Driving out niggling nags

>>Driving out niggling nags

Snuck out of the house early Sunday morning, hobbling downstairs to the garage and deserting the Resident Carpenter, snoring peacefully at the other end of the hall.

I slipped into Chiquitita the Porsche, dropped her top, and just … drove, the niggling nags jacketing me like a cement overcoat:

  • The backyard slugs and moles and coyotes and birds and squirrels and bugs and probably zombies, murdering the vegetables which need DOING something about
  • The stubborn refusal of things to move forward at work
  • The Yellow Carpet Anemone, which ate someone that disagreed with it, and croaked. Good riddance, I say, though millions would disagree.

    Our obvious need to join the Marine Reef Frequent Funeral Plan, since our reef tank’s saltwater critters turn out to be one of the few pets that regularly EAT EACH OTHER

  • Reviewing what everyone thinks I SHOULD have done instead of buying Chiquitita, my silly little Porsche convertible: Donate the money to charity. Invest in someone’s business. Kept the funds in my retirement plan instead of extending my worktime (or I suppose, moving up my death from old age) by a couple of years.
  • Figure out how to respond to the folks who are sure I purchased the Porsche with nefarious funds sourced from (a) dealing drugs (huh?) or (b) money I collected from insurance when I fell (gosh, if there were insurance payouts I’d sure like to know), or (c) robbing a bank (me?)
  • Punish myself for starting a marine reef tank and screwing up the environment yet again (as if I hadn’t already screwed it up enough by buying a Porsche)
  • Feel guilty about not going to more political rallies when, obviously, the cane has remobilized me…
  • Feel even more guilty about the friend’s book I promised to edit
  • Pile on more guilt about all the blogposts I’ve not finished writing yet (OK, well, that one I’m taking care of right now)
  • The studio I’m supposed to be finishing…
  • The art I’m supposed to be making…
  • The jewelry I’m making…
  • The house I ought to be cleaning…
  • The laundry I should be doing…
  • The taxes I should be organizing…
  • “That —– isn’t going to —— itself!” someone reminds me sternly…

Gaaaack! Stop that! I slip into Chiquitita and drive, a big grin busting out all over my face. I swear, just sitting in that car is relaxing. I’m being shallow, callow,  probably as politically incorrect as I can be…but that crazy little yellow Porsche makes me happy(ier).

I’ve finally figured out why people buy these things: Porsches go faster than niggling nags.

I didn’t set out to buy a Porsche. I was gonna get a tattoo of a phoenix from guzzle to zorch, i.e., hip to ankle, because I still had a leg. More specifically, last year I promised that if I actually got to keep Elmo and The Leg, I’d do something crazy: Get a full-length tattoo. Lead a wild insect safari into the deepest darkest reaches of the Everglades. Finally learn to skydive. Fly to the moon. Buy a Wildly Impractical Sports Car.

The minute Doc Rich told me the bone was growing, I started making plans. Pretty quickly eliminated going to the moon; I have rotten eyesight and I look awful in a space suit. The Leg objected to yet more needles so the tattoo was out, and me and the wilderness are still at odds, which killed the insect safari idea. My brain and stomach threatened to secede if I went skydiving (and Doc Rich said, ‘please PLEASE tell me you’re joking”) so that was out.

Leaving me with Wildly Impractical Sports Car.

From January to May, I wheeled myself into every car dealership that might conceivably sell sports cars, trying them all on. I had only three criteria for my choice:

  1. It had to be a roadster (i.e., mostly two-seater) that went pretty fast
  2. My barely bending leg had to fit into either seat
  3. It had to be yellow (all sports cars are yellow–long story there)

#1 was easy; #3 was tough but doable. Number two, though…only two carmakers could easily accommodate The Leg without breaking it all over again: Ferrari and Porsche. (Lamborghini, Maserati, and Maybach probably could, too, but let’s not get silly)

BTW, if those are your criteria for purchasing a fairly expensive automobile, dealers will all but try to have you committed. I thought “yellow sportscar that I can fit into” was fairly comprehensive but apparently others take performance and stuff into account.

My budget eliminated Ferraris and new Porsches. A used yellow Porsche is very hard to find, but eventually I located one just outside Manhattan: A bright yellow 2013 Carrera 4 convertible with only 20,000 miles.

I named her Portia. Friends thought Chiquita a better name, for obvious reasons; she turned out to prefer Chiquitita.

