Better Life

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Baby, You Can Drive My Car
Cars don’t do it for me. Never have.

Several weeks ago, after Christmas shopping at a Connecticut mall and returning to his car, my brother-in-law found a message underneath his windshield wiper. Dusted with snow, it was legibly written in ink on the back of a tattered white envelope. It read: “Excuse me, but I must tell you…I LOVE the car. 580 horsepower in a station wagon…every little boy’s dream.”

The word “LOVE” was underlined four times.

My brother-in-law couldn’t have been happier, or prouder of his car. It’s a 2014 white Mercedes Benz E63 AMG Wagon. He told me it comes with black carbon trim and red brake calipers (huh?), and—get this—it has an engine signed by the man who built it, a guy named Stephan. When he’s on the road, he said, other motorists honk their horns and wave at him: “People go crazy over this car.”

Who knew?

My brother-in-law has had a life-long love affair with cars. When he was 10 years old, he dreamed of owning a Rolls Royce. When I was 10, I dreamed of playing centerfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Alas, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, and I became a sportswriter and then a magazine editor. My brother-in-law became a successful gastroenterologist, and along the way accumulated an assortment of cars that fulfilled his boyhood fantasies: a Mercedes here, a Porsche there, and a fleet of Audis—though not a single Rolls Royce. “For the price,” he said, “I could think of lots of other great cars I’d choose.”

I must confess cars don’t do it for me. Never have. Oh, sure, through the years a few cars have caught my fancy. For one, my favorite aunt’s 1955 turquoise-and-white Chevy Bel Air. I was nine at the time, and had no idea it was being hailed for its cutting-edge design. I just liked the way it looked, just as I liked the looks of the first Ford Mustangs made in the mid-to-late 1960s, particularly the yellow convertible. That silver BMW roadster driven by Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough—very cool. But…

…pop that beauty’s hood, and I couldn’t care less what lies beneath it. I’ve never changed the oil or the antifreeze or the spark plugs in any of the cars I’ve owned. In case you’re wondering, my first car was a 1960 candy-apple red Olds 98 convertible that my mother handed down to me when I was in college. Since then, I’ve had a Pontiac Firebird, a VW Beetle, a Toyota Corolla, a Ford Taurus, and a green Lexus that was stolen. Currently, I drive a black Lexus that my wife Donna picked out. She just told me it’s a 2006 LS 430. Hey, you learn something new every day!

Look, for whatever reason, even as a teenager I simply wanted my car to get me from Point A to Point B with a minimum of fuss. All it takes is the gearshift lever on D and Seriously Sinatra on satellite radio, and I’m primed to ease on down the road. But don’t expect me to sit behind the wheel for too long a stretch. For me, a road trip is driving fewer than 20 miles from my Manhattan apartment to my home in Westchester or to my mom’s in Queens.

Even so, I’ve read with amusement Google’s plans for a self-driving car. Pshaw! Not for me. What kind of man do you think I am?