1. You're cruising along EDSA in your 1.6-liter econobox doing a reasonable 80kph without a care in the world, when all of a sudden a Porsche 911 comes roaring at you from behind. At first it is a speck in your rearview, and within seconds it blasts through to the horizon ahead. Wow. You then wonder what it's like to be behind the wheel of a machine that can effortlessly glide to speeds twice what your own car can achieve.
2. You are at a car club meet with your buddies who pamper their subcompact Japanese sedans. Each of you spends the whole day detailing your cars, beaming with pride. A Nissan GT-R then pulls up in front of your group and parks close by. Your club's thunder is stolen and all of you can't help but drool.
3. You have a classy event to attend at the ballroom of Makati Shangri-La, and you pull up to the lobby. Your date is absolutely lovely, but your ride looks very small (and cheap) in comparison to the big Benzes and BMWs lined up at the front. You love your ride, but at that moment you wish that you could be ferrying your date in style--particularly when she says to drop her off away from the entrance and quickly stumbles out of your car to avoid being seen.
These three scenarios happen all the time. It can't be helped that image and presentation count for plenty in this city. Who am I to judge how things work around here, though? What I do know is that I'm a car nut with a deep appreciation for machinery and engineering. If you visit our website and read our magazine, you probably are car nuts, too. Now, here's the thing: I consider myself privileged and honored to have a job like this. I get to drive all sorts of cars, and with this 'duty', a new way of seeing things developed for me. Never do I feel bad about not owning the awesome Subaru WRX STI, the killer BMW 7-Series or the gangster Chrysler 300C Hemi. I've driven them and loved the experiences, but I'm always careful to keep my feet on the ground. Truth be told, I would rather drive my '97 Mitsubishi Lancer every day. I don't envy the lucky owners of these cars, nor do I make assumptions based on somebody's wheels. But I do try to flex my powers of observation whenever I get the chance.
Whenever I see a car, I sometimes wonder what the owner is like (keeping in mind that I learned a very long time ago that if you judge a man by what car he drives, you still have much to learn yourself). It shouldn't be about the car, actually. What I am observant about is if the ride--regardless of whether it is a BMW M3 or a Chery QQ--is in good shape. Do the wheels have sufficient tread? Are the taillights, headlights, signal lights and wipers working? Are essential bits and pieces missing from the bodywork? Does it belch smoke? Are the shock absorbers still alive? Those are the important things that catch my attention. When I see a car that is in good working order, it tells me all that I need to know--that the owner gives a damn about his (and his family's) safety and, of course, the safety of the countless others that share the road with him. That says plenty enough, regardless of how much the car costs. But I am human and forget this sometimes. There are countless situations that conspire to remind me about this, though.
I was at the neighborhood car wash one Sunday afternoon. The car I was driving was a very luxurious Mercedes-Benz C180 lent to me by CATS Motors for the weekend. I will admit that it felt great to be behind the wheel of that thing. Really, you know upon driving it why it costs P2.58 million. While sitting and admiring the Benz's rear end, a white Kia Pride parked beside "my" Mercedes to get a wash. I hate to admit this now, but for a second I felt so smug. But then I had to stop myself after this scene transpired before me: The Pride was in immaculate shape--no dents or scratches. An even bigger surprise was how the owner and his toddler son were helping the washboys clean the Pride, while the mother sat patiently and lovingly watched her two boys. There was obvious attachment and dedication to the car there. Dare I say that the owner was real proud of his wheels, and his son was getting a kick out of helping his dad clean it. It was then that I felt like such a schmuck for looking down on that "lowly" Pride--especially as it seemed like a well-loved member of their family. Needless to say, it was another one of those poignant moments for me, and I wanted to kick myself in the head.
The lesson that I want to impart to you is this: Love the car you're driving, whether it is an owner-type jeep, a Japanese sedan from the early '90s, or a secondhand Tamaraw FX. Keep it in good running order at all times with proper maintenance, fixing what needs fixing as soon as possible.
Practice driving safely and defensively, too. When you get the chance, learn techniques from the racing pros so that when you finally get your hands on that German or Japanese sports car, you will know how to truly enjoy it--without causing an accident.
Lastly, don't ever take your car for granted. When you think about it, in this Third World country of ours, even just owning an automobile is a luxury in itself. It's all a matter of perspective, just like how being able to ride a taxi is considered ‘splurging' for many, when they can very well take a jeepney instead.
You will have the car of your dreams one day. It is always good to aspire to something special and work hard to get it. And believe me, when you do have that BMW, Mercedes or Lexus in your garage, you will look back and have fond memories of that rust bucket you used to drive.
That Porsche that just flew passed you like your car was standing still? Keep in mind that it takes a lot of skill to handle a high-performance machine like that, the fundamentals of which you can learn with any car, regardless of the price. Start practicing basic car control. It won't be any less fun in your econobox. That guy who owns the GT-R? Instead of just being awestruck, why not approach him? He may be a friendly person, and if you're lucky he may even take you around the block. Oh, and that girl who doesn't want to be seen riding your economy car? She definitely isn't worth it.
I think a life without hang-ups will be a luxurious one. So let's start living it up!
Illustration by Raynand Olarte