Friday, April 23, 2010
When Is a Computer Like A Car? When It's Cool
It's fun to find other people who like what you like.
I remember the fun I used to have driving around with the kids in "The Baby"...a white, 1974 BMW 2002. She looked a lot like the one in this picture.
She wasn't fancy; no modern sound system, no air conditioning, no pedal on the accelerator (the kid who sold it to me told me that "made it easier to floor". Great.). She had a problem that I understood at the time and have forgotten; but the symptom was that if you coasted down a hill then hit the gas, a huge, noxious cloud of foul white smoke poured out of the exhaust. That car broke down more than once. I had to keep a heated dip stick in the oil so she'd start in cold weather and had to clean her carburetor with an old toothbrush once a month. If it rained really hard the water would run down the inside of her windows. Her clock didn't work and her speedometer was broken, too. I guessed my speed by her tachometer. And we've never loved a car more.
I drove her to court right after I bought her to contest a speeding ticket I'd gotten in our old Jeep. I don't speed, so I was determined to fight it. But as I pulled into the lot, a guy called to me and said, "Know what they used to call those? Road Rockets." I figured I didn't have much of a shot with the judge.
Sighting another one on the road was rare, and we always waved madly at each other, giving each other huge thumbs ups. One time we pulled into a parking lot and a man followed us. I had two young kids in the car and was pretty worried. But he pulled up beside us and grinned.
"I used to have one of those! Best car I ever had!"
We spent ten minutes waxing poetic about the virtues of the little box that could.
When The Baby broke down, she always did it thoughtfully. Once she died at a doughnut shop. Once she gasped and wheezed into the lot of an automative shop in a neighboring city. She never stranded us on the road. We drove her three hours to the beach without a problem. We drove home from a long trip once and noticed she seemed a little sluggish. Turned out only two cylinders were functioning and we still were doing 55 mph all the way home.
That noxious smoke? We used it on tailgaters. I'd take my foot off the gas on a hill and let the person who'd been climbing up our butts for miles get good and close. The kids would start yelling..."Hit it, Mom, hit it!" I'd hit the gas and we'd all look back to see the other car suddenly enveloped in a cloud of stinky smoke. There was great rejoicing.
I saw one parked in the lot in town here the other day. A woman with two young kids was driving it, and I applauded as she drove by.
That's what all this Mac clubby stuff reminds me of. They're cool, they're in the minority, and I'm part of the club now.
But I still miss The Baby.