On this weeks NPR comedy show, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” the Buick Regal was referred to as an “old people’s car.” I was vaguely insulted. These days I’m driving a brown 2004 Buick Regal. My Aunt Ruth died a year ago and I inherited her Buick. The odometer reads 25,000 miles and it runs like new. She was an old person I guess. She was in her late 70’s when she bought it new. What do I care if I drive an old persons car? Half the time I don’t really notice what I’m driving. It works or it doesn’t. A smooth ride, lights, power steering and brakes, adjustable seats, plus heat and A/C. Not that different from my new Lexus 350 SUV.
One evening, I stopped by Pep Boys, a large auto supply store, to pick up chains for the Lexus. We were driving from San Diego to Glacier National Park, Montana in mid-February and knew carrying chains would be required whether or not I knew how to put them on. Usually the highway patrol let’s you through a winter/snow checkpoint if you have four-wheel drive and all terrain tires, but sometimes they actually want to see the chains. Not worth being turned back at a snowy pass and told to get chains at the previous town, some 100 miles back. I know it’s not worth it. It cost me half a day and $200 some fifteen years ago to get into a Colorado ski area. I walked into Pep Boys and asked for chains for my new Lexus SUV. In the official chains catalog, there were three possible sets of chains. The salesman asked me to check the tire size, so I borrowed a flashlight and went out to the dark parking lot and wrote down every word, letter and number on the tires and headed back in to find the salesman. He leafed through the catalog, but my tire sizes weren’t even close to what they should be, so he went out with me this time to get the correct info. We walked toward my car but he stopped a few yards short with a confused look on his face. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Where’s the Lexus?” he asked. I turned back to look at the “Lexus” from which I’d ten minutes earlier taken the tire measurements. Damn, all this time I’d been driving the brown, 2004 Buick Regal, the old person’s car! I really want you all to know that doesn’t make me old. I was glow-in-the-dark red with embarrassment. We returned to the store and I told the salesman, “We are leaving tomorrow morning at 4am. I’ll take one of each of the possible chains and figure out which one is right when I get home or somewhere on the way to Montana.”