Saturday, September 28, 2013

“It’s just a car.”

Utter those four words to any car enthusiast when they’re talking about their four-wheeled prized possession or object of deep desire, and I guarantee that you’ll raise the hair on their back. That is, if they have hair back there. I don’t (for genetic reasons, and no, I’m not a girl), but instinctively my nostrils flare and vision becomes focused and crystal clear. Ready to battle.

Not this time, though. After all, she is my wife. So when she said those four words, I had a different reaction. It just hurt. Left me speechless. For better or for worse, and that was definitely not one of the better moments. Why would she say that? She knows how crazy I  am about cars, that it is in fact because of such dementia that we met and married. We both shared the love for  racing against time,  mostly sideways and sometimes  airborne, through a forest or over mountains that offered spectacular views of the high desert, leaving a long plume of dust in our wake. We met at a rally school; she was learning to be a navigator and I was one of the drivers providing rides on the training course. She climbed into the truck, I got her airborne. The rest is history.

I was probably getting on her nerves, going on and on (and on) about taking my beloved Focus Electric to this Sunday’s National Plug-In event in Northridge, to be amongst other EVs of varying origins. A time to chat – in person,  just like the old days – with other enthusiasts about the trials and tribulations of being an early adopter. To learn about what it’s like to live with other breeds, perhaps adding one of them to the very short list of candidates being considered for joining the family fleet next year. After about five minutes of this self-indulgent babbling, she looks me in the eye.

“It’s just a car.”

Ouch. I just stood there for a moment, then walked away, baffled at why she would lash out at me like that. Then it hit me…  maybe she really thought the FFE was, well,  just another car. No big deal, just a means to get from Point A to Point B. But how could she think that of any EV? Others seem to think it’s special, not just me. When I first started driving my FFE, it garnered more attention than any other car I’ve ever had. More than the Corvettes, the AE86, the SCCA Rallytruck Series Mitsu, the ur-Quattro coupe, even the H3 (although that thing caused unwanted negative attention). In no other car have I been nearly sideswiped several times by other drivers trying to read a door emblem (yes, it's electric!). And I’ve been a minute or two late to a few meetings because someone in the parking lot wanted to know a little bit about my ride. I’ve even had some Hollywood-looking dude in a sleek 5-series stop me on the 405 freeway just to ask if it was pure electric, then give me an enthusiastic thumbs-up when I nodded in affirmation. So many others overtly express their appreciation or curiosity  for EVs, why can’t she? The rebirth of The Electric Vehicle, and this time it looks like it’s here to stay… isn’t that something worth celebrating at least once a year?

I now realize that my wife is already at the end state, after only eight months of having an EV as part of our family. Just like the ATM card, microwave oven, smartphone, and numerous other innovations, an EV has been seamlessly integrated into our daily routine and is just another technology that enables us to maintain our current quality of life. To her, celebrating electric vehicles is no less insane than celebrating laptop computers, wireless mice, or indoor plumbing.

I’m definitely not at that end state yet. I appreciate and enjoy life with an EV as if it is a journey into uncharted territory that very, very few others have chosen to take. So gathering and celebrating  is most appropriate, to share stories with fellow explorers and to help others gain the knowledge and courage to join us. Celebrate now, knowing that one day EVs will be as common as indoor plumbing, and there will be no reason to celebrate.

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