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I've driven a black Toyota Corolla rental car this week since Martin my Mini Cooper has been getting a makeover at the body shop. I thought that getting a night-fire red car would prevent folks from hitting him. Instead, I’ve found that owning a red car is like driving with a big bull’s eye on my back. He’s been hit twice (fortunately while parked), and then there was a car wash conveyer belt mishap (aka the $1,000 car wash). So in our relatively short, three-year relationship, he’s had three week-long visits to the body shop.
When my last car was on its deathbed, my first and last test drive was in a Mini Cooper. As I pulled the demo car off the car lot, I immediately knew I would drive one home that night. I knew it would be a he. I knew he would have a manual transmission. I knew he would have stripes. I knew he would have the panoramic sunroof. I knew that I would smile each time I saw or drove him. And well, I figured that if one has to drive, then one should smile.
I wondered one day what motoring would have been like had I bought an ordinary car like a Corolla instead of a Mini. What I’ve observed this week while driving the Corolla is that this car practically drives itself. I only need one hand and one foot to drive it. It changes its own gears as I push the gas pedal in and out. It locks the doors when I put the car in drive and then unlocks the doors as I put the car in park. All of these features have made me less engaged while motoring.
I thought about my best motoring experience.
It was an overcast Sunday morning at early hour of 7 a.m. I drove my new Mini the speed limit, 55 mph, down County Road 226 just outside of Gainesville. I hadn't had enough coffee, and my stomach was tied up in knots. I checked my rearview mirror and saw nothing. Just one minute later, I checked my rearview mirror again and saw ten MINI Coopers -- all with vivid colors and racing stripes and some with checkered roofs -- approaching my car.
I looked ahead and saw a Dodge Caravan going well below the speed limit. The next thing I knew, two Coops passed me and the Dodge. At that moment, I gave myself permission to Motor. I pushed my foot down more on the gas, and I joined the MINIvan (a.k.a. caravan) to the Gainesville Raceway. As I turned in to the Raceway, I became a bit intimidated by the diehard MINI racing fanatics who were changing their tires and wearing racing gear. But, after parking and registering, I quickly realized that there were others there like me to give their cars, which are built for speed and fun but used as a means of everyday transportation, a whirl or two around the racetrack. I motored hard that day. Six runs on a slalom course and eight runs on a larger track later, I was exhausted but smiling. It was one of the best experiences I had ever had. I had bonded with Martin.
After recalling this moment, I realized that I haven't enjoyed my commute as much this week. I then realized that while ordinary things certainly have an important place in my life, it's the less ordinary things that make me smile most...
Legos vs. coloring books
Cabernet sauvignon vs. merlot
Pinot gris vs. chardonnay
Green tea latte vs. regular green tea
Soy latte vs. drip coffee
Sushi covered in wasabi vs. a turkey sandwich
Florence + the Machine vs. Britney Spears
This American Life vs. CNN
Mangos vs. apples
The Indian street food restaurant vs. Applebees
A ginger cookie dipped in chocolate vs. a chocolate chip cookie
Plaid or argyle vs. monotone/solid colors
Mini vs. Corolla
Driving an ordinary Corolla reminded me how much the less ordinary makes me smile. It made me stop and appreciate that feeling I get when I motor Martin or wear plaid or listen to Ira Glass or eat sushi or drink a glass of pinot gris on a hot day. It made me realize that I need a little ordinary every once in a while to remind me how fortunate I am to be able to experience the less ordinary.
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I'm a plaid girl in a solid/monotone world.