.