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Small Talk: Car show confirms I’m no gearhead

If there was ever any question in my mind, it is now settled. I am not a car person.

I took the acid test and failed spectacularly as I followed some friends down to a big car show in downtown San Diego.

I found it high irony that it was more than difficult to find the proper parking garage entrance. The obvious and easily located one was forbidden to those of us trying to see the car show. The entrance to the other was backed up for blocks. The first message the city sent to its biggest fans of internal combustion was just a tad mixed. Come see our expensive, new cars. Buy them. But don’t expect to be able to park them anywhere near here.

When we finally schlepped our way out of the parking garage and half a mile to the show entrance, I was stunned to find that they wanted us to pay to get in. Every major car company had undoubtedly paid a hefty fee for a space to show off their three or four hot new models, but we still had to pay for the joy of looking at them. It was just a big car lot, minus the salespeople … acres and acres of black, silver or beige four-door coupes, red trucks and SUVs. They were new. They were shiny. They were pretty, but they all looked alike to me. I truly do not begrudge anyone who gets pleasure from all that, but I know for certain that I did not, do not and will never, ever understand the attraction.

So that I am not a total naysayer about all this, I admit I got a kick out of seeing the classic Mustangs, GTOs and Corvettes. It looked like my high school parking lot. It was fun to see the incredibly slick Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Jaguars, and I loved seeing the small sprinkling of souped-up street cars like one little canary yellow muscle car with flames underlaid with $100 bills.

I will even admit there was one car out of the vast array that made me covet my neighbor’s vehicle. It was a handsome, baby blue Thunderbird; complete with those round windows reminiscent of that sweet little model they turned out in 1957. I fantasized for 10 or 15 seconds about being able to afford it, maintain it, register it and insure it. Then I pictured it awash in bird droppings, sloshed lattes, sticky fast-food wrappers, smelly sweat clothes and assorted makeup and sports equipment. I tried to picture throwing the old water heater into the back for the trip to the dump or having the orange juice amid the groceries burst open and leak all over the floor. It swiftly occurred to me that neither I, nor anyone I am related to should ever be permitted to ride in it, or even come very near to it. I could tell, though, as I watched the host of hard-core car lovers wander past taking photos and even videos, that this was somebody’s candy store.

Never mind the oil shortage and the Mid-east mayhem attached to it. It will require some serious technology to wrap that T-bird around an electric or self-driving engine, and still bring up the same spark I saw in those car-lovers’ eyes.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer driving something other than the new Thunderbird. You can contact her at [email protected]