August 30, 2001
Hello, My Name Is Porsche
My sister Julie just moved to Atlanta for two years. Her husband got an offer he couldn't refuse, so they're off. It was the kind of offer that makes me think I could tough out a couple years in Afghanistan, if necessary -- but nobody asked me. My nephew Chris is starting school there next semester. I miss them terribly.
But enough of the cheap sentimentality. The important thing is that in the move, she left me her car. And not just any car: a green convertible Porsche Boxster. Technically, I'm just car-sitting for two years, but that's our little secret.
For those of you following the downward arc of my career, I am still broke. Broker than ever. I'll be selling plasma soon to keep gas in the car. But if there is a message of hope in these desperate times, a message about putting your best foot forward, it is this: I may be hanging on to the ledge with my fingernails, but I'm wearing my best suit.
If it's true that in New York, the clothes make the man, in Los Angeles, it's the car. You are what you drive. I used to be a Jeep. Now I'm a Porsche.
I once asked a celebrity why he drove a Porsche. "Wouldn't you if you were me?" he said. Now I know what he meant.
I know. Some small-minded people will say, "Jeff, that's so superficial." Well, I, for one, think there's not enough emphasis being placed on money and appearance in the world. I, for one, think it's just fine to judge books by their covers -- that's why they put the covers on the books in the first place. I, for one, am never going to be accused of overlooking the obvious.
Nothing else in my life has changed since I started driving the car, but everything is different now. Suddenly, I seem to be more interesting. Women stop at red lights and instead of checking their lipstick, they check me out.
The car makes me look and feel better. My hair is more lustrous. I sleep better at night. I appear taller, somehow. I might actually be a better person. I drive more cautiously. I let everyone cut in. I'm a big letter-inner. I'm going to heaven.
As ostentatious displays go, a car makes a lot of sense. Why not? You can't very well drive your house around. You can only wear one watch at a time, and I think Jewish men have surrendered on the jewelry front to gangsta rappers. I once heard about a successful agent who left his tax returns casually strewn around his house, like a trail of golden breadcrumbs leading the way to his bedroom. As a writer, I suppose, I could carry a very expensive gold pen around with me, but it's hardly the same as a Porsche, is it?
So, even though the Jeep had cost about the same, the new car says: success. I get respect from the valet parking guy, who knows there will be a big tip in it for him if he "keeps it close." I feel the pain of hard-working men, having to whisper what kind of car they drive, to the opprobrium of the valet. I, on the other hand, announce myself in a loud, clear voice: I am the green Porsche.
There's an old joke about a lion and a mouse, a sort of parable that -- how can I put this delicately? -- explains how sometimes a man's fascination with a certain brand of German sports car is a reaction, a way of compensating for certain deficiencies in his, um, character. Fortunately, that's not my problem.
Oh! Did I mention that the car has heated seats? This is the greatest invention since the automobile itself, maybe since the wheel. I can't tell you how much I love them. I might be giving away a trade secret here, but heated seats are the greatest aphrodisiac since Spanish fly. The guy who invented heated seats really should win the Nobel Prize.
Now that I've seen the light, I wouldn't be caught dead in an American car. The memory of it is still fresh in my mind, and almost too painful to bear. I now know that no one would love me. Nor should they. Who could blame them? I wouldn't want anyone who would have me under those circumstances, any more than you can really be expected to fall in love with someone whose job requires standing up and wearing a name tag.
Some might accuse me of snobbery, but I think it's pragmatism. Any right-minded woman should think: What kind of life am I going to have with the cute bag boy at the grocery store who drives a Ford Taurus? He might turn out to be Tom Cruise, but probably not, and who has time to wait? Now do you see how being incredibly superficial can be a real problem-solver?
There is a quote, from the Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): "Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion." One day when my friend Russ was complaining about some trifle, I shared this with him and he replied, "If I had a Porsche, I wouldn't be complaining either."
J.D. Smith is driving around with the top down @ www.lifesentence.net