I’ve never really had much experience with luxury since I’ve been poor most of my life. I’ve flown first class precisely once on a flight from London to New York when I was fifteen years old only because the plane was overbooked. I’ve never owned anything that one could consider a proper luxury item. My idea of luxury is very different from the 1%’s idea of luxury. Mine is power windows on an economy car, enough hot water to take a bubble bath and having a couple of ducats left over when all my bills are paid.
I tend to shy away from luxury because I don’t really even know what it means. It is a murky concept at best like how many zeroes are in the national debt or how big the universe is. My tiny primate brain can’t count that high. When I see something labeled as luxury, I know I’m not the target demographic and keep moving. I am the dorky fat kid in school and luxury is the popular cheerleader dating the quarterback. Even if our worlds happen to collide for an instant, we have little in common and nothing to say to each other. We don’t run in the same circles.
I was recently in a car accident. I’ve been driving my battered, second-hand sedan around since the accident. Sheena, my wayward claim’s adjuster, finally called. She told me they got the police report, the deductible was rightfully waived and now I can see about getting my car fixed.
I dropped my wonky car off at the body shop and walked to the rental car place. I didn’t bother to call the rental car company to pick me up for two reasons. First, the rental car place was a mile from the body shop. They’re on the same street… on the same side of the same street. Second, the rental car company told me that it would take 45 minutes to an hour to arrange a ride. I’d have to be a total lazy ass to wait an hour for a ride when I could easily walk it in less time. Anyway, the point is, when I looked at the map the night before and realized their proximity, I decided to walk and take my dog with me. (To be quite honest, if I didn’t have a dog who needs walking from time to time, I would have called to arrange a ride. Yes, I am that lazy.)
When I got to the rental car place, their computers were down. Awesome! They couldn’t verify the cheap price I had been quoted because of the computers and their downiness. Great! The girl who was hand writing my forms told me we needed to go out to the lot to pick a car. I told rental girl that was completely unnecessary. Just pick one, the cheapest, and give me that. Oh, no, you have to pick one. OK, hand me some keys for your cheapest economy cars and I’ll pick a key. No, you have to actually pick one. Fine. Let’s make a completely unnecessary trip to the lot and waste everyone’s time, namely mine, since you are actually being paid for this and I am not.
When we walked out the door, my dog was there. The rental girl stepped back in absolute terror. “Who’s dog is this!?!?” “It’s my dog and she’s harmless.” “You can’t take dogs in the car, you know.” I honestly thought she was joking so I looked at her with a half smirk. Rental girl was not kidding; she had no sense of humor. Apparently, you can take children in rental cars, but not dogs. That doesn’t seem fair. My dog has the good sense not to poop herself in a car; you can’t say the same for babies. “Well, then. We have a problem.” Then Mr. Fancypants, whom I assumed to be the manager of this slipshod outfit, came out and said, “Just this once, you can drive her home in the car.” Oh, thank you, most benevolent sovereign! Thank you for deigning to stoop to my level and allow my filthy, amoral canine into your highfalutin, four-wheeled mode of transport! “But you can’t take her in the car again,” he added. “OK,” I said, lying through my teeth, “thanks,” also lying.
Rental girl and I headed out on our superfluous trip to the lot where I repeated exactly what I had said inside about not caring which car I drive. “Well, we can put you in this lovely red economy car with no power anything.” “Sure, that’s fine.” “Or we can put you in this lovely white economy car with no power anything.” “Sure, that’s fine.” “Which one?” “That one,” I said, not pointing to any of the cars, but all of them. “The red one?” “Sure, that’s fine.” “Great, I’ll get the keys!” Sigh.
When rental girl returned, she told me that Mr. Fancypants had approved an upgrade! “Instead of putting you in the lovely red economy car with no power anything, we can put you in this lovely Buick with power everything!” “Sure, that’s fine.” She seemed disgruntled by my lack of enthusiasm while I continued to be disgruntled by her insistence that I give one or more shits about which fucking rental car they gave me. I did not.
After many more blah blah blahs, yadda yaddas and “initial here, here and here”s, rental girl finally handed me a key so that I could finally get to work, two hours late. I climbed into the Buick and it was only then that I realized what fate had befallen me. This was a luxury car. Leather, heated seats, power everything, buttons, buttons and more buttons. I would need to study the owners manual for weeks to figure out what they all did. Subconsciously, I immediately began to feel uncomfortable. Luxury had been thrust upon me. I was swimming in it. I looked down. My dog fur coated hoodie, faded blue jeans and black Converse stood in stark contrast to… luxury. In the rear view mirror (which had buttons on it), I spied my dog running around on Corinthian leather seats. This was just not right.
I’ve owned a Buick before. Nearly a decade ago, I had a 1970 Buick Skylark 455. It was big. It was painted a faded matte black. It was mighty and fast. It was so loud that it set of car alarms. It was named Tank, because that’s just what it was. It was a whole lot of car, a thunderous horde of American steel baring down on your modern, plastic car that politely, but insistently said, “move or get mowed down.” I loved the fuck out of that car. I had to sell her because I couldn’t afford to fix her up the way that she deserved to be fixed up. I don’t have a picture of her here, but I have a hand-drawn illustration that I did of her rear end. I loved Tank so much that I actually drew her:
There I was in a Buick again, but this Buick was not Tank. This Buick has door handles that don’t vibrate off as you drive down the road, new leather seats, power windows, power everything and even a radio. It is shiny and doesn’t set off car alarms; it has a car alarm. If the windows are closed, I can’t really even hear noise from outside. It’s the kind of car that makes you want to listen to classical music. It is luxury. Tank, when she was born, was luxury, too. She was a luxury muscle car. By the time I got her, there was nothing left but muscle. The luxury had all been stripped away and worn down. This new Buick has hardly any muscle at all. Oh, it will scoot if it needs to (I tested it), but it’s not designed for moving fast. It’s designed for getting places at your leisure because there is absolutely no need to hurry when you’re driving around inside a fluffy cloud. People think that Buick owners drive slowly because they’re old. They don’t. They drive slowly because no matter where you’re headed, it’s likely not going to be as nice as the inside of that car. I get it now.
I tried to work with the fluffy cloud instead of against it, but it’s not in my nature. I looked it up and that car costs over half of what I make in a whole year. That car is worth nearly as much as I am. Tomorrow, I’m taking it back, partly because it’s too much luxury, but mainly because it gets only about 20 MPG. That is about 7 MPG more than my old Buick got, but this is a different car. I am not in love with it like I was with Tank, so it’s not worth the sacrifice. Unlike most people who will ever drive the new Buick, I actually care how much it costs to drive. I will trade the fancy buttons for a lovely economy car with no power anything that gets 10 more miles per gallon. I will be at peace, sans luxury, once again.
I will miss the heated seats though.