All I need for transportation is a simple car – in red

May 31, 2012 

Some years ago I looked into our garage and saw a car that had once been stylish and shiny new, but now it looked as if it were a relic from another century. Actually, it was.

In short, I knew it was time for a new car. Much as I tried to put the urge aside, it kept coming back to me, strongly.

So, now my wife and I drive a small car. The decision to go small was partly dictated by financial realities and partly by the knowledge that a small car would satisfy our transportation needs quite adequately. I did the necessary research. We visited several local dealerships, took several test drives, and then made our final choices.

We had decided that our new car had to have automatic transmission. That has been at the top of my list ever since I got caught in a traffic jam leaving Husky Stadium back in the 1950’s and exhausted my left leg as I alternately engaged and disengaged the clutch on my 1952 Plymouth.

We also felt we needed air conditioning – temperatures are important to the elderly.

I had one other desire. this new car had to be red. I was well into my 70s, and I sensed that my youth was fast disappearing. Perhaps a bright-red car would recapture a small bit of it.

Of course, there were other options available, but remember, I was aware of financial realities, so I stopped right there.

Our red car doesn’t have a sunroof – I find that I see better through the front windshield. I have to use a crank to raise or lower the windows, but I mastered that skill many years ago, and I don’t want to lose it.

The car is not equipped with a high-fidelity sound system, but I don’t need hi-fi to get good reception from Seattle progressive talk radio.

And I didn’t buy a spoiler, either. I’ve never been able to figure out why anyone would want to modify a car design drawn by one of Detroit’s, or Hiroshima’s, most talented designers. (I feel the same way about magnet- or photo-covered refrigerators.)

I don’t have a GPS screen to stare at, either. In my many years of driving, I have navigated the hills of San Francisco and the freeways of Los Angeles. I have driven across two-thirds of the nation and found every museum and baseball park worth seeing in Chicago.

And the only time I have felt seriously lost was a few weeks ago when I found myself amid the maze of streets on Hawks Prairie. But I don’t need to go back there, and I suspect I can avoid becoming lost for the second time.

When I drove my chosen model, I was assured that I would be thrilled by zoom-zoom power. I really think I get only zoom, but it is, after all, a small car, so it actually feels like zoom-zoom anyway. In short, I am happy with the car on all counts but one.

It seems that every time I come out of my favorite supermarket, I find that my small red car is now parked between two automotive behemoths that block my view as I attempt to back out of my stall.

Yet I must take my chances before the ice cream melts. As I ease out into the unknown, I wonder how hard it would be to set aside parking areas for normal-sized cars and other areas for monster vehicles.

I don’t mean to penalize those who think bigger than I do. They are already being punished at the gas pumps.

So their spots should be just as good as mine, but separate, very separate, please.

James Carlson is a retired high school English teacher and 60-year resident of Olympia. A member of The Olympian’ s Board of Contributors, he may be reached at

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