Think Snow


CAR TALK OR DON'T FORGET THE WATERMELONS

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     This morning, March 17th, I cancelled a reservation for a car and condo for a trip to Hilton Head next month. I offer the following essay as a diversion from thoughts about virus, bank accounts, jobs, futures and will there be a baseball season this year. This appeared on my website years ago but who remembers years ago?

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      THE INS AND OUTS OF GETTING IN AND OUT OF A MITSUBISHI 

      Introducing the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder! It was the car assigned to us when we got to the Avis counter at the Savannah Airport. (Excuse me. The Savannah/Hilton Head 

INTERNATIONAL Airport. Under a little known FAA regulation, any airport that serves either Colombian coffee or French fries is entitled to squeeze the word “International” into its name.) 

      According to my Avis profile, I prefer a stodgy, mid-size car, and the first thing I saw in row F in the Avis lot when I came out of the airport with two large suitcases on a baggage cart, a knapsack on my back, two computers hanging from various limbs and the car keys and contract stuffed in my cargo pants was a Chevy Lizard or something. I assumed that’s us and pressed the door zapper on the key. There was a chirp but the doors didn’t unlock. I put down one of the computers, pressed the door opener button again, again heard an electronic chirp but the doors on the Chevy were still locked. 

      The third time I pushed the zapper Irene, who is always ahead of me, said “it’s the convertible, here.” Sure enough, the lights flashed on the car next to the Chevy, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, a convertible. I had not asked for a convertible. Although it was close to Irene’s birthday, this trip wasn’t planned as a special vacation, merely a week at a condo complex in Hilton Head. 

      My first close look at the Eclipse Spyder was its trunk. I am happy to report it does have a trunk. I must also report one (1) piece of luggage takes up the entire trunk. It would hold, I reckon, one piece of luggage or three watermelons. Having forgotten to bring any watermelons with me, I squeezed the one bag into the trunk and then went to 

the driver’s door. 

      The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder has a back seat, but I don’t know why. No one over the age of 15 months could fit there. Even if a small person would agree to try to get into the back seat, I doubt that they could. The seat belt for the driver’s seat forms a webbed barrier to the back when the seat is pushed forward. There being no such obstacle on the passenger's side we managed to maneuver, twist and shove the second piece of luggage into the back seat along with the two computers and the knapsack. 

      Ah ha. It was now time to get into the car, to put our butts on the seats like people do in normal automobiles made by the Japanese, the Swedes, the South Koreans, the Germans, the Italians, the Indians, and the Americans. There would appear to be no graceful way to enter the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder at any age let alone at age 71 +. To say the seats were low to the ground is to say the sand in Hilton Head is low to the beach. The best technique I found was to squat as though you had been on a long walk in the woods and suddenly had to go to the bathroom very badly. From the squatting position, you immediately pivot to the right - there should be as little time as possible between the squat and the pivot or otherwise the air can well be punctuated by small, unwelcome man-made rockets.               After pivoting, you collapse sideways into the seat, taking care to duck your head and watch your arms and elbows so they don’t strike the gear shift. 

     (You will be pleased to know that, yes, the engineers of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder did find room for a gear shift. And it’s in the front not the back.) 

      After a self-performed census of your body parts and adjustments to various pieces of clothing that have become entangled on features in the interior of the car, you put the key in the ignition. As the car starts, you take an inventory of the dash board, finding the windshield wipers, the gas gauge, the lights, the radio. Then it’s time to adjust the mirrors. That’s when you notice that instead of a rear window the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder has an oval peep hole about the size of an omelet. Not believing this is possible, you turn in the driver’s seat and look back. In most cars, there is a lot of glass in the back, 

affording a view of what’s behind you. Not on this baby. When you look back, what you see is lots of convertible top. That means your view of what’s behind you is limited to what you can see out of the clear omelet these brave Japanese designers have given you. 

      Well, this will be interesting you say. You then adjust the side mirrors.You know you can compensate a little for your inability to see anything through the back window by looking into the side mirror by the driver’s seat and turning your head to the left to double check before changing lanes. There is no such easy fix for your lack of vision on the right hand side of the car. The right hand mirror states the truth when it says, in little lettering at the bottom ,“Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.” So that giant Mayflower moving van you just passed looks 20 feet from you in the mirror when in fact it is two feet away. 

      If I didn’t have a convertible at home I really like - a fairly roomy VW Cabrio - if we weren’t going to warm, sunny Hilton Head, I might have gone back to the Avis counter and said, “I know you’re busy. I appreciate you have upgraded me to a convertible, but how about I just be my usual unadventuresome self and stick with that Chevy Lizard next to the Mitsubishi?” 

      I didn’t do anything like that. I put the car in “Reverse,” asked the brave co-pilot-

navigator to check on her side of the car, and began to slowly back up. There was a sharp beeping sound. On the dash there was a light flashing under an image of the convertible top. Perhaps the sharp beeping was a warning that the top was about to blow off. I pushed a “Close” button next to the light. The beeping continued when I backed up, so one of us pushed the light itself. Still beeping. It stopped though when you stopped the car. You put the car in “Drive” and the beeping resumed. This was when you took a lap around the lot and find someone in a red Avis uniform. The man I found showed me how to adjust the mirrors, using the grid with arrows on the dash. I asked about the beeping but whatever it was he said I didn’t understand. Maybe he didn’t understand what I was asking, or, if he did, he didn’t know the answer. 

     Oh the hell with it, I thought and off we drove. The beeping always stopped after a few seconds, although for the first several days we kept pushing “Close” and “Open” as well as the light showing the convertible top. None of that did any good.

     Twice during our trip I put the top down for the drive to the Rec Center to play basketball. It’s hard to beat that. Cruising along with the sun and wind on your face, the latest U2 album in the CD player. With the top down you discover something else, this is a very loud car, about as loud as that mammoth Mayflower moving van, which is now 

only two inches away from your bumper.   

      Like most rentals, an owner’s manual was not to be found in the glove compartment. That might have told us how to stop the beeping. Many cars - most cars – also have slots or compartments on the inside of the front doors, places where you can put a map, sunglasses, a couple of tapes or CDs or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder comes with an extremely tiny slot on the inside of the front doors, a good place to get a finger stuck should you want to practice your talent at one-handed driving. Should you be planning a long drive, this slot looks just big enough to hold one Oreo or, if you are trying to cut back on sweets, one thin gherkin.

      There was another curious feature of this car. When you turned on the ignition, 

the clock above the dashboard briefly displayed the word “Eclipse.” I have read that the Eclipse was named after an 18th century race horse but wasn't there anyone at Mitsubishi who stood up at a planning meeting and said, “Listen, Numbnuts, one definition of 

’Eclipse’ is totally or partially obscured?”           That certainly described the car I drove.

      Perhaps you are wondering if getting out of this vehicle was as difficult and as 

humiliating as getting in. Not by a long shot. For one thing, there was no squatting. I would swivel my legs out of the car, put both feet on the concrete and then begin a series of rocking and pumping movements to lift myself from the seat. A “series” in this case defined as about 20 to 25 rocks and pumps. 

      Once outside the car I walked in a hunched position for only about 50 yards before regaining the normal gait of an aging man - crooked and wobbly. Who knows how Irene with her two metal knees got out? Hell, as far as I know she may still be in the damn thing, riding around with someone else.