Talked with the dealer, talked with the guys managing my retirement savings, talked with the dealer some more, and bought myself a five year old Porsche. Five days later, a guy showed up on the east side of town with a boxful of Chiquitita, and handed me her remote. (They shipped her out in a container from New York to avoid putting any more miles–or a scratch–on her.)

“Uhm…how do you turn her on?” I asked, blushing, looking for the start button. He just stared.

“Haven’t you ever driven one of these?” he asked, incredulously.

“Uhm, no,” I admitted, “But I sat in one once.”

He shook his head. “OK, well, what you have here is a 2013 Porsche Carrera 911 4 Cabriolet. This is a Very Nice Car, ma’am. Don’t hurt it. That’s the key you’re holding. You put it in there and turn it. Clockwise.”

He pointed to a little slot on the LEFT of the steering wheel. Later I would learn why. “You’ll be fine?” he said hopefully.

I sat in the car, adjusted the seat, put the key in the ignition and turned it. Chiquitita responded with a throaty purr, and we hit the road together. I couldn’t find the cupholders–as far as Porsche is concerned I’m a peasant–so I wedged my coffee between my knees and drove to work.

We’ve been zooming around ever since. I’m not a skilled racedriver, but she fits me like a glove, and we like hanging out together. She is–not kidding–the most comfortable chair in the house. Sometimes, when I’m really achey, I just go down and nap in her.

To access the cupholders, you gently press the little cup icon in the center of the metal panel over the glovebox. The panel will swing down, allowing you to expand one or both cupholders. (Yours and the passenger’s)

Porsches are not like Toyotas. Chiquitita has a learning curve, and I read the manual a lot, trying to figure out how to do normal car things with her: Find the cupholders (they’re hidden behind discrete metal panels over the glovebox). Work the convertible top (pull the console switch UP). Switch to manual shifting (whack the gearshift to the left). Play music from the phone (punch about two million buttons).

I was planning at some point in the future to allow The Resident Carpenter to touch The Car (when we speak of other cars, we call them “The Suburban,” “The Camry,” or “The Jeep,” but The Porsche is always “The Car.”). In my mind, I’d decided to allow Nathan to first touch The Car in mid-2020. Maybe late 2019 if I was in a really REALLY good mood.

In reality, I came home from work on that first day, saw the RC’s big brown eyes* wistfully turned in The Car’s direction, and relented.

“OK, Nathan. Would you like a ride in The Car?”


And off we went. In the first mile he’d pretty much bitten his fingernails down to the quick and was working towards getting them down to his elbow.

“Uhm…Cynthia…I don’t want to hurt your feelings but…may I offer a suggestion? Maybe you don’t want to brake at THAT PARTICULAR POINT IN THE CURVE?


“Well, if you brake back there…ouch…no, there…ouch..wait….”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I was just saying that you might want to…ouch.” He grimaced as I hit the curve and stopped, carefully creeping around the steepest part. “You want to brake back THERE and then accelerate where you’re braking now…NO… the exact opposite…”

Grrr. Look, Nate, do YOU want to do this?”

“Yes. PLEASE?”

Turns out Nate’s raced before and knows about driving a fast car around curves. In his practiced hands, Chiquitita stopped bouncing and started, well, schwooping. And she wasn’t anywhere near as fast as she could be, Nate was quick to assure.

“This car,” he said solemnly, “Can easily do 200 miles per hour. And she’s got 4-wheel drive so you’ll have a hard time making her drift or slide off the road. Well, most people will.”

I’m presuming this is a good thing, and guess she won’t have any trouble with my typical 20 mph commute, then. In any case, she sure is fun to drive.

Chiquitita has a discrete little warning when you’re running out of gas (“Mind remaining distance”). It happens a lot.

So last Sunday morning, we drove. And, gradually, all my niggling nags clumped into balls, bounced out the back and off down the road.

Bump, bumpity, bump.

I pulled into a little garden shop that also serves Sunday brunch, hobbled into the restaurant and just relaxed. Then I was sitting, reading, and nibbling at my eggs, watching a spectacular view down the mountain and thinking about nothing in particular, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

If you have a Porsche, you always have a ready-made birthday gift for your friends: A chance to drive your car. It makes them grin, too.

Maybe I’m going too fast. Maybe I’ve been pushing so hard to get back into the fast lane, away from the last two years of disability, that I haven’t thought enough about how much fun it can be in the slowish lane.

