Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meanderings: Cigarette Complaints and Automotive Reveries

So I'm standing outside in the beautiful weather enoying my rationed cigarette.... What? There is no rationing here, you might say. Ah, but there is. There is de jure and de facto rationing. It is to the latter I refer, the price of indulging having ballooned to the point where an expensive addiction has become prohibitive.

Now, there is no one past the age of reason who doesn't realize how bad smoking is for the health, so smokers tend to have feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, guilt over their inability to quit. This guilt coupled with the open contempt of the politically correct.... reminds me of the time I was on line at the post office when the woman two people behind me demanded to know if I smoked, whereupon she launched into a spiel about how allergic she was, sped directly to the front of the line which snaked around the room twice, all the time full-throatedly declaiming what a source of pollution I was. While I did not begrudge her her health, she really could have been a tad more discreet, particularly since there was no open hole in the ground where I could crawl.

Harsh experiences like this.... Oh, that reminds me of little Miss Microwave, one of the local flakes at my last job, who also had an aversion to the smell of smoke so strong that she launched herself into the middle of the street in front of an oncoming car. Note: I was around the corner of the building on the smoking side where no one need venture. For a while I fantasized about coming up with a rejoinder for just such occasions. But then I read Miss Manners who points out that there is never an excuse for rudeness. I guess I can't mention John Travolta's bubble. So I have learned. I now smoke in plein air at quite a distance from any building, where I will, doubtless, one day be accosted.

Leaning on the railing gives me access to the sun, the breeze, and an excellent view of the parking lot where today I spotted a Gordini. Yes, a Renault Gordini. I think the actual number was the 17. When I was young and foolish, my then boyfriend, now husband of thirty years, and I tooled around town in the purple sports car. I remember it had a funny kind of roof, not a convertible top, not a T, not your typical sun roof. You would push a button and most of the roof overhead would disappear. I think it may have been a moon roof. Of course, the association could be because I remember riding at night and looking up at the stars and the aforementioned moon. We once saw a UFO, at least that's what hubby swears. The Renault went the way of the Fiat, and the Peugeot (We had one of those, too).

Beautiful as it was, it was a pretty ill-fated automobile. I remember once following him on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) when he swerved off the road. I pulled off and looked only to see him open the hood and throw handfuls of that kind of gray urban snow that lingers along the side of the road onto the smoking engine, stifling the flames. We had it repaired, but not long after I woke one morning, having borrowed the car the day before, and looked out upon a small river where the street once was. Of the Gordini, there was no trace, probably because it was completely immersed. The introduction of muddy water into its fuel injectors sealed its fate.

Now my father-in-law who has that old world inventiveness inherited the hulk. He devised the strategem of adding a carbuerator- remember those- and bypassing the injectors. Since there wasn't enough room for such under the hood, he cut an approximate square in the same. Alas, the newly tricked out Gordini had a penchant for popping off the carburetor, sending it flying, which it once did on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at rush hour. But enough. The Gordini sparked its last in a parking lot, where he returned one night to find the inside of the car noticeably dark and the visibility out of front windshield considerably diminished. Sometime in the week he was working, the dashboard- in a burst of seemingly spontaneous combustion- had ignited. The Gordini had defeated even him.

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