Although I have lived most of my life in Detroit, it never felt like my legacy or my responsibility to buy American cars until recently.
As a child, very few of my friends came from automotive companies – at least that I knew about. And as a girl, I didn’t care much for cars anyway – only to oppose the awful Dodge Caravan that my father brought home minutes before my 16th birthday. Eyeing its fake wood paneling and runner-board to lift us from ground to vehicle cavern, I knew this automobile would complicate my popularity status.
I can say I was spoiled. I didn’t appreciate the magnitude of my parents’ third-car purchase so that I would have something to tool around in. When I crammed my entire tennis team inside the van to prove the point that it was so huge, I didn’t realize the vehicle’s safety qualities nor its endurability.
But now that I look back on it, my parents always drove American until their later years. My father’s dream car, the Corvette, was uniquely local as it fish-tailed its way through rainstorms and stood protected and still in the garage come winter. We never spoke about how his aspiration toward that car was a lower-income Detroiter’s dream of making it nor the importance that he did get there, through hard work and determination.
Since I began buying cars, I have chosen Japanese vehicles – mostly because of a perceived staying power that I didn’t think American cars shared. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I chose my Toyota Sienna more than four years ago because it was the only minivan at the time with second-row windows that rolled almost entirely down. I didn’t know anything about tvs diode operation or engines, or horse power.
And yet I’ve always believed that life is in the details. A car is a means of transport, a getting from point A to point B, easily, seamlessly, comfortably. Sometimes, as I careen along the interstate, I marvel at the very existence of automobiles, that we sit in a box of metal and plastic and catapult like bullets across the landscape. How is that even possible?
With innovation comes complication. It’s inevitable. Times were simpler, easier, with nowhere near as many questions before everyone had a car, let alone two, three, or more.
Were they better, though? Maybe yes, maybe no. For better or worse, we stand here today, in all its haze.
The sun has yet to rise so I can’t say what sort of day it will be. What I do know is this: some good, some bad, some minutes in-between, and at the end of it all, we will be richer and wiser if only for living through it.