“There’s nothing wrong with slowing down every so often, going for a sanity drive,” says the Resident Carpenter, “Going to the beach. Going fishing. Doing something for yourself. Keeps you sane.”

He may have a point.

“As long as,” he warns, “I get to come too.”

* Actually, his eyes aren’t brown, they’re grey or blue or something, but I can’t remember which and brown works better in the story



  1. Stephen Richard July 8, 2018 at 12:20 am - Reply

    Yes, driving a sports car with the top down leads to big smiles. I enjoyed reading about your joy in having this little luxury. I hope you continue to enjoy it and many other things!

  2. Diana tillotson July 5, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Way to go WOMAN!

  3. Julia Smoak July 5, 2018 at 8:39 am - Reply

    I would love to come back to Portland but that’s not an option at the moment. When I do I’d love a ride in Chiquitita. I may not ever own a Porsche but would love to ride in one. Love the name by the way – still am an ABBA fan.

  4. kathryncecelia July 4, 2018 at 1:12 am - Reply

    I do like a well told story and you tell them well. I love Porches, but my dream car is a Morgan. I fear that’s all it will ever be… a dream. I am a little jealous that you are living your dream. I think it is wonderful. When we do nice things for ourselves we are investing in our happiness. It is a good thing to live with contentedness. I think I’ll get there, but probably without a Morgan. About 50 years ago I dated a race car driver. I got to drive fast on a track and loved it. I still like going fast, but know I’m not able to react as fast as I once did. Take a driving class… they aren’t too expensive and you’ll get the hang of Chiquitita… ¡Ir! ¡Chica!

  5. Aviva July 3, 2018 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Okay, I need a pronouncer on The Car’s name. I’m struggling to parse Chiquitita. 🙂

    • Cynthia Morgan July 3, 2018 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      Chickie-TEE-tah. Like the old ABBA song. She told me. 😉

  6. Charlotte July 3, 2018 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia, please try to take longer to recover. It takes a year for one knee replacement – with no mental anguish at all. Drive “The Car”. Let the fish do their thing. Go fishing. All the world can wait for you to heal – physically and emotionally. If you could only be as good to yourself as you are to others! Don’t should on yourself! ❤️

  7. Leo Bach July 3, 2018 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Great story … love your writing/story telling style. It feels as though you are right in the room with me! Drive on!!

  8. Ellen Abbott July 3, 2018 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    girl, tell all those niggling nags to beat it. your life, your money, your car. get in it and enjoy.

  9. Michael H. Mara July 3, 2018 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    There are definitely tricks/skills to cornering in a fast, high performance car, having done some extreme driving myself when I was much younger. You go into the corner relatively fast, slow down and brake, only as much as you have to, to retain control. Once you know you have it, then you accelerate, downshifting, to pull yourself around the curve. You want to stay in the safe (meaning not spinout or flip) zone, and also the high torque zone of the engine. You’ll get it, glad you’re enjoying the car. I play guitar, and once, many years ago, bought a brand new Martin, just to do it. It was unreal to play, like a different galaxy of guitar. Sold it after a couple years, but man, for a short while, I owned a Martin.

  10. Julia Smoak July 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    After the 2 years you’ve had you deserve a lot of fun. A Porsche has always been my dream sports car. Closest I’ve gotten was a Honda S2000 which was a fun car. I’d change your #3 to it has to be manual.

    My favorite was driving with the top down at night!

    • cynthia July 4, 2018 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Hi, Julia, long time no-set-eyes-on!

      Yeah, one of my top criteria was manual transmission until I got to talking with Porsche dealers. Turns out Porsche has gone beyond that with a kind of computer-controlled manual transmission, sorta manual-but-not-really. It’s a double-clutch system called PDK and don’t ask me to spell it out because it’s in German and I have no idea what it means. But the computer has one clutch pulling a gear out while the other is putting the new gear in, faster than a human can do it.

      Actually, The Leg is stiff enough that I’m not sure I CAN work a manual stick anymore, so this is a nice compromise. If you want to control the car manually, you switch over to manual mode by whacking the shifter to the left and using the steering wheel paddles. The computer handles clutching, so it’s sort of an ideal solution for me. I must admit, though, that so far the only one who’s tried it is the Resident Carpenter. I’m still getting used to having all that power about a foot or so behind my back…

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