Tuesday, September 11, 2012

God is in the details

Last Friday, my friend Marcia sent me a message asking if I might meet her in Lourmarin the next morning for coffee, a gab session and perhaps to take in a bit of the Friday market. I did not have to fret as I've become accustomed, "geez, I wonder if there's a bus that goes there?  I wonder when it leaves? I wonder when I'll be able to get back?  I wonder if I have the energy for all that?" All I had to do was check my calendar (I do this on the off chance there might actually be something on it) and say "Yes!" Because I have a car.

Yep, last November, I got me a car! I wasn't sure I was ready for one nor did I really feel I could afford one. But I had been thinking about it. I was beginning to need to get places for the business and on my schedule, not the bus schedule. Then one day in November I received a notice in the mail informing me that my name had finally come to the top of the list for a parking space in Aix. A parking space in Aix! This is like being given an enormous black truffle…a pair of hot high heels that are actually comfortable…a menopause with all its perks and none of its side effects. I'm serious!

 I had put my name on that list 2 years before in anticipation of perhaps, someday having a car. Actually, I had signed up for a parking garage a little closer to my apartment but in October, when I went to check my position on the list, I was told I would probably have to wait at least 5 more years.  Magically, one month later I got said letter and though it's in a different garage, my spot is actually quite close...maybe only 5 or 6 blocks away. Of course, all I really won was the right to start paying for a parking spot, but this is not nothing. I was told to show up within 2 weeks with the registration for my car and proof of my address. This posed a teeny, weeny problem. I had no registration because I had no car.

Sometimes decisions just seem to be made for us! And thanks to a friend, I did find a car. And pretty quickly, I might add. When he asked what my budget was and I told him no more than 1000 euros his faced dropped and he gently said, "that's not very much, you know".

"Yes, I know but I can barely afford that so if I can't find one for that price, I'll let the parking space go."

He put out his feelers and bless his kind, french heart, he found me a car at a scrapyard owned by a friend of his. The car had been in a teeny accident but its repair costs surpassed its value so...I got myself a lovely, little white Ford Fiesta, wearing only 72,000 kilometres and a dent dimple on its right fender butt cheek. It passed inspection immediately after I drove it off the lot and I sailed down the freeway, hair blowing in the wind of the open windows, and feeling all grown-up again. And I payed only 700 euros. That's all! Even though freedom has a price, in this case it was a small one and well worth paying.

I parked the car in my new parking garage immediately and a week later when I went to retrieve it, I'd  forgotten exactly where I'd left it. I had to search 3 floors of cars before I found it and this was still not a simple task. You see, it seems that 3/4 of the people in France have an affinity for little white cars. This is what I faced when I went looking for it. And that was only the first floor!

To solve this problem, and because I tend to give human qualities to my cars, I had to give it a name. And there was really no question what it would be. Thor. There's a long story behind the name, but the fact is, I had a bumper sticker with this name on it and I needed some way to identify the car. This works like a charm....unless I back into the spot and then I'm back to finding my proverbial white needle in the parking haystack. The added bonus is, Thor is a word that French people cannot pronounce. It's simply not possible. I sort of like that.

Thor drinks gasoline, not diesel ,which is not a good thing since diesel is much cheaper here. He's also very thirsty for some reason. There is not one automatic thing on him, nor air conditioning and I discovered on my way to Marcia's, after I filled up precious and, until then, unused Starbucks mug with coffee, that he has no cup holders (not unusual here if you can possibly imagine!). So I held the mug between my legs while I shifted up and down the mountain roads. My tan skirt became a very sexy leopard print by the time I arrived.

Despite his imperfections, Thor is a god. A god of freedom. He's loyal. When I came back from 2 months in the states and once again did my three floor tour to find him, he started up with nary a complaint. He's discreet: with all the other little white cars, nobody notices him. He fits in almost anywhere: I've learned to park him like a french car in any teeny crack or crevice barely big enough to hold him. He's the right age: old enough to be comfortable in his somewhat damaged skin but not old enough to be falling apart.  Honestly, I was just about to start talking about holding on to his stick shift but that suddenly seemed very weird! We'll…just…let…that…go.

We don't go out often together, but when we do, I become a goddess.

The word for car in french is voiture. This word is feminine, which means I should refer to my car as a she. But he's Thor, a god, and I refer to him as he. I'm constantly being corrected on this but I owe him his dues, don't you think? I don't understand why the french language does not allow me this right and I'm sticking to my guns.

Thor and I are going on a wine tour with friends tomorrow and to Cassis with the same friends on Friday. He's just too awesome not to share.

Now if I ever meet the Thor in the picture above, I am really going to have a story to tell!



  1. The quintessential American, even in France, has to have a car. It's the freedom it offers. I think Thor is lovely. We're in the process of selling a big SUV and plan to buy a little car. I'll look for one like Thor, but I prefer another color, even though I'm not in France. Travel on!

  2. Wonderful story Delana.
    I'm still giggling.
    bon voyage to you and Thor,

  3. :-))

    Nice story!

