Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Other Car is a Porsche

by Michelle Gagnon

At least, this week it is.

We've spent a fair amount of time on this blog discussing gender issues, but far be it from me to stop flogging a dead horse. Here's what happened.

My new car needed to be taken in for servicing and a few minor tweaks.  My husband graciously offered to run this errand since I was swamped. So he drove to the dealership, and they offered him a choice of two vehicles. One was basically the same car we bought: a wagon, which is used to shuttle kids in car seats, dogs, groceries, the odd dragon costume, etc around town.

As he was leaving, the salesman said, "Oh, and we have another one you could take. There it is, over there."

This, my friends, is the car that the dealer offered my husband:



I'll let you guess which one he chose. The practical car, which could easily handle everything we throw at it for a week? Or the two-seater with terrible gas mileage and worse crash records, which by the way happens to be a standard?

For anyone wondering just how bad things have gotten for the auto industry, there's your answer. You hand them a wagon, they give you the keys to a Porsche Cayman. That can't be good.

And here's the real kicker: I don't know how to drive a stick shift. Never had the chance to learn, since all of my cars have been practical, work horse automatics.

Did I mention that this was to be my car for the week? My husband uses a motorcycle to get around the city, and keeps a ridiculously large Dodge 3500 truck in storage for his job towing boats around the state. Driving a truck the size of a small house around San Francisco is not my favorite activity, which is why we agreed to a loaner car in the first place. Seriously, to parallel park that thing requires a full ground crew, complete with waving flashlights and orange cones.

Don't get me wrong, I love a sporty car as much as the next person. And I'm not unsympathetic. I understand that, as my husband describes it, "I wasn't thinking. My eyes just glazed over. Never in my life has someone handed me the keys to a Porsche and said, 'Have fun with it.'"

Sure, I get it. But under the same circumstances, I can pretty much guarantee that I would have held the keys longingly for a moment, before sighing and handing them back as I said, in a voice laden with regret, "I'm afraid we'll have to take the wagon. Our toddler has trouble holding on to the roof at high speeds."

So there you are: gender differences. What leapt to my mind was the infamous scene in "As Good As It Gets," where misogynistic romance writer Melvin Udall (as played by Jack Nicholson) is asked (by a woman), "How do you write women so well?"

And he replied, "I think of a man, and then I take away reason and accountability."

Reason and accountability, eh? Hmm. To every woman who cringed at that line, I offer you this: my husband, handing me the keys to a Porsche, our (temporary) new family car. Without even blinking.


  1. Gender differences. Love it! Nothing as exciting as the Porsche story, but this reminds me of the time my neighbors graciously offered to take my daughter to church on the Sundays that I worked. On this Sunday, I noticed my 4 y.o. daughter had a hole in her tights, and she being stubborn, had to be told not to wear them.

    Fast forward to lunch. I come home, see my daughter getting out of the neighbor's car, hole in her tights. I ask my husband. He says: She told me that was what you wanted her to wear.


  2. Michelle, as the driver of a wildly impractical BMW Z4, to your hubbie's choice I say: Respect. To your reaction I say: Sympathy.

  3. Funny story!

    If my hubby had come home with the Porsche, I'd have given him "The Look" and he'd have taken it right back.

  4. Michelle,

    Fun post. But come on. It's a PORSCHE! As I read your story, I thought, well . . . of course he took the hot car! As if there was even a choice to be made!

    Maybe it's a guy thing.

  5. "I'll let you guess which one he chose."

    Not sure I see any gender issue here, Michelle. So, what's your point? :-)

  6. As a woman, I would have been really, really tempted by the Porsche too. Of course, I cut my teeth on farm equipment, thus have always known how to drive a stick. Eventually I would have chosen the wagon, but not without my fair share of resentment (and possibly a bit of kicking & screaming)!

  7. I should mention, there's a semi-happy ending to this story. I now have a rudimentary grasp of driving a stick shift. I learned on the Porsche, before my husband returned it the next day (don't tell the dealer). We drove to a deserted section of town, and after a half hour I managed to drive a few blocks without stripping the transmission. The funny part? The reaction of people who witnessed my lurching around, completely clueless. Several ran up and offered to help. All men, might I add. And all completely horrified by the way I was treating the car. Priceless.

  8. I'm with you all the way Michelle:) Would I have been tempted - hell no as I don't drive stick shift either! Also the thought of squeezing two toddler car seats in the back with two equally rambunctious kids who would have thought it was way to cool to have the porche would have been enought to stop me in my tracks. (Actually does the porche even have a back seat??) My husband on the other hand...would have taken it and said - you can walk them to preschool in the stroller can't you?!

  9. I would have kept the Porsche for the week. I would have loved it.
    Of course, I have the ability to drive a stick shift and I don't have kids left at home.

    Still, I would have found a workaround for the kids.

  10. I'm wiping tears of laughter from my face. I raised 5 sons and 1 husband. I am not at all surprised which vehicle your husband picked. In fact, had he chosen the wagon, I'd be sending you condolences because obviously there was something terribly wrong with him.

    Thanks for the chuckle, Michelle.

  11. Ms. Gagnon,
    First, I have always loved the line you refernced, not for the gender aspect, but because it was as perfect a line for that character as could ever be written.

    As for the wife would have gladly driven my truck (only takes two deck-mates to help park, not the full crew) and let me enjoy/kill myself with the stick. Her only warning would have been something like, "You get busted, you find some way BESIDES our bank account to pay for bail."

    [because she knew if I got caught speeding in that thing, it wouldn't just be a ticket...]

  12. Lizard brain. It takes over at times like that, I swear it does. It's a primordial thing, somehow. I don't completely understand it, but I certainly recognize it!

    But hey, you learned to drive a stick shift, kind of! And what a great story -- no one really learns to drive a stick on a Porsche!

  13. Once i needed to rent a car for the weekend, a short trip from Seattle to Port Townsend where i was to do my "famous jounralist" schtick and give a talk about reporting on war stories internationally after a viewing of the Mel Gibson-Sigourney Weaver pic "The Year of Living Dangerously". As I was about to take the key to the Ford Focus the guy behind the counter said casually, "Oh, by the way, if you want you could swap the Focus for a Jaguar."

    Huh? Seems they had a deal with teh jag dealership on the weekends. No extra charge.

    I couldn't resist, even though the car sat most of the weekend. I spent Sunday night talking a long drive to nowhere just to rev the jag up before i turned it back in on Monday. If only i'd had to drive down the coast to San Diego...