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Marolt: Life in a fast car on a road full of speed bumps

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

You’ve heard the old saying, “If I’d known that I was going to have this body this long, I’d have taken better care of it.” Well, it’s not true. I don’t think I am alone in saying that when I was about 20 years old I felt like I was going to live forever and still treated my body like it was a rental car. It was a series of filling up with cheap fuel, peeling out at green lights and never slowing down for speed bumps.

It’s kind of funny because lots of people associate their bodies with an automobile type — mostly Ferraris and Porsches, maybe a Beemer or Mercedes, I think. But nobody treats their body as well as they treat their cars.

I know people who worry more about a door ding than blowing their ACL. Why not? Insurance will cover the cost of surgery, but a scratch in the paint is forever, or at least until the lease runs out. I’m pretty sure people are more fastidious about getting the oil changed and tires rotated at recommended intervals, too. For the regular physical examination, I’m not so certain. I hate to mention it, but I even think some people wash their cars more often than they take a shower.

Back when I could still race mountain bikes without any of the other competitors being bedazzled that I could still ride a mountain bike at my age and didn’t hesitate to congratulate me about it, a guy I trained with told me that you have to imagine yourself as the leanest, meanest, most powerful sports car and all the other racers as Toyota Camrys. I think it was sort of the same idea as actors imagining the audience in their underwear. My problem was that as soon as I got the visual in my mind, I’d get nervous about driving my Lamborghini across Government Trail, and then I’d see myself as a 1948 Jeep.

I guess that some of us are like car owners in the sense that all that’s really important is that the outward appearance is nice. Forget that the fuel injectors are a little clogged, the transmission fluid is black and the exhaust system has a little kink in it. Nobody is going to see that the seals are dry or that the radiator is full of rust. If you have a good garage to do a little body work now and then and keep the paint polished, the old beater looks nearly as good as new from the sidewalk. Just don’t let the bumper sag.

As I get older, I’m finding that the best way to deal with the creaks and moans of my fatigued chassis is to create a type of outer-body experience. This body isn’t mine; I’m just assigned to drive it. Now, instead of picturing my body as an Aston Martin, I think of it as a taxicab. The catch is that this is the only vehicle they have for me to drive, so if I wear it out or break it irreparably, I’m looking for a new job in the place where the sky is the limit — the lower one.

Believe it or not, this ridiculous imagery helps me out. I wake up and blame all the mechanical problems on the 20-year-old knucklehead who used to drive it like it was a rented Corvette with the deposit on an expired credit card and a copy of a fake ID paper-clipped to the charge slip. Now it’s up to me to baby this thing and keep it running. It is my mission to get it to 100,000 miles. I feel sorry for it. I love it.

If I only had known then what I know now: Now there’s a popular saying that has truth to it! I feel like I slept right through the defensive-driving class. Oh, I heard what they were saying, but I thought their tires were low on air. Can you believe my dad had the willpower to forgo a huck off a 30-foot cornice at the top of Independence Pass that we dragged him to one fine spring morning many years ago? Heck, he was only about 40 at the time. I remember feeling kind of bad for him as he worked his way around the gigantic wave of frozen snow down to the delightful corn skiing below it. This, the former Olympic downhill racer? He was missing the best part! I thought he had lost his confidence. Too late, it occurred to me that his choice was from the gain of experience.

Roger Marolt now pictures himself in a Prius and smiles when his kids laugh. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.


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