Rendered Fat Content


Spanish cartoonist
Pedro de Rojas: Don Quixote is driven to his village, from a series of chromolithograph postcards reimagining the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza for the twentieth century. (Circa 1905)
"That SecondCar might have represented a sort of vanity, standing squarely between here and a finer sort of sanity."

For most of our time together, The Muse and I have been a one car family. The first decade together, we owned two cars between us, a condition that both complicated parking and left one of the two cars idle while we used the other one together. We almost always headed out together. When we left the original Villa Vatta Schmaltz to move to DC, I sold my vehicle to my grand nephew for a quarter because we figured that it would make no sense to straddle ourselves with two cars in a big city. This move proved prescient, for in the six years we lived there, The Muse drove to work exactly twice. She much preferred to hop the much more convenient Metro down to The Mall where she worked. Even that one car mostly sat idle except for my foraging forays and the occasional toodle into surrounding countryside. Cities seem distinctly hostile to cars, which overwhelm them. For a while, we tried going carless, using busses and ZipCars when transportation seemed necessary, but this complicated beer runs—nobody needs anybody transporting half cases of beer on a public bus—so we after a month, bought a bit of a beater to better balance those scales.

Last year, visiting old friends in Tucson, we learned that they were retiring their old Lexus.
Then, The GrandOtter had just moved in with us and The Muse was still traveling down to her office, so The Muse thought it might make sense to purchase that old war horse for our use. I agreed, though the record should note that I accepted hesitantly. Just before the Pandemic lockdown began, I flew back down to Tucson to claim the prize and spent two days driving it back up to the Villa Vatta High through Arizona and New Mexican Indian Country. I collapsed the garage contents to accommodate the second set of wheels, though we found that we needed to pull in the rear view mirrors for both vehicles to fit, our's being a two car garage, which due to sizing conventions means that it was designed for about the average car and a half. I named the new car Elizabeth in homage to its previous owner, and there, since, that new acquisition has sat. We might have driven it a couple of hundred miles in the eleven months since I returned from Arizona with it.

The Damned Pandemic arrived and the same week I brought that car back, The Muse stopped commuting to her office. The GrandOtter, it turned out, took medication that advised against operating machinery. Just getting that second car out of the garage meant first moving the other one, a nerve-wracking operation occasionally nudging garage contents when backing out. Reparking it required the same dance in reverse. We imagined mustering a convoy of sorts when we migrate into HeadingHomeward, but the more we considered that plan, the less attractive it became. We realized months ago that we'd need to ditch that second car before we left, but there it still sits, emblematic of the difficulty typical of such tectonic shifts. Denial remains the initial stage of full acceptance.

In this culture, wealth seems measured in the number of cars one owns. The newer homes, the so-called McMansion places, often feature three or even four car garages, some with even an adjacent concrete pad upon which to park the boat or RV. I suspect that even there, that space usually holds vehicles rarely used, an egregious form of conspicuous consumption. Even here, where we're ten miles from anywhere and without public transportation, our real need for more than one car has proven non-existent. On those days before, when The Muse needed to take the car to work, I'd just cool my heels at home, sometimes running out in the early morning to fetch whatever seemed necessary or asking her to stop on her way back up to secure something needed for supper. We needed to coordinate our comings and goings, but that served to bring us a little closer. We both miss those few minutes when I'd shuttle her down in the morning so that I could run errands, a time when we'd sort of synchronize our watches and get on similar pages. We rarely coordinate now as she stumbles down to her basement sequestration lair.

The ability to buy two when one might be all that's needed seems the scourge of our system. We've blurred our notion of enough, surrounding ourselves with stuff we hardly touch, like pack rats or hoarders. I'm as guilty as anybody. My bookshelves overfloweth, with even a few multiple copies of the same title. With each move, we somehow manage to slough off some stuff, the last time we even hosted a curious yard sale where we refused any payment for anything, losing furniture, even a perfectly functioning refrigerator, because we really needed to lighten our ballast and had no stomach for even trying to account for it. The library received several boxes of perfectly serviceable books for their annual book sale, but even then, we hauled several equivalents of second cars with us when we went. We justify these possessions mostly on emotional grounds. They represent our past which might not last without their presence. I have clothes I haven't worn in twenty years and which don't even fit me anymore, but they represent parts of me that would no longer exist should I leave them behind.

Were we to take only what we absolutely need, we might depart like novelist Lee Child's Jack Reacher leaves, with a toothbrush in his pocket in a back seat on a west-bound bus. Our stuff reassures us, I guess, so we retain it at considerable inconvenience, a SecondCar. Our present rarely turns out the way it seemed it might back when it was our future. We purchase the seemingly necessary accoutrements and, like our immigrant ancestors, leave much of it on docks or along dusty trails. We'll more than likely fill up a moving van again this time, but we'll part with much that we previously thought defined us, but probably didn't. We'll arrive short one vehicle and unlikely to quickly replace it, for where we're going, one car should serve us just fine. The most painful part of any parting comes with the recognition that much of what we though was essential, really wasn't. That SecondCar might have represented a sort of vanity, standing squarely between here and any finer sort of sanity. So long, Elizabeth.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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