Miss(ed) Manners

February 25, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: My Other Car is a Segway

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 9:20 pm

Not sure if any of you noticed, but I’ve been absent from the keyboard for a few weeks. Part of my job requires being particularly knowledgeable about a forty five hundred square foot sized convention space in Boston, so I took the time to drive up there and get some one on one time with it.

During my ten plus hours on the road, I stopped a few times along the way for various provisions: beef jerky, cigarettes, coffee, the collected works of Danielle Steel on audio cassette, what have you. As these stops increased in frequency with my growing boredom, I began to notice that the people I met were treating me in a certain way, in part I believe, because of the car I was driving. On this particular day, I was driving my employer’s Audi Allroad Quattro.

My boss picked up this bad ass vehicle about two years ago and I’ve never had the chance to drive it. From what I had heard, apparently the car could raise itself off the ground almost a foot, going from station wagon to SUV in the time it takes you to say, “I roll deep, motherfucker.”

The visions of Voltron and Dr. Dre dancing in my head were quickly disspelled when I found out that the hydraulic lift the car employs takes a neat five minutes to raise its belly off the road bed, like a winded Everquest fanatic trying to answer the door for a pizza delivery.

Additionally, the raised chassis is not meant for highway driving, so I was stuck tooling around in what amounted to be a modern retelling of the classic wood paneled family transport of National Lampoon’s Vacation fame.

It drove like a dream, the stereo was loud and clear and the seat warmer had my buttocks swishing back and forth like a drunk sophomore at a Cancun bubble party in no time. However, I was just a guy driving a station wagon. No matter where I stopped, I was treated like a man who’d lost his way. My out of state plates were met with helpful tips and polite detachedness.

At one point, in New Hampshire, as I was filling up the car with petrol (I had to call it that, being in the fancy car and all), I noticed a guy changing a tire. As there was no one else around I called out to him, inquiring as to whether or not he required any assistance. He turned me down pretty quickly. I can’t be sure but I’m convinced he saw the Audi behind me and figured my city-slicker hands would just drop the lug nuts anyway.

As I drove about further, blending in with the thousands of rush hour commuters in Boston, I began to think back on other cars I’ve driven. My experience with the Audi reminded me of my first car, a Bronco II: Eddie Bauer Edition.

(Couldn’t find a picture of the Eddie Bauer Forest Elf Green Version)

The Bronco II: Eddie Bauer Edition is the pinnacle of bitch-mobiles. On one hand, it bears the odious title of Ford Bronco, a vehicle of course made famous by the fan favorite woman slayer, OJ Simpson. On the other, it has a qualifying subtitle, much like a re-release of kitsch horror movie.

Example: Teen Jockey-Slut Monsters from Outer Space: Director’s Cut

I drove this piece of shit for about four years. While it’s got four wheel drive and sits comfortably above the ground, this little beauty will afford you no respect, anywhere you drive it. One reason of course being that it is a god-awful death trap. Imagine a regular Bronco, then squeeze it in from the sides about two feet. You now have a car that’s considerably taller and significantly less stable. From the ages of 16 to 20 I never took a turn faster than 5 miles per hour. That’s the Bronco II.

Basically everything that applied to the Audi, applied to this car as well. Any guy who saw this beast lumbering down the road knew instantly that I was not going to be of any help in fixing his jammed winch, or helping move that storm-downed branch that was blocking the road. They’d rather assume that I would be better suited for picking out complimentary colors for a den-refurbishment.

Additionally, the Ford Bronco II: Eddie Bauer Edition got no respect from the ladies. Painful, but true. I’m almost positive that when I picked up my date for a certain dance during high school, after I’d spent hours meticulously shining the baby shit-beige wheel guards, that she giggled at me from behind her boutonniere. That bitch.

Right now you’re probably thinking the obvious. “Hey Dave, maybe it’s not the cars you’ve driven. Maybe it’s just that you exude an air of helplessness and frailty.”

To which I’m thinking right back at you, “Suck it.”

I actually have proof that it has more to do with the cars I’ve driven than the wan composure I sport during the winter months. See, a few weeks ago, during a trip to visit my family upstate, I was fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time behind the wheel of a Ford F-150.

I’ll not go into the exact details of the circumstances, just suffice to say that I was driving this giant rolling ball of testosterone and ball sweat around Columbia County, NY for the better part of a day. If you’ve never had the chance to be behind the wheel of a truck of this magnitude, I suggest you go carjack a redneck and remedy that problem, post-haste.

The instant you become the pilot of a vehicle like this, it’s like you enter an invisible boys club. Every time I stepped out of (or down from, as the case was), I could feel the respect emanating from my fellow man. At the farm store, a gray faced father of three looked up at me from his mini-van and car seats, and I swore I saw him wipe a tear from his eye.

At the gas station, a fellow ford-truck-driver pulled me aside and I had to answer a question about fan belts. I’ve never seen a fan belt, let alone know what one is. I stammered for a few seconds and mumbled something about having to change the carburetor before going inside to get some milk.

