I looked at my wife, and I thought she might cry. She had traveled miles and waited for nearly a year to see what was in front of her. It was the Nissan Leaf. For a woman who has championed her own "homemade hybrid," a way to limit her own idling time while stuck in traffic and who hopes someday to be able to power her own motor vehicle from the energy she collects via the solar panels on her roof, this was a slice of heaven. "It doesn't have a tailpipe!" she enthused as tears welled in her eyes.
We were at the Fifty-Second Annual International Car Show. We were there, ostensibly, to placate my son's deep-seated automobile urges. We came to see the Porsches and the Maseratis. We took pictures of the Camaros and the Corvettes. It was all about the fetishment of four wheels. My wife, who was born in Detroit, understands her son and was able to wrangle an opportunity for my son to sit inside a half-million dollar Lamborghini. That was his tearful moment. I tried to imagine meeting Bruce Springsteen, and I had something to compare it to. Surrounded by all that Italian machinery, he was a new car smell's breath away from paradise. I watched my wife struggle with the worries of a planet being slowly destroyed by the continued use of fossil fuels versus the love for her son. Seven miles a gallon?
But when it was all said and done, there was enough hybrid and hydrogen technology on display to temper the experience. I watched all of this with an odd sense of detachment. Both my son and wife have asked me what my favorite car was. I have an affection for all the cars that I have driven into the used car lot on their last legs just to trade them in for my next used car. Favorite? That level of appreciation doesn't register with me. I look at these four-wheeled vehicles as less-than-inspired variations on a theme. The emotional attachments I could imagine could only be culled from fantasy: The Batmobile, James Bond's Aston Martin, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
I understand how potentially amusing a sports car that can go one hundred and eighty-five miles an hour could be. I appreciate the way that driving cars without tailpipes would make our planet more inhabitable. Then I notice how I am walking around the Car Show. On my own two feet. And when we were done, we went back to the BART station to take public transportation back home.