high tech gift

I’m at the alignment shop getting my wheels straightened out. You can smell it before you can hear it, which is well before you can see it. It’s a 60s Mopar four-door of some description, tottering its way along the road, burning as much oil as its asthmatic small-block can push past the slack rings.

I’ve been waiting for what feels like hours, hoping against hope that the fresh-out-of-high-school alignment tech is gifted enough with a torch to free up the rusted-solid jam nuts on my tie rods. The arrival of the Mopar is almost a welcome sight, and the sound of its clattering valvetrain is quite comforting as well.

Across the waiting room, I can see a middle-aged white male suddenly perk up. He sniffs the air, like a prairie dog searching for threats. Some unknown force propels him to the plate glass window of the shop, pressing his face against it with a loud squeak. The Mopar has captivated him, seized control of his body and spirit. I can faintly hear words emanating from his mouth in a manic babble. “General Lee, quad-barrel, resale value, double pumper, Barrett-Jackson,” he repeats over and over while beads of sweat form on his face.

By now, the old Dodge has finally, through great effort, pulled itself to a resentful halt outside the shop. Its engine diesels for a bit before it finally falls dead, and the owner steps out. From my perch in the waiting room, I can see the bushes behind him rustling. More middle-aged white males burst through the foliage, themselves repeating the mantra of auction grades and stories from their misspent youth. “Five hundred horsepower,” shrieks one of them while admiring the sole remaining hubcap, a severely dinged plastic piece from a Pontiac Sunbird. “Safer than a Prius,” adds another.

The owner pays them no mind, modulo a little shove to get one of them to move out of the way so he can open the door to the shop and join me in the waiting room. Eventually, the proprietor comes out from the back. He is familiar with these cars, having first seen them as a child driven by military dictators in his home country. Then as now, it was critically important that the drivers of them be able to safely reach the site of their purges and other crimes against humanity.

I am about to strike up a conversation with the driver of the old Monaco or Coronet or whatever when there is a horrible clattering from outside. An investment banker has just rolled his brand new F-Type into the parking lot in a tremendous accident, having spotted the vintage Dodge product from the road and decided to immediately make a ninety degree turn in which to bid upon it, jersey barrier be damned.

That’s when I see it. A severely dented but largely rust-free second generation CRX Si, driving past, a plume of blue smoke following it. I cannot stop my legs from forcing me out of the shop, through the throng of Delusional Mopar Guys, shrieking the code phrases that were burned into my prefrontal cortex by my brainwashers. “VTEC, Spoon, import drags,” I hear myself nattering. It is a beautiful car, a perfect gem that has never been surpassed. I am convinced this old Honda is worth upward of the GDP of New Mexico at auction, and tell the owner as such when I catch up to him on foot.

The driver, a middle-aged Lebanese father of two, rolls his eyes at me and calmly pulls a can of Mace from the pile in the back seat.