Joe Camel (joecamel) wrote,
Joe Camel
joecamel

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To Drive

A story from last summer, while working the Money Show...

As an old war hero once said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
-V.I.N.CENT, the Black Hole


It was a warm and breezy summer morning, but here in the office it felt like a cold night in Siberia. I was on my way to get some coffee to warm my bones when I was ambushed by The Boss. Not my supervisor, but The Big Boss.

The Boss had something to discuss with me, in private. Apparently, he had a few too many BYOBs last night, and ended up leaving his car in the parking lot at Volcanic Eruptions, a nearby strip club featuring no bar, dismal clientele, and the sorriest excuse for talent outside of A.C.

So today, he needed me to take a cab there and retrieve his Black Hole, a vehicle so named because it is black inside and out, his son thinks it looks like a spaceship, and his wife thinks the payments are outrageous. He needs this done right away, because he left his briefcase in the trunk. He says the cab is waiting. He gives me his keys, two twenties for the cab, and a promise to buy me a Devil Dog if I don’t smoke in the car. I tell him to make it a Leatherneck, and fly out the door to the cab.

About a half hour later, I arrive at V.E. The cabbie takes his money, says something in not-English, and speeds off, leaving me alone with the Black Hole.

An actual black hole will suck up matter and light through the force of gravity, but this Black Hole is armed only with the force of its character, and the most it can draw is attention. At the moment, I’m far more impressed with the power of the one right in front of me.

This is not just a car. This is a brand new Jaguar S-Type R. And I’m going drive it.

The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something that is alive.
-Sir William Lyons


Despite the quality control problems the company had a few years back, the Jaguar has a reputation for being the snootiest of the production performance vehicles. Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti, and Cadillac can all easily match Jag in performance and luxury, but rarely at the same time. The Jag is a car for the rich bastard who wants his steed to stand out amongst the other luxury cars; you can’t possibly mistake a Jag for anything else.

This particular model stands out even amongst other Jaguars. The front end, with its rounded hood, emphasized headlights, and distinctive single grille, seems exaggerated compared to the boxier X-Type and its big brother, the XJ. Instead of a stuffy-looking wood-paneled interior, this model is dark with aluminum trim, a far manlier look than I would’ve expected from such a sophisticated-looking exterior. It screams “suave and successful hitman” rather than “rich asshole arch-villain.”

I get in, get comfortable, and power up the outrageous supercharged 390 horsepower engine. My delight is marred somewhat by the Tom Petty blaring out of the sound system. This drive will require better music. Off to Best Buy.

It doesn’t take me long to find music befitting this vehicle - Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra and Carmina Burana should do the trick. I pop the Scherzo in the player, but it isn’t ready to sound, not yet.

I’m heading for the exit, but it seems there was an accident that way. I can see the faces of the victims. It doesn’t look like anyone was injured. If they’re anything like me, they’ve lost the ability to drive for a few months. Not that they’re going to lose licenses, or that they’ve totaled out their cars. No, a long history of vehicular mishaps has taught me that it is more a matter of mental semantics. “To drive” becomes “to travel, and risk crashing.” It is a sorry, nerve-wracking state, but with time and luck, it passes.

One of the distraught victims looks over from the damage at me as I pass by. I think to myself, “Thank heaven the windows are tinted. This car demands far more silk than the Nautica tie I’m wearing.”

The car whines as I turn through the empty OCB parking lot. Not an audible whine, more like a yearning you can feel. It’s whining like a child. It wants to speed.

I notice my internal monologue has changed. I’m no longer thinking about where I’m at or what I’m doing, no more “Did I remember errand X?” I’m talking to the car.

The car’s telepathic whining upgrades itself to a desperate pleading when we stop in front of Target to let a cheery-looking family of three and an elderly woman with a shopping cart cross.

I drive out of the parking lot to the light. The American flag in front of the development across the intersection hangs limp before my English masterpiece. The car shrieks at the sight of the old racetrack beyond it. “I want that! I need that! Please!”

While the car’s impatience may seem unsuited to a creature of such sophistication and refinement, remember that we are mere humans, evolved from gorilla-like hunters and gatherers. Our bones break if we impact something at a speed slightly faster than a hunter’s sprint. This car is a racing machine, evolved from a long line of similar racing machines, designed to travel at speeds sufficient to destroy itself should it suffer an impact. Whereas I will merely enjoy the drive to come, this marvel of human technology will be fulfilling a part of its destiny. It was built to do two things: to impress, and to move very quickly. Nothing more. It begs me to help it do so. Its eagerness is understood.

We’re nearly on the highway. The London Symphony Orchestra has released the first notes of the Scherzo. There is one final moment of reflection at the tollbooth. The driver of the Infiniti ahead of me with the Texas plates doesn’t understand the significance of the EZ Pass-only lane, and has stopped and is craning his head out the window, looking for a place to deposit his quarters. Normally I would yell at him for being an idiot, but today I just feel sorry for him. He owns his car. He probably drives it every day. He can’t possibly feel the elation that I’m feeling right now.

But enough of that. We’re off.

This car can do zero to sixty in about five, but I decide not to test that out on the on-ramp. I’m already flying by my fellow motorists before I even hit the Expressway.

As I pass the driving range, I’m only slightly surprised to find myself above 90 already. The “hump” of the gears shifting is non-existent, as expected. Almost 100 now. Even though it’s an automatic, I’m nearly overcome with the urge to jam down on the non-existent clutch, to tear at the stick.

As I fly down the busy road, I become someone else. My ego is sucked away into the guts of this magnificent machine. Zigging and zagging in and out of traffic, cutting off idiots in their SUVs and bumper sticker-polluted coupes left and right, I become the arrogant asshole that the car demands as its driver.

Giddy and intoxicated by speed, I fly beneath the overpasses at 115, 120. I scream at the drivers ahead of me, “Get out of the fucking fast lane! You don’t know the meaning of fast!” As I rapidly approach the toll, “EZ Pass may be accepted in all lanes, but you’d better stay the fuck out of mine! I mean it, I’ll kill us all!”

And it’s true; death is a very real possibility when flying through a tollbooth somewhere between 120 and 130 miles per hour. But I don’t care; it would be a glorious death, the all-American way to go – instantly entombed in a leather-lined aluminum iron maiden, my death trumpeted by a magnificent fireball.

But death isn’t stopping me today, oh no, I’m just getting warmed up! I’m babbling utter lunacy now, “Time may move at the speed of God, but I move at a speed that generates 3.4 million joules of kinetic energy! Get out of the fucking way!” Screaming past the casino employee parking, then the welcome center, the gas station is barely a blink, beneath the “Welcome to A.C. – Always Turned On” sign. The casino billboards are much thicker now. Win a car! Win a vacation! Win $100, $150, even $200,000! Oh, you poor fools. Can’t you see I’ve already won? Nothing can beat me. Nothing can stop me. Once I pass 140 the idea of keeping track just seems ludicrous. I’m moving faster than I was meant to go, and I love it. Nothing else matters. I’m powering around the final curves…

And I’m done. Traffic’s heavy up ahead. As I drop down into the city, I notice one of the flags on top of the convention hall is checkered. Good enough.

Traveling like a reasonable, responsible member of society, I roll up a couple blocks towards the Park Place stretch, then swing back around to the hall. The Black Hole is swallowed up by the cool shade of the garage. I take one last, long whiff of the leather interior, and I’m out.

I hope I did right by you, Black. I’ll see you around.
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