What owns you?

Over the years, I have owned over 20 vehicles made by a variety of manufacturers from four countries. Although I once owned a Mercedes Benz, I do not believe I got too tightly attached to any of them.

I once heard a story that illustrates what doting on a car can do to people. An elegantly dressed couple stood beside a dazzling, white Rolls Royce. The scene reflected wealth and success beyond what most of us will ever know. The two stood motionless for a moment, staring at a tiny mark on a door. Only a loving owner with sharp eyes would detect it. The woman leaned over and, with one exquisitely manicured finger nail, touched the mark on the door.

As she straightened up with the look of death on her face, a passer-by overheard her say, "Life is Hell."

Not every owner of a luxury car has the same attitude. Bill, a work friend of many years, once developed a close relationship with the door of a Rolls Royce. He wheeled into the company parking lot one day to see a big chocolate-brown Rolls Royce parked amidst the company vans and employee cars. The senior corporate officer, affectionately known as E.R., had come to visit.

The space right next to the Rolls remained vacant, as though other cars had held back to show respect. Bill took the empty slot, but felt overpowered stepping from a Ford into the shade of the Rolls. He lost control for just a moment, long enough to allow the wind to slam his door against the chocolate-brown bodywork.

Bill’s face dropped; for a moment he felt sure his pounding heart had landed in his left shoe. No doubt about it, a Rolls can suffer damage. He ran his finger up and down the nasty little dent at the same time looking about the lot. No one had seen him.

However, honesty won out. Feeling like a naughty school boy on the way to the principle’s office, he headed in to face the music. But E.R. had stepped out, and did not plan to return all afternoon. For four hours Bill sweated and stewed, the dent in the door growing larger every time he recalled that awful moment.

Eventually, Bill caught up with the senior executive and confessed his terrible crime. With a wave of a hand, E.R. dismissed him: "Don’t  worry about it. It’s only a car."

A few years later, when E.R. announced that he intended to trade the Rolls, I blurted out, "You can’t. I’ve never driven it!"

He tossed me the keys. I wheeled that great machine through the streets of London, Ontario, terrified that I might damage it and thinking, "This thing is worth more than my house."

It ran beautifully, moving quietly and smoothly while I sat in the driver’s seat like a king in a plush throne. The engine responded instantly, without the revving noises that betray mere mortal cars. It never rocked or jolted or swayed; together, the Rolls and I seemed to float above the road.

But I have never been so disappointed in a drive in all my life. Although I kept a sharp lookout, prepared to use the horn if necessary, during that 30 minute cruise I saw no one I knew. I never got to use my practised royal wave. Not one family member, friend, casual acquaintance, or enemy saw me driving a Rolls Royce.   


Ray Wiseman