To own a flashy old car is to talk to strangers. Some out-of-the-ordinary sights – facial tattoos, Pontiac Azteks, male Speedos – induce an urge to look away and keep moving. A surprising car, by contrast, is an invitation to a conversation, as all us chatty Curbsiders can confirm. That not every owner really wants to talk shouldn’t surprise me, but it does, and did, one lovely day last fall. Lincoln Week seems like the right time to share a visit that left an odd taste in my mouth, and gave me some feelings I’d rather not own up to. But carmakers aren’t the only sinners among us, and I’ve come to confess, seeking mercy and solace from the congregation.
The first thing I noticed about this Lincoln, as I passed it on the street, was its interior. It was like the tantalizing color flashed by a red-winged blackbird, if said bird was twenty-five feet tall.
I assumed I’d never see it again. I live inside Route 128 in metro Boston. Most houses are prewar, and most garages tend to be glorified shacks best suited to Model Ts. The pavement is often broken, the weather often wet, the traffic always bad and the drivers even worse. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it, a few days later, parked in the drive of an impressive old house with a big attached barn. I whooped at my wife and kids as we passed it, and decided to go get my own rare bird (CC here) and pay this one a visit.
I pulled into the driveway and introduced myself to the owner, who happened to be outside right then. He told me that both the Lincoln and its stretch conversion are from 1976. I wondered if it had been built as a parade car, but no, he had the top removed recently. It all looked quite professionally done.
And that was the extent of our conversation. He didn’t share any anecdotes or ask me anything about my car. Standing there, having taken a few pictures, I suddenly felt like an unwelcome intruder. Naively I had hoped for more, a chance to compare notes about gas mileage and local mechanics and leather cleaner and ZDDP additive.
It was an odd sort of emotional whiplash, and one reminiscent of childhood. I saw a kid with a ball, I got my glove, you don’t want to play catch? And then I snapped back to being an uninvited adult on someone else’s property. Who the hell am I to expect him to be buddy-buddy? I thanked him and went away, never to return.
So what is this curbside sin? Pride, I’d say, in expecting my car and my general affability to magically make a friend out of a stranger. And then a moment of envious resentment, driving away, thinking as one might about the owner of a jacked-up Hummer, “If I had that kind of money, that’s not how I’d spend it.” I’d like to believe I’m immune to the sort of wealth anxiety that afflicts many people, but there I was, bitten where I was vulnerable, right on the soft Corinthian backside.
The ride back to my house was just long enough to get that stuff out of my system. These sins are not deadly, all flaws are not fatal. A lesson learned, a bubble of self-regard burst, a reminder to cherish my little family and home, and to let these strangely provocative dream machines turn back into appliances for a while.
And besides, I’d take gold over raspberry any day.