Tuesday, September 11, 2012

God is in the details

Last Friday, my friend Marcia sent me a message asking if I might meet her in Lourmarin the next morning for coffee, a gab session and perhaps to take in a bit of the Friday market. I did not have to fret as I've become accustomed, "geez, I wonder if there's a bus that goes there?  I wonder when it leaves? I wonder when I'll be able to get back?  I wonder if I have the energy for all that?" All I had to do was check my calendar (I do this on the off chance there might actually be something on it) and say "Yes!" Because I have a car.

Yep, last November, I got me a car! I wasn't sure I was ready for one nor did I really feel I could afford one. But I had been thinking about it. I was beginning to need to get places for the business and on my schedule, not the bus schedule. Then one day in November I received a notice in the mail informing me that my name had finally come to the top of the list for a parking space in Aix. A parking space in Aix! This is like being given an enormous black truffle…a pair of hot high heels that are actually comfortable…a menopause with all its perks and none of its side effects. I'm serious!

 I had put my name on that list 2 years before in anticipation of perhaps, someday having a car. Actually, I had signed up for a parking garage a little closer to my apartment but in October, when I went to check my position on the list, I was told I would probably have to wait at least 5 more years.  Magically, one month later I got said letter and though it's in a different garage, my spot is actually quite close...maybe only 5 or 6 blocks away. Of course, all I really won was the right to start paying for a parking spot, but this is not nothing. I was told to show up within 2 weeks with the registration for my car and proof of my address. This posed a teeny, weeny problem. I had no registration because I had no car.

Sometimes decisions just seem to be made for us! And thanks to a friend, I did find a car. And pretty quickly, I might add. When he asked what my budget was and I told him no more than 1000 euros his faced dropped and he gently said, "that's not very much, you know".

"Yes, I know but I can barely afford that so if I can't find one for that price, I'll let the parking space go."

He put out his feelers and bless his kind, french heart, he found me a car at a scrapyard owned by a friend of his. The car had been in a teeny accident but its repair costs surpassed its value so...I got myself a lovely, little white Ford Fiesta, wearing only 72,000 kilometres and a dent dimple on its right fender butt cheek. It passed inspection immediately after I drove it off the lot and I sailed down the freeway, hair blowing in the wind of the open windows, and feeling all grown-up again. And I payed only 700 euros. That's all! Even though freedom has a price, in this case it was a small one and well worth paying.

I parked the car in my new parking garage immediately and a week later when I went to retrieve it, I'd  forgotten exactly where I'd left it. I had to search 3 floors of cars before I found it and this was still not a simple task. You see, it seems that 3/4 of the people in France have an affinity for little white cars. This is what I faced when I went looking for it. And that was only the first floor!

To solve this problem, and because I tend to give human qualities to my cars, I had to give it a name. And there was really no question what it would be. Thor. There's a long story behind the name, but the fact is, I had a bumper sticker with this name on it and I needed some way to identify the car. This works like a charm....unless I back into the spot and then I'm back to finding my proverbial white needle in the parking haystack. The added bonus is, Thor is a word that French people cannot pronounce. It's simply not possible. I sort of like that.

Thor drinks gasoline, not diesel ,which is not a good thing since diesel is much cheaper here. He's also very thirsty for some reason. There is not one automatic thing on him, nor air conditioning and I discovered on my way to Marcia's, after I filled up precious and, until then, unused Starbucks mug with coffee, that he has no cup holders (not unusual here if you can possibly imagine!). So I held the mug between my legs while I shifted up and down the mountain roads. My tan skirt became a very sexy leopard print by the time I arrived.

Despite his imperfections, Thor is a god. A god of freedom. He's loyal. When I came back from 2 months in the states and once again did my three floor tour to find him, he started up with nary a complaint. He's discreet: with all the other little white cars, nobody notices him. He fits in almost anywhere: I've learned to park him like a french car in any teeny crack or crevice barely big enough to hold him. He's the right age: old enough to be comfortable in his somewhat damaged skin but not old enough to be falling apart.  Honestly, I was just about to start talking about holding on to his stick shift but that suddenly seemed very weird! We'll…just…let…that…go.

We don't go out often together, but when we do, I become a goddess.

The word for car in french is voiture. This word is feminine, which means I should refer to my car as a she. But he's Thor, a god, and I refer to him as he. I'm constantly being corrected on this but I owe him his dues, don't you think? I don't understand why the french language does not allow me this right and I'm sticking to my guns.

Thor and I are going on a wine tour with friends tomorrow and to Cassis with the same friends on Friday. He's just too awesome not to share.

Now if I ever meet the Thor in the picture above, I am really going to have a story to tell!