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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 2)

Forty years later, I got the Jag. The hood ornament didn't light -- but it was the famous lithe chrome jaguar, in all its stealth. The first time I brought the car in for gas, the guy pumping said to me, "That's a beautiful car. Enjoy it."

A few days later, I was a few blocks from the Bronx Zoo but couldn't figure out where the entrance was. At a light I stopped a young couple in a car.

She peered out the window and in a rolling Spanish accent said, with a smile, "That car is gorgeous."

When I finally parked, a matronly woman who put her SUV next to the Jag said, "Boy, I hope that car's still here when you get out."

OK, OK, I'm imagining things. That's what my family tells me. But I'm not.

I don't honk at aggressive drivers in front of me. I simply wave them through.

Now, does everyone tooling around in one of these babies become nicer? I suspect some become worse. Once, I'd like someone driving a Corvette to signal when he zigzags in front of me 20 miles over the speed limit.

At my Waldbaum's shopping center, I notice that some people driving expensive cars want to make sure they are separated from the ordinary -- they park diagonally across two spaces. The first time I had seen this gambit was at the New York Jets players' parking lot, where these 25-year-olds had gone from phys-ed major to millionaire. Their first purchase was an RX-7 or a 300-ZX. To preserve the bumpers and sides of their car, they angled it over two spots so no one could touch it.

Before I knew what a Testarossa was, there was testosterone. As teenagers, we are defined by our cars -- in our mind and in the observer's. An editor I know claims that whenever he saw a guy tooling around in a GTO, he knew -- just knew -- that guy got the girl. Or if there was some dude sporting a Testarossa, the passenger seat was occupied by a blonde.

As a leftist-leaning student at City College of New York (the Harvard of the proletariat, we liked to call it), I viewed power cars with a mixture of envy and distaste. They were gaudy, they were gauche, they were show-offy -- and I didn't have one.


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