We were always going to need a worthy replacement for our beloved Pulsarnator, which finally died of chronic rust poisoning last January. Yes, we have been without a vehicle for eighteen months, which in Sydney is as unthinkable, as completely foreign and suspect, as tee-totalling (we’ve tried that too, with much less success…) or not owning sunglasses (something we’ve never attempted. In fact, Llew collects sunglasses into clusters he calls ‘a quiver,’ and I’m even wearing them today in the rain because I’m slightly vampirical in direct sunlight and nobody needs to see that). Yes, not owning a car in this city is the sort of thing that people greet with deep suspicion and concern. It’s a lot like not owning a television (we really are Luddites, aren’t we? No TV, no car for the entirety of 2007, a petrol war year, and no stereo system – we have a record player instead. No wonder people think we’re freaks!), but a million times worse. Virtual strangers have tried to foist a million gigantic televisions on us, but say you don’t own a car, and people either cross the road to avoid you or anonymously leave food stamps in your mailbox. The idea that these deprivations have all been our choice is almost as incomprehensible as the situation itself. Anyway, you get the picture.
In a very real sense, the car had to choose us. We weren’t really in need of a replacement for the Pulsarnator so much as we started to feel the desire for one. A lot of time has passed. Of course there have been occasions where we needed a vehicle, and unfortunately our not having one has, over time, meant putting out other people. That’s probably the biggest factor. Other people being inconvenienced by our decision not to replace our dearly departed car. Not great. And the longer we held out, the bigger the tally of inconvenience-to-others became. Also I don’t know how to drive, and I was never going to learn unless we bought a car. Given I’m turning 36 in September, my learning how to park and steer and avoid hitting other traffic seems a little overdue, and I’m finally of a mind to do something about it (frankly I’ve never felt terribly inclined because I know how poorly I negotiate all other types of machinery. You heard it here first, and don’t say I didn’t warn you). So, where would the car come from? How would it materialise?
In the end, it was ridiculously easy. It was finally sunny last Saturday, so Llew and I went for a long walk around our surrounding neighbourhood. By chance we walked by a dealership, and round the back, there she was: a race-car red old 1987 Merc. A little worse for wear, obviously. The paint looked faded, the driver’s seat cracked, the back windows wouldn’t wind down and there was a small question mark over the braking system, but it was undeniably our next vehicle because it was love at first sight. We went for a spin down to Clontarf marvelling at its handling and its price, then we got back to the dealership and chatted to the dealer about the car’s (several) more egregious faults. But we were already sold, truth be told. Here was our worthy successor. What you have to understand is that we don’t drive very much, we don’t have a garage, and we live at the beach: any car we buy faces an accelerated death-by-rust. We don’t want or need a really flash car that’s going to die on the street outside our place in less time than it takes for the leaves to fall. So for our purposes, this car fitted the bill like few others would.
We went away. We spoke to Llew’s dad. He’s a Merc man from way back, and in fact had owned this very model back in the day much closer to its actual release. He too took it for a test drive, and felt the same way we did: we had to snap up this car before someone else did because it was a steal.
So Saturday, we rocked up with our cheque book in hand. They’d fixed the windows, and they’d given the car a polish. Colin, our really lovely dealer, had it parked outside for us. We didn’t even recognise it: it was gleaming as brightly as a brand new car. Llew and I looked at each other, incredulous. “That’s our car?! You’re kidding, right? How can that be our car??”
We laughed and gave each other high fives as Colin filled out all the paperwork. “We need to name it,” I said to Llew. “It’s got a lot to live up to after the Pulsarnator.”
We gazed at it and tossed a few names around and then it came to Llew (whose full name is Llewellyn Jenkins) in a flash: the Welsh Dragon. We fell about the garage laughing, it was so perfect for our glistening chariot. We handed over the cheque (Llew actually haggled with the man, and we knocked a couple of hundred bucks off its already absurd price tag), Colin waved us off, and we were away, calling Llew’s father from the car with this message: “The Welsh Dragon has left the nest.” No more needed to be said.
We decided it was absolutely essential to christen our glorious dragon with a drive to the fish markets; when we pulled into the carpark, Llew leaned over, patted the dash and said “Welcome to the family.”
What can I say? When you know, you know, and the Welsh Dragon has landed.