Saturday, July 27, 2013

My new car

Life would be more enjoyable if I had just one self or could hold a single point of view or didn’t feel so many different things at once. I have often wondered whether I lacked a dominant unitary Self, accountable for all my thoughts. Biologists say that each hemisphere of the brain may have a mind of its own but these are normally coupled. The coupling can come undone as it did for a woman I read about whose left hand sneaked up her neck and tried to strangle her until she was able to force it back down to her side and sit on it.  In a similar uncoupling, a continuous shift of feelings whirled around my head when I walked into the Datsun showroom in Philadelphia. I was 30 years old, and for the first time in my life, able to afford a brand new car. Until that moment, I had made do with a clunky old Rambler station wagon, inherited from my mother, followed by several squalid VW’s, all of them grey, and smelling of thrift stores. One rainbow colored Chevy that cost me $75 lasted only 5 weeks. But now with my new oil company PR job (a career that part of me saw as not far removed from turning tricks for cash), I could afford anything in that showroom. My new consumer power came with a jolting strangeness, thrilling and self-actualizing. The glossy wine-red sedan with the jet black acrylic roof rotated slowly on an invisible axis. The salesman stopped the car and held open the door so I could slide into the black leather bucket seat. The interior smelled rich and liberating. It smelled of freedom from the poverty of the army brat, of the Europe-on-$5-day vagabond, the penny-pinching college student, and of the low-paid public media employee. Instantly my winning, above-average self rushed to the front of the crowd, bursting with egotism and pushed aside my meek and nervous twin, the nutty one who could never fit in, who was always saving for a disaster, the innate idealist who decried consumerism and argued for class struggle. That kind and pleasant and ardent person was shoved into the back seat where she watched with a measure of shame and utter amazement as I, arched and overflowing with repressed pride and lust, leaned back into the sumptuous driver’s seat, like a shallow, arrogant capitalist in an Ayn Rand novel, and after only a quick and raucous glance at the car’s features, having noticed the only two things that really mattered at that moment--it was new and it was beautiful--and with complete disregard for its price tag, I declared: I’ll take it!