Come, let us reason together (Isetta mouthful)

Column by Jim Bishop

jimscar.gifRise up, o man, and declare yourself clearly and forthrightly, because you know whereof you speak.
Or, is it rather, before opening my mouth, better go back and do my homework, develop a clearer way of thinking and then try, try again?
I say this in the wake of telling wife Anna that I’d been invited to accompany a friend from church on a 300-mile trip to Eastern Pennsylvania. Dale Lehman, a building contractor, and I had talked many times about old cars, with the discussion often coming around to my first vehicle that I purchased in 1962, a 1957 BMW Isetta 300.

The Lilliputian limousine, imported from Germany, seated two people, boasted a 12-horsepower, 1-cylinder engine and a four-speed gearshift mounted to the left of the driver. It had a top speed of 55 miles per hour and averaged 50 miles per gallon – back when gas was about 30 cents a gallon.

Dale wanted to attend an auction in Hatfield, Pa., where a number of vintage cars would be sold, including several Isettas that looked from the photos on the website that disgruntled former owners had abandoned them some years ago. But, with Dale and son Jason having expertise in vehicle restoration, even spending a year together taking classes at a vo-tech school in this field, it seemed an almost serendipitous opportunity to make the trip and explore the possibilities.I fully expected Dale to come back with at least one, maybe more, minuscule motorcars in tow.

I’ve always regretted selling the car, but felt I had to in order to stay in college. But here was an almost serendipitous opportunity to relive a segment of my youth, maybe even become a “financial partner” in helping return one of these minute motorcars to its feet, or wheels – the Isetta did have four, the back ones mounted closer together.

Anna didn’t share my enthusiasm as I told her about this venture. Her rejoinders made sense, but I didn’t want to acknowledge that at the time.

On many fronts, Anna and I have diverse interests and tastes, and we’ve worked hard at respecting that over the years. She listens to her Southern gospel music even as she wonders if her little boy will ever outgrow his fondness for music of the 1950s.

She buries herself in “trashy novels,” mostly suspense, and I opt for lightweight fare from Dave Barry, Bill Geist, Jeff Foxworthy and autobiographies from “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, Stan Freberg and Mel Blanc.

She wants to spend time at the dinner table talking about riding herd on 18 active kindergarten children while I want to avoid talking about work, unless it’s something weird that’s happened.

Even though I work with words – and wordplays – every day, I like to supply anecdotes of people, events and observations in 25 words or less. Anna wants to hear my thoughts about what’s going on in my little corner of the world and to include all the gory details – what did he say and then what did she say …

Maybe I broached the topic at the wrong time (Mondays aren’t our favorite day of the week).

My spouse didn’t seem to grasp the importance of my becoming at least emotionally, if not financially, involved with this “Mennonite satellite,” even though we already have three cars for two people. For that matter, what’s wrong with bedecking our sunroom with a colorful Wurlitzer or Rockola jukebox that plays real 45’s – not one of those easily-acquired models that plays compact discs? Why can’t I go out and purchase that ingenious turntable with a built-in CD burner?

I suspect that I don’t like to acknowledge what deep down I know – my immensely practical spouse has her finger on my pulse, knows me better than I know myself, has a way of answering my questions without saying a word by just giving me “that certain look.”

I couldn’t seem to offer a solid rationale for why this is the greatest opportunity since being offered a weekend air shift on a local radio station in 1982. My feeble argument quickly dissolves into feeble sniveling. We returned to other tasks, each thinking the other had gained the higher ground.

Our “car talk” may not have been a good row, but in retrospect, it cleared the air of some feelings that apparently had been fermenting. And, even though the sun had already gone down on our wrath, we forgave each other before calling it a night.

My better half is incredibly astute, wincingly practical, and, usually accurate in assessing our domestic disparities. She keeps me from dwelling too long in fantasyland, from experiencing asset indigestion and avoiding perceived shortcuts that can wind up on a cloverleaf with no exit ramps.

And God said, “That’s good.”

  

Jim Bishop calls them as he sees them as public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at bishopj@emu.edu.



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