To cap it all off, while driving up a particularly treacherous portion of my snow-covered road, we came upon a terrible scene. A family’s car had slid half way off the road and hung over a ten foot drop into an icey stream bed. As I got out of the car and headed over to another man who had just arrived in his own truck, we began to make out the shapes of four children, still belted to their seats, wriggling in terror. The mother, glued in the driver’s seat was begging them to remain still, as the car was hooked by the axle to a protruding rock.

The man and I looked at each other and instantly began to size each other up to see who should take charge of the situation. As the man glanced past me and saw the massive metal beast I’d ridden into battle, he quickly blurted, “Should I call 911?”

Fortunately for us all, the situation wasn’t nearly as unstable as it seemed. Everyone made it out of the lodged car safely and we continued on our way, only I drove off into the sunset feeling twelve feet tall, and comforted in the fact that it was, indeed, just the car.

February 4, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: What Do We Want?

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 9:18 pm

What do we want?

Affordable mixed income housing in thirty percent of all new housing development projects!!!

When do we want it?

In three to four years, or whenever you can get around to it!!!

Sometimes I wonder if I do things because I want to, or because I think it’ll make great material for this here weekly collection of thoughts. This past Wednesday, I actually did something because I wanted to do it. I went to a rally.

A vast collection of coalitions, community groups, outreach organizations and improv comedy troupes converged on city hall in a show of boisterous solidarity on an issue that affects all New Yorkers: Affordable Housing.

Every day – due to an out of control real-estate market, rapacious slum-lords and the generally stifling Manhattan-esque expensivity – middle and low income residents are priced off of the island. You can’t live here unless you’re making a mint selling your soul daily to the man. I recently came to the painful conclusion that I’d have to be making twice what I currently am to afford a closet sized studio on my own anywhere inside the bridges.

I’m not amazingly bitter about it, at least not for my own account. For others though, it’s an issue that’s close to my heart. People who work to make this city run deserve to be able to have the means to live here. It’s an issue of common sense: people vital to this city should be … in the city. When new development projects go up, there should be room for everyone, not just the rich.

But I’m not here to argue politics, or force some neo-Marxist doctrine into this space, because politics is rarely funny. Unless of course we’re talking about Clinton or Dubya, in which case it’s all dick and monkey jokes and it’s good times for all.

No, I’m going tread the familiar Misse(ed) Manners ground of examining the social dynamic of this city; so today I want to talk about rally etiquette.

What’s that you say? You thought rallies were just willy nilly clusterfucks where naked hippie girls make out in the mud? You thought it was a free for all where you might get a chance to see that giant vegan lesbian from down the hall curb stomp some white collar criminal before wolfing down a six pack of boca-burgers?

Wrong my friend. You need to know how to act. I learned a lot about this on Wednesday. Here are a few pointers, all of which center around the word, “Appropriate.”

1) Dress Appropriately.
I showed up to a rally for the poor, disenfranchised and homeless wearing a black wool pea-coat and scarf; in other words completely pimped out. By comparison to the crowd around me, since I was all by my lonesome, I was definitely rocking the Secret Service look. I didn’t get a lot of friendly glances. One person actually asked me if I was a cop. I said, “Not right now I’m not.”

I didn’t make a lot of friends.

2) Bring Appropriate Signage.
In order to have a respectable show of force, any identifiable cause manages to recruit the protest-power of dozens of other groups. What this means is that while you’re all gathered in one place to protest one specific issue, you’ve got a few hundred people who just don’t give a fuck and are gonna bring their fifteen year old “Free Mumia” signs, cause they lost their magic markers.

This is not cool. Nothing makes people laugh at a protest more than seeing a disjointed and fractured message. If you see a guy wearing a rainbow afro, beat him to death before he can pull out that John 3:16 sign. People will thank you for it.

3) Exhibit Appropriate Levels of Exuberance.
All news camermen, at all rallies, are looking for this guy. You know, the guy who’s drunk enough to wear a fish net tank top in thirty degree weather, but not drunk enough that he can’t be understood when he shouts out: “We’re marching to CLEEEEEVELAND!” We’re not going to Cleveland you assknuckle, we’re staying here at City Hall, stick to the chant sheet.

Don’t dance around, if you do feel the need for movement, do the mainstay fist pump of power. You’re at a protest, not Burning Man.

That’s pretty much it right there. Rules and expectations for rallies are, by definition, pretty loose. It is civil disobedience after all, too many rules and you’re sort of a contradiction. But these three pointers should do a lot to make the most out of your rallying experience.

As far as this actual rally goes, it was a roaring success. Huddled between metal dividers with over five thousand other people violently shouting that this city belongs to everyone was perhaps the most energizing experience I’ve had of late. Nothing makes you reaffirm your beliefs that life can be good for everyone, and not just the entitled, when you’re surrounded by a legion of like-minded individuals.

Pledges were signed and action was taken. It was nice to know that when common sense seems to be at an all time national low, at least we’ve got a few cup-fulls in the greatest city in the world.

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