Friday, December 18, 2009


My mom’s car is an old Ford Escort with extremely low mileage. Among its many outstanding features are its vanity plates, “SORENCY”, an endearment bestowed on my mom by my cousin, Linda, who couldn’t say, “Florence”. The moniker stuck. Now family and friends and friends of friends refer to her with this peculiar yet touching sigmatism.  Additional features making this car so outstanding are its ability to skid into oncoming traffic on the smallest amount of ice, to fog up at the first indication of cold weather making it impossible to see until the hot air kicks in, or to shimmy like my sister Kate (if I had a sister Kate) once you start pushing the accelerator toward fifty. But by far its most outstanding and noteworthy feature might just be its peculiar color – teal, a shade of blue/green not normally an option on the color charts offered by Detroit. Although the “Sorency” plates are a major hindrance to my own vanity it’s the color that’s begun to cause the greater sense of consternation and concern.
At first take, the teal color of our tiny Escort seemed like your run of the mill anomaly. It wasn’t a color I could really say I saw a lot of before I started driving around Madison…or anywhere else for that matter. But then Wisconsin isn’t just anywhere. It was Emmy who first pointed out another car parked next to us at the mini-mart being the same color as our “SORENCY’ mobile. It was comparable in size, but maybe a little rustier around the chassis. Because of the odd color of our car we were a bit astounded to see another one so similar. Then it became a game. Who could find another teal jalopy? I thought I might put money on it thinking the odds would surely be in my favor. Good thing I’m not a betting man. All of sudden it seemed everyway we turned, every parking lot we pulled into the results were the same. Parked in the next spot, waiting next to us at the red light, or attached to the tow truck chugging down the road was another teal car. Now these cars were never of the BMW or Mercedes ilk. They were all sub-compacts or mid-sized sedans with fabric seats and plastic dashboards. It seemed as if these teal cars should have been called rabbits as opposed to Escorts or Tempests, they seemed to multiple and reproduce all over the cheaper ends of town. When I saw three of them all lined up next to each other with their trunks bent and dented and then wired shut with dirty rope and silver duct tape I began to understand the iconography of the teal car.  We were the untouchables of the auto world and the teal color was the black dot on our foreheads. We are the lowest caste of car owner, driving the cars no one else wanted. Our teal cars are our crosses to bear. For whatever reason we found ourselves at the bottom of the economic totem pole, our teal jalopies give a shout out letting the rest of world in our little secret. We are the cars the Cadillacs and Lexus’ shun in the parking lots around Madison. We ban together in little groups outside KFC’s and the Dollar Store. Sometimes we park them blocks from where we want to go so no will know they belong to us. Madison is unlike New York where public transportation can mask your economic situation. Instead, here your car is your status and our teal sub-compact is our badge of poverty.

Watch out for how you present yourself. The unfortunate truth is some people are going judge you by the condition of your shoes, the dirt on your nails or the color of your car 

1 comment:

  1. Lee, I have to say, that if my car was available in teal...I would have bought it! I'm happy with kiwi green-but there would be no choice better than teal for me!