You know how sometimes a casual comment or scene will settle into your head and stick with you for a long time? Someone else, hearing or seeing the same thing, might not even notice, but for some reason, it strikes a chord and makes a deep impression on you. Such an event happened to me at a car show in Steamboat Springs a few years back.
Like most kids, I grew up dreaming about cars, but I never fancied myself a car enthusiast, satisfied with trying to stay enthusiastic about making the payments on whatever clunker I was currently driving.
But one day a dilapidated 1934 Buick caught my eye and I talked to my wife about buying it and fixing it up a little. After she quit howling like a wolverine, we calmly discussed it. Admittedly, it was a one-sided conversation, me in the living room and her locked in the upstairs bedroom with the checkbook and all the credit cards. After months of similar discussion, she finally agreed, but only after her lawyers presented me with a post-nuptial agreement that stated I would treat her like British monarchy for the rest of her life.
Car enthusiasts come in a two styles. The first is gregarious and friendly, the kind of folks that would lend you the gas cap off their Mini Cooper. The second sort is gregarious, friendly and real wealthy. They too, would loan you the gas cap off the Bugatti, but there would be the small matter of a financial statement, security deposit, promissory note, insurance, and personal guarantee. My wife and I are mostly of the first type except I’m kind of iffy on the friendly stuff.
The casual comment that got to me came at the end of the show while all the cars were queuing up for a parade lap through town. We were stopped next to this gentleman who was driving a perfectly restored 1938 British sports convertible. A small crowd had gathered to listen to him going on about his car collection consisting of 27 rare classics.
Admittedly, I was distracted, thinking about the logistics of owning and caring for 27 valuable cars. Garage, no. Aircraft hanger? Yes! Along with a strong support staff of wiry car-waxers with fanatical dusting habits and tons of metric tools.
He mentioned that he went to car shows all over the country with his vintage treasures, and someone asked him if he drove his cars to these shows. “Good Heavens, no!” he exclaimed, “I have a man who transports my cars for me.”
I have a man?
My mind was boggled at the concept he raised, “I have a man,” said with the same casualness as “I have a handkerchief,” or, “I have a puppy.”
I thought about this for a long time after and came to the conclusion that perhaps we can all claim a piece of somebody else. I ran this past some friends, “I have a man named Steven Spielberg who makes my movies for me. He does rather a splendid job.” They all looked at me like I’d suddenly sprouted a horn in the middle of my forehead.
“Yes,” I continued, “There are potholes in our highways, and loopholes in our tax codes, but don’t worry, my man Barack tells me he has things in hand. Oh, yes, that pesky economy? My man, Jacob, has it under control.”
It’s certainly convenient to have a man around the house.