When Andy and I met, I had a two-seater convertible. Andy had an overpowered Ford Mustang. In his Cobra, Andy drove like a man on a mission – and the mission was to destroy every single stereotype about slow, cautious, incompetent Asian drivers.
I’m a pretty impatient, aggressive driver myself. On my way to California, I went through a lot of states at 90 miles an hour (or more). I’m much more likely to criticize someone for driving too slow than too fast.
But on the freeway in Andy’s Mustang, I braced myself on the dashboard and screamed, “We’re gonna die!” More than once.
When we got a dog, Andy still drove like a maniac. Woofie bounced around the backseat like a ninety-pound pinball until he figured out how to wedged his big head in the open window and hold himself in place with enormous paws.
We got a second, smaller dog, with dainty paws. Fey had a normal pain threshold and a pinhead. She slid all over the backseat until I scolded Andy.
“It’s not my fault,” he protested. “It’s the design. The seats are small, there isn’t much room, blah, blah…” Andy went on about the intricacies of the bucket seats or some such nonsense. I wasn’t listening. I was just waiting for him to finish.
So I could pounce with, “Yeah, you’re right, the backseat is a problem. It’s not great for the big dogs that you wanted so badly, is it?”
Andy sensed a trap. “Uh, well, um…”
“What we really need is a hatchback. So the dogs can get in easily and lie down.”
Andy countered. “We could trade in your car. I mean, a convertible isn’t practical.”
“But the gas mileage is. The Cobra gets what? Twelve miles to the gallon?”
“My little car gets three times that.”
I went for the jugular. “Think of the money we could save on gas!”
“A hatchback big enough for the dogs wouldn’t save us that much gas money. I’m still the one with the daily commute, right?”
I delivered the coup de grâce. “Which is why YOU should take my little car and I will drive the dogs around in the hatchback.”
Andy’s mouth opened, closed, and opened again. The frugal man hunting for an argument against an inevitable, practical economy looks a lot like a beached fish looking for air. But there was no argument. I knew it. He knew it. All he could do was sputter, “I knew it was a trap!” and disappear into the garage.
He washed his beloved Cobra that afternoon. Then he waxed it. He came to bed so late that night, I think he even slept in it.
Also, he complained about a crick in his neck the next day. Those seats really are as uncomfortable as fuck.
I didn’t say anything further until we found out Andy’s parents were coming to visit us…for several weeks.
After I got over that shock, I said, “They aren’t going to get a rental car, are they?”
Andy gave a shout of laughter. As the laughter subsided into chuckles, Andy reminded me how he drove his parents around every time we went to visit them.
I smiled and said, “Wow, it sure is going to be tough for them to get in the backseat of your Cobra.”
The chuckles stopped.
I continued. “Too bad we don’t have a car with four doors. Your dad isn’t getting any younger, and those long Mustang doors are so heavy. I hope one doesn’t shut on your dad while he’s trying to get into the car.”
I finished with, “If we WERE going to get a four-door hatchback, we should do it before your parents arrive.”
Andy stomped off to his computer.
A few hours later, he called me over. “What do you think of this Mazda? It has a hatchback.”
Filial piety has its uses.
Weeks later, I met my in-laws at the baggage claim in the Los Angeles Airport.
Jay shrugged off my hug. “Where’s my son?”
“He had surgery on his knee earlier this week,” I reminded Jay, hoisting a bag. “It’s better for him to stay at home with his leg up for at least another day.”
“Oh, no,” said Sunny, who listened marginally better than her husband. “Andy’s not better yet?”
I assured her Andy would be up and walking around by the following day. “It was only a tear in his meniscus. He has itty-bitty holes and it took less than an hour.”
Jay scowled at me and said, “Thanks for taking care of my son.” It took me a moment to realize he was being sarcastic.
I wasn’t aware that my laconic father-in-law even did sarcasm. I wondered what the next delightful surprise would be.
I found when I alone schlepped the heavy bags to the parking garage.
Daughter-in-law = pack mule.
Luckily, this daughter-in-law regularly lifted weights and ninety-pound dogs. I made it to the car without breaking a sweat. My in-laws looked around in confusion as I dropped the luggage next to a brand new, gleaming black hatchback.
Sunny said, “Where’s Andy’s car?”
I clicked on the key fob as I pulled it out of my pocket. The lights on the hatchback flashed, and I opened the passenger door with a flourish. “THIS is Andy’s car now. He finally agreed to trade in the Mustang for something more practical. Who wants the front seat?”
Sunny and Jay conversed in rapid-fire Cantonese as I muscled the bags into the hatchback. When I got into the driver’s seat, I discovered I was alone. Sunny and Jay were both in the backseat.
Surprise #3: Daughter-in-law = Chauffeur.
So be it. I started the car.
Sunny called out, “Andy loved that car so much, I thought he would die in that car.”
I stopped myself before I said, “He damned near did.” Because Andy never told his parents how the Mustang – and Andy – were nearly totaled when Andy looked away from the road too long and hit a pole.
I merely smiled, since some secrets are only mine to tell if I am doing it under a pseudonym.
I always wondered, though, if Andy had hidden his accident as well as he thought.
Because as we drove out of the airport, Jay cleared his throat and said, “Thank you for taking care of my son.”
And that time, he wasn’t being sarcastic.