There are two ways one can enter mid-life: gracefully or kicking-and-screaming. As a breech baby, I came into this world kicking and screaming. No need to change the game plan just because it’s halftime.
Ever the cliche, my mid-life crisis involved a car. At the time, I was driving a silver BMW 325i. It’s a great car, no doubt. It’s reliable, handles great, and screams “douche bag” in a way that my face sometimes fails to convey.
But there was one problem with the car — a problem that manifested itself whenever I pulled up next to another BMW 325i. Its driver was never a cool dude in his 30s. And it was never a cool dude in his 40s. Sadly, the car always seemed to be driven by a 65 year old Korean woman.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being a 65 year old Korean woman. If that describes you, then you should wear that label with a badge of honor. But growing up a Jewish kid in the suburbs of New York City, it’s not who I dreamed of becoming. Is that who I was now: A 65 year old Korean woman?
I tried to ignore the problem, but unlike irregularly shaped moles one might discover in the shower, ignoring them doesn’t make them go way.
One day, my troubles reached an horrific tipping point. I was idling at one of the few traffic lights in Glendale that local drivers observe, when another silver BMW 325i pulled up next to me. Naturally, it was being driven by a 65 year old Korean woman. That part is redundant. But this driver was different. She was wearing a single, elbow length glove on her left arm, and an enormous sun visor around her head. She looked like Saturn preparing to give an elephant a proctology exam. Man, did that push my buttons.
“Take those fucking things off,” I sneered at her. “Don’t you realize how ridiculous you’re making us both look?”
“나는 내가 입기를 원하는 것을 입을거야!!” she barked at me.
I’ve never studied Korean, yet somehow I knew exactly what she was saying. The metamorphosis was progressing faster than I feared.
“모두를 위해 BMW를 망치고 있습니다!,” I yelled back at her. It was getting heated. We were both saying things we could never take back.
When the light turned green, my Korean nemesis sped off, leaving me in a cloud of age, race and gender confusion. She must’ve been doing at least 30 mph. Damn, that BMW can move! I pounded my steering wheel with rage.
“Look what’s become of me,” I whimpered, fighting back tears. “I’m not living my best life like Gwyneth Paltrow is always urging me to do. And if I’m not living for Gwyneth Paltrow, then who am I living for?!”
My sense of self began to spiral out of control. I was falling fast. Right before I crashed into the cold, hard cement that is reality, my instinct took over. I pulled up on the joystick of self-delusion and came to a profound realization: this 65 year old Korean woman was not responsible for my identity woes. That would be facile and absurd. No, my lack of self wasn’t her fault any more than it was my own. It was the car’s fault. Of course. It was always the car!
THE CAR HAD TO GO.
I decided the only remedy was to make an unwise, impulse purchase. In order to be happy… in order to be TRULY happy… I would need to drive a vehicle that harkened back to the days of my youth. I needed to buy another Jeep Wrangler. I had one when my children were little, but my toddler daughter guilted me into selling it when she screamed from the back seat, “Why Jeep be bumpy!”
“Why Jeep be bumpy?” Those words echoed through my brain, courtesy of the car’s bare, metal interior.
So I sold it to buy a “dad” car. One that was safer, more responsible, and wouldn’t make a child burst into tears. What a fool I was.
Of course, there were other reasons why I sold that first Jeep. The hard top never fit right, so when it rained, water would drip on my face, leaving large puddles on the floor, and occasionally blending with the ones in my lap. Fearing that using an umbrella while driving would be a hazard, I called the dealer. He explained that Jeep was aware of this malfunction and had not a remedy, but a work-around. He instructed me to pull up the floor mats. Hidden beneath them was a rubber cork. Pull the cork, and the puddle would drain. Problem solved.
Not quite. Now when it rained, water would not only enter from the roof, it would also get splashed up from the hole in the floor. I feared drowning in my own vehicle.
That’s not to say that the Jeep was all bad. There were some built in safety features. For example, it’s impossible to speed in a Jeep. At 60 mph, the doors begin to rattle. At 70, they fly right off the car, which is why you see so many Jeeps without doors.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, I wouldn’t let my acute self-delusion prevent me from making a poor decision. I fired up my computer and sighed with relief that my search engine was still set to Google. There was time yet, but it was running out. It wouldn’t be long before I’d be relegated to using Bing.
It felt like an eternity, but in .95 seconds I found the same model Jeep that I used to own: a 2005 Jeep Wrangler TJ. Stick shift, of course. One that would require the forearm strength of an Olympic shot-putter. A proper Jeep doesn’t have automatic windows or automatic locks either. It has hand crank windows. A proper Jeep, in other words, makes you ask yourself, “Why am I driving this?”
I took the car out for a test drive. It was like drinking from the Fountain of Youth. Instantly, I was transported to a time when I was a man half my age. Was my jaw rattling because of the poor suspension, or were my baby teeth growing back in? I looked in the side view mirror for a visual confirmation. I actually looked younger. Thank God even the mirrors on this Jeep were shitty.
That was five years ago. So what became of my identity crisis? Recently, I was my driving my Jeep when another pulled up next to me. The driver was a shirtless man in his late twenties. Club music was blasting from his stereo… the soundtrack to his glistening, rock hard abs and dynamite smile. We gave each other “the nod.” And there, at a red traffic traffic light in Los Angeles, a simple truth was revealed: We both looked amazing.