When my daughter was born I wanted the safest car available, so I purchased the first of my five Volvos, the only new automobile I’ve ever owned. Later I discovered the trick of buying high-end Volvos used, right off a lease, thereby scoring a like-new car at half the price.
I cared for my vehicles with a level of obsession only the mentally ill can muster. They were cleaned routinely and kept absolutely empty, indistinguishable from how they’d looked on the showroom floor. These cream puffs were, perhaps, my only material world self-indulgence. One key element of their care regimen involved always, always making certain the doors were locked.
With a slavish, OCD-esque devotion to meaningless, compulsive routine I invariably checked all four door handles, and often the trunk, to make certain the automatic locks had responded appropriately when prompted. (Of course they always had, but one can never be too careful when one’s cheese has slipped far off one’s cracker, no?) I suppose that, after enduring such terror and madness in my manic episodes, I desperately craved mastery over something, even if it was only my car.
Perhaps the sweetest of them all was a burgundy 850, loaded. My then girlfriend, let’s call her Prunella Entwhistle, and I chose to go on holiday to Nova Scotia. Going by car meant we could travel every mile from Philly in THC-enhanced luxury, styling like sophisticated Sybarites. And so we did, all the way to the very northernmost tip of Newfoundland, an isolated promontory mere whistling distance from the Arctic Circle.
Newfoundland is a raw, desolate place; apart from the slender road there was no evidence of “civilization” whatsoever.
We parked. Before us lay a vast vista, the chilly North Atlantic, not far from the Titanic’s final resting place, and there, right in the center of our view was a massive iceberg not half a mile offshore, glowing with that transcendent blue one sees nowhere else. Hush, an immense silence made even quieter by the ambient sounds of waves dragging along the stone beach, wind, and the occasional bird. We burned yet another J and gazed in a kind of rapture, then got out for a better view of the frozen mountain, floating so peacefully.
Prunella zipped up her jacket. I got out, squeezed the remote door lock, and checked all four handles. Then I rapped on the window of every door with my knuckle to make certain it was up all the way, (I kept the windows so clean it was impossible to tell if they were open or closed.) Prunella watched with disbelief and then blurted out. “What the hell are you doing? Moron; the nearest human being is fifty miles away!”
My father, quite famously, was blissfully unaware of his inner life, but he did get off a good one-liner from time to time. He liked to tell me, “No matter where you go, you take your problems with you.”