Next year’s model

My three sons and I went to the New York International Auto Show. I’m not sure how “international” it was—the most exotic thing I saw was the family from Union City, New Jersey whose Nike sneakers were made in Southeast Asia.

But it was indeed an auto show: there were lots and lots and lots of autos. Red ones, blue ones, silver ones, black ones, white ones, yellow ones—many, many colors like these. And there were large cars, small cars, cars in the middle somewhere. They all had black tires, and most ran on gas. Most of them seated between two and seven people, but there was a big black one that could seat twelve, plus three magnums of champagne, six egos, and four sets of spike heels.

8264404990_cc31b9674f_bThe show cost $5 for kids and $15 for adults, which was very affordable, especially in light of the NYC museum option at $20 a pop, which most people don’t realize is an option and not a requirement. But of course, the price of a ticket to the auto sale—I mean show—didn’t include admission to adulthood in the form of a new car when your suburban kids turn 16, insurance for a teenager, or the cost of several thousand gallons of American blood seeping into Iraqi sand.

As you enter the Javits Center, to the left of the New York Post subscription tent, are a couple of black limousines. You must be at least 5’9” to see them, however, for a vast group of tall and wide men—somewhere between 25 and three hundred individuals—is clotted in front and mostly blocking the view. Most of the men are pretending to look at the limousines and not at the two women in red dresses who are standing in front of the vehicles. Of course, the limousines don’t move much, and the women occasionally do. (The women are real, by the way.) These women have bodies that have been carefully crafted by the best car designers over the years—designers with names like Ferrari, Porsche, and Kia. Their lines, curves, and headlights are the mood and imagination and temperament of the driver drawn, molded, and cast by these famous designers. These two women embody what men want most. They want to go fast, with Van Halen playing, and they want their friends (and enemies) to see them doing it. And fortunately for these men, the old model at home—when it wears out or needs more maintenance than it’s worth, when it makes too many loud noises that grate on the nerves, when its parts start coming loose, when it embarrasses him in front of the neighbors, when it frankly gets to be too much damn trouble to do anything with but abandon the motherfucker along the Pulaski Skyway—well, in that case they can pick up a nice, new, shiny red one at a dealership off I-95.

Just like the one they’re pretending not to look at.

Because, let’s face it: none of these men will ever ride in one of the limos.

The other cool thing about the New York International Auto Show was the people themselves. There were people of all shapes and sizes who drove in from at least thirty—maybe even forty—miles outside Manhattan. Traversing the Hudson or East River, they each paid bridge and tunnel tolls to use structures that were built in the 20th Century with bond financing and the promise that once the structures had recouped their cost they’d be free. But when you’re a municipality and your drug is nickels and dimes in the ‘50s and quarters and dollars now, it’s hard to go cold turkey.

Well, back to people.

What was really neato about all of them was that each man in a grey sweatshirt who drove in by himself, or each young couple—man with bejeweled arm around woman’s neck—or each family, kids not gawking at the city but at vehicles that they saw thirty miles earlier in front of an I-95 dealership but which were displayed so much more nicely here—each individual or group didn’t bother anyone else. They obediently followed the carpet around each of the four levels and stuck to themselves—didn’t bother anyone and didn’t much look at anyone else. They were very civil. Model citizens. They talked among themselves, laughed among themselves, and even went over to the many different food carts and bought salty pretzels or Häagen Dazs bars and ate among themselves. They were good neighbors: they had good walls.

It was time for Teak and me to go home. His two brothers stayed with friends who were also there.

We walked outside, into sunshine. A couple with an elderly parent and their 5-year-old son were also leaving. The father said to the boy, “We’re in New York City, Joey! We can hop in a cab and do anything! Wanna go to The Lego Store? Toys R Us?”

We walked through the exit—signs explained, “You are now exiting the Auto Show, no re-entry.”

Teak said, “Dad, can I sleep on the subway?”

“Yes. Of course.”

But there was no easy way to get to the subway. The Javits Center is road-locked by the river to the west, Port Authority to the northeast, cars and tunnels and cars and parking lots and cars racing down 11th Avenue all around us. I looked around and honestly did not know how best to get my sleepy child home.

Finally a nice man in a yellow car offered to give us a ride.

When we arrived at our apartment, I paid him handsomely, and Teak and I walked upstairs.

photo: Flickr Commons