Ghosts In Machines
I've just done something stupid on the freeway, cut some guy off, kind of. He's pissed and is trying his best to get beside me, for what I can only imagine. In LA it could be anything: he could shoot me, throw a grenade, run his car into mine, a whole host of mayhem which will most likely wind up on YouTube or Cops.
I guess I get lucky. He just looks at me and shakes his head, dad-like. I feel ashamed, like that time I got caught drinking grandpa's cough syrup. I think I would have preferred he run into me or something.
In truth, this lapse of manners is not my fault. It's deputy editor Funke's. He left one of his death metal CDs in the M Coupe's player; I was listening to it.
Typically, Funke's music makes me want to stab my mother. It's got all the rhythm of an electric motor shorting out and the lyrics, well, I think they advocate mother-stabbing.
In any case, this type of music does not appeal to me, usually.
One particular song got my attention, kind of seduced me into a state of focused agitation. The music made me want to go faster, drive more aggressively. I found myself "head banging" to the beat, just like those long-hairs on MTV. It was great driving music, that one song anyway. The rest of the CD gave me a migraine. Eventually I switched off the stereo thinking it would help. Nope, still driving like an asshole.
The next day I had to take my grandma's Buick to the dealer. The entire cabin is coated in plastic just like her living room sofas. The car smells like lilac water and hairspray, standard old-lady smell.
Grandma listens to news radio 24/7, in her car and home. I leave the radio on the AM station and listen to reports of banks failing, Middle-east unrest, African famine, genocide. I find myself straining to hear the god-awful news and wind up weaving within my lane. Later, someone lays on the horn; I've been sitting at a green light for about a minute.
My God...I'm driving like my grandma.
I've often believed people can "imprint" themselves on things, from homes to writing tools. If I use someone's pen, my writing will resemble theirs, at least for the first few lines. I know that sounds mad but it's the truth. And everyone has heard of haunted houses. Hell, they've even got their own TV show.
The gentleman who owned my Volkswagen R32 left an imprint on the car. I find myself driving with clinical if not boring precision. I use the signals a good 200 yards before the turn and totally stop at each stop sign for a three-second count. This dude must have been an engineer, probably an electrical engineer.
I also get the impression he was not keen on aftermarket bits, no matter how high quality. As we began to unbolt the factory wheels, the socket wrench stripped (pretty weird for a Craftsman tool). Grabbing another, it too stripped. We finally got the wheel unbolted (thanks Snap-On) only to have it refuse to budge, like it was welded in place. Ten minutes with big plastic hammer finally convinced it to let go.
As we began to mount the new wheel, the bolts went missing...all the bolts including the new HRE ones. This was especially bizarre as we always place wheel bolts in four magnetic trays fixed to the lift.
While we continued searching I figured I'd record the brake dimensions for my buds at Stoptech. As I brought a measuring caliper to the binders, a big clump of road grime hit me square in the eye. And then I heard hissing, faint at first and then progressively louder. Jesus, the car was hissing at me! Turns out one of the valve stems was defective and refused to hold pressure.
Still on the lift, I had Vik hold up the Techtonics exhaust to the R32's underside. The shop lights began to flicker, stuff fell from the ceiling and car alarms went off. We were having an earthquake.
I might need an exorcist. Maybe a priest who moonlights as a mechanic would do.
I think this car is possessed.