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Cars Are for Banging

“Oh no!” they say. “Your car!” And here’s where I figure I’m weird. Because I truly don’t comprehend the concern. I can’t even make myself understand it. To me, a car isn’t something to be protected; it’s there to protect me and anyone else brave enough to ride with me. I’m an aggressive driver, I admit it. An impatient driver. When my husband is feeling charitable, he says I’m an artist and the road is my canvas. When I drove over a rose bush to extricate myself from a stifling parking space, causing a thick, thorny branch to lodge in my $100 Michelin, he called me something else. Still, I maintained my thesis: My car is not a red-carpet gown. It’s a stick-shift suit of armor, a highway-rated hazmat suit, if you will. The exterior is scraped, dented, and, um, impaled so that I am not. No one blubbers when an umbrella gets wet, or a helmet gets dinged, right? If a car is damaged and its passengers intact, it means the thing is working. Some folks, I know, consider their cars to be shiny, Turtle Waxed reflections of their status and style. Not me. In high school, I totaled my car. My grandfather, who was a sort of mechanical genius with a reverence for function and an indifference to form, kindly fixed it for me. He always loved going to auctions here and there before he passed away, and he bought a truck that was amazing and overly shiny. He un-crunched the hood and affixed an old aluminum screen door where the grill had been. I drove it that way for years. My friends had a name for my coupe-turned-jalopy: the Road Warrior. It was a lesson in humility. That’s why, when I dented my Honda’s hatchback by using my booted foot to slam it closed, I shrugged. That’s why my son is still alive after having scratched his name into the driver’s door with a rock. And that’s why, when people offer their condolences and say, “I know a guy who can bang out those dents for you,” I politely decline for two reasons: One, if the finish were flawless, I’d have to be careful not to hit anything, and that’s just stifling. And two, I’m rather possessive about my latest road warrior. No one’s allowed to bang this baby but me.]]>

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