Thursday, June 28, 2007

Long Live El Cid!

What possesses us to name our cars? For those of us who don’t own Herbie the Love Bug or KITT from Knight Rider, it’s not as if we can call them and have them come speeding over to us. Additionally, if we’re asked to come down to the impound yard to pick up our car, it’s a safe bet that the cops found us by using the Vehicle Identification Number rather than asking the car its name. Nevertheless, many of us – myself included – name our cars as if we were naming offspring.

When I was a boy, we had a maroon 1962 Ford Fairlane that my mom called Henrietta. Wanting to spruce up the old girl, I decided to give it a yellow racing stripe with a rather wide brush and interior house paint. (Back in 1974, they made house paint that stuck – believe me!) Sadly, I believe my parents sold that car (yellow stripe and all) for $250 when I was about ten years old.

My siblings tell me that my family had an old Chevy named Bessie that had a hole in the floorboard, and you could watch the roadway beneath speed past. The fact my parents got rid of this car before I was born only goes to show that I’m their favorite – they weren’t all that concerned about my two brothers and my sister and whether they fell through this gap at 60 miles per hour. But that’s another story for another day.

When I was twenty-one years old, I purchased my parents’ 1985 Honda Civic and made it my own. I gave him the name of Sid – short for Sid Vicious. (Honestly, I was never a big Sex Pistols fan, but the name always sounded kind of funny to me.) Four or five years later, while living in Southern California, my wife and I passed another Civic of the same vintage that was completely tricked out: lowered, shiny rims, neon running lights, and fat tires. The windows were tinted, and the bass from the stereo could recalibrate pace makers within a five-mile radius. My wife said that if we were to do that to our car, we could rename him El Cid. Although it was tempting, we figured both the historical and Hollywood references would be wasted on most people.

Since that time, we’ve owned a handful of other cars. We had a Saturn we named Pepe, and a Dodge Caravan named Gordo. Although we have since parted ways with the Caravan and replaced it with another one, we’ve kept the name Gordo – it’s a shame to let a good name like that go to waste. We currently have a Honda Accord that doesn’t have a name because the family can’t agree on one. My youngest son wants Wolverine, and my wife is to the point that she doesn’t care – imagine that – but I’m leaning toward Bruce or Spike.

Speaking of names, if you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of having personalized license plates, you should use whatever you named the car rather than the cutesy combinations some of you concoct in your heads. You know what I’m talking about: MYVETTE, 1KULBUG, 75PINTO, RADZ28, and so on. If you need to remind yourself and others on the road what type of car it is that you’re driving, you probably shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel of a large metal object that has the ability to exceed 120 mph and run over small animals. Failing that, the government should allow me to more obviously mark your car so we know you’re coming. I’m sure I could scare up a can of yellow house paint.

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