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Insights: Culture

rom Pontiacs to Jaguars, cars say a lot about the man behind the wheel
Gerald Eskenazi
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 01

(continued from page 3)

Sure a car is fantasy. But mixed with reality. Remember that '51 convertible I had? One day I was going on a blind date not far from where I lived on Sutter Avenue, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. She lived on a real neighborhood street -- a block of attached houses, each with a porch and stoop. I put the top down and headed for my date's house. As expected, the neighbors were sitting outside, since it was a summer evening. In front of her house, the family gathered for a board meeting to rule on me: it looked as if aunts and grandmothers had set up a gauntlet.

I pulled up in front of the house. The top was down and the windows were down. I opened my door -- or tried to. It was stuck. Eyes were on me. I tried again, attempting to conceal my hysteria. No go. In a burst of inspiration, I got it -- I hopped over the door, carefree, cavalier.

Now I got to the house, met the girl, and had to bring her to the car. In my mind I had established myself as being supercool to all the oglers. But I had to be the gentleman, of course, by opening her side of the car to let her in. Then -- how do I get back? I can't slide in to the passenger side first. Do I hop back over the door? This was getting to be a portentious moment.

Who was I? Some blind date with a stuck car door? Or was I something more? I decided I was not a Brooklyn schlepper with a used car. So I opened the door for her, but I got in first. I slid over behind the wheel. She got in, I reached over her, and shut the door with my right hand.

It's been so long I don't remember how I got out of the car after that. But I wonder if that incident somehow affected me over the years -- that I worried about who I was, not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of others.

Maybe that's the comforting thing about driving a Jaguar. You don't have to think. We are programmed to believe nice things, or certain given aspects, about the person behind the wheel.

What's true, what's real -- all these years later I remember the Pontiac. But I've got to admit: I love driving the Jag. Almost as much as that Pontiac.


Gerald Eskenazi is a sportswriter for The New York Times.

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