    I'aime le marché à Lourmarin!

    ♥ Franka

  4. So now I have (as though I need it) another reason to visit you again!! A tres bientot!

  5. You are as awesome as your Thor or the other way around. My hubby is looking at me strange as I am giggling.
    Congratulations on your freedom!

    I am sure you and Thor will be happily ever after (smile)

    Julie x

  6. How lucky were you to get a space?! I'm glad you were able to take it up, it's great to have the option of a car. Thor is a dude name.

  7. I have a cute white manual ford fiesta here in the US. I get good gas mileage out of it, well good for the US :) 37.5 mpg in a mix of more open and around town driving. Note: this commercial like comment has NOT been brought to you by Ford motor company or an of its subsidiaries :) I just love my little car, and it's so easy to park.

  8. According to legend, Thor's hammer has the power to return to Thor, no matter how far he throws it. I believe that this makes you Thor's Hammer. Be weary of your powers

  9. You got yourself a great deal - congratulations and loads of happy kilometers!

  10. Hold your ground. Why can't a she drive a he? It seems perfectly natural to me - of course I'm a strong minded, fiercely independent American woman too! Thor it is and should remain. Enjoy your new found freedom. And I have to add, I loved this post... your wit is delightful!

  11. November? And we're only just hearing about it? I LOVE this story. There's no one in my room to hear my guffaws, but I am staying in a hotel at the moment, so you never know.

  12. Serendipity seems to have been aligned perfectly for you and Thor. Sounds like you got a little freedom for a nice bargain, even if you are paying for parking.

  13. Felicitations!
    Great story - your chariot awaits you

  14. Dear Delana,

    well, I'd already figured out, via my recent introduction to this blog, that you were a a smart woman who's not necessarily inclined to do/act as all too many folks might assume a middle-aged lady would.

    Good for you....and I'm also pleased (in, I'll admit, a markedly self-congratulatory way) to learn that your primary reason for getting a car is to GET you places, rather than impressing strangers.

    Some encouraging facts (just in case you succumb to a moment of weakness and wonder "Should I have bought a 'NICE' car?":

    Both Herve (my French partner) and my father could pretty much afford any car they wanted...and, yes, both of them have been asked (PLENTY of times, and quite regularly) "Why do you drive a _____, when you could have a NICE car?". I should emphasize that both of them have historically driven, and now drive, really ding'ed-up, obviously-used, not-expensive-even-when-brand-new cars. Both of them reply with a variation on "I don't work this hard so that I can make this much money and then throw it away just to impress strangers. I'm not a fool, you know."

    I drove the same, rattly, third-hand super-beetle (I LOVED that car) for twelve years before it died, and then I bought (for 800$, thank you) a twelve year old chevy pickup that ran perfectly-fine for 11 years. It finally, I'm sad to say, died last year....and I found myself aghast at paying 2,500 for a ten year old, quite-used Honda CIVIC (which doesn't haul nearly so much mulch, but the dogs all like the sunroof). When some of my snootier friends have asked me why I bought a car with a mashed rear-bumper, I tell them "What do I care what the back-end looks like?...I'm always headed in the other direction when I'm in the damn car. As long as thing passes inspection and GOES, I'm a happy boy..."

    More entertainingly?.... the wealthiest (and, at the risk of being crude, I'll emphasize that these are genuinely wealthy folks) of my New Orleans cousins has made a distinct point, over the past thirty years, of driving what he jollily refers to as "disposable" cars. Gerneally, these have been enormous, boat-like, beyond-merely-"used" cadillacs and Buicks from the 1980's and, previously, the 1970's. His maid (this is New Orleans, and, yes, she's black) always procures them for him from her own, many cousins on the other side of town. He's never paid more than 600 dollars for a car in his life. According to him (and he is a renowned wild-ass, old-style reveler), "It's PERFECT, man....if you get drunk and have to take a cab home, and then you can't remember where you left your car in the Quarter....well? you don't have to worry about finding it...just buy another one and drive that 'till you lose it. It's a whole lot less stressful that way, man...". I suppose that sounds more than bit politically-incorrect, but you do have to admit that it also sounds practical.

    In any case, enjoy your new car and congratulate yourself on your good sense. By the way?....my own "new" car is a small, gray car....and I spent the first two months unable to find it in parking-lot oceans of similar small, grey cars until I was in a mexican grocery store and, seeing some large mexican-flag bumper stickers, bought two of them....for the front and back bumpers.

    Now, I can find my car no matter which way I park it, but I've had to explain to several folks that I've never visited Mexico, am not Mexican, don't actually know any Mexicans, etctera. The flag is, however, an easy one to recognize if you're burdened with bifocals and a generally forgetful, middle-aged brain.

    thanks for the obviously (I know...this is a LONG response) evocative poting,

    David Terry

  15. Congratulations on Thor! Nothing like a (male)car to make you feel like an empowered woman :-)

  16. And now the joy of getting a French driver's license1 But I suppose your French is up to it by now ;) Enjoy Thor and may he live a long and healthy life!


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