Car of Shame
In LA you are what you drive, so I am a piece of a shit. I drive a 1990 Toyota Corolla. It has personality: the left side leaks when it rains, allowing the growth of fragrant mold, and the left passenger door handle is broken (I named it the rape door). I prefer to think the car gives me street cred. It makes me feel like a cool outsider, blasting my music and sporting my Santa Cruz bumper sticker with pride. My car does run well. It does its job, getting me back and forth to the two jobs I finally have. I try to repay the favor and not whine about the car too much. At least I have a car, and after all, when you have a shitty car, you don’t have to drive that carefully. Sure, drive so you don’t kill yourself, others, or small animals, but why not drive off the curb! It also means valet attendants never expect a tip.
I avoid valet like the plague, but both places I work are deep in valet land: Century City and Miracle Mile. Maybe my car endears me to the parking attendants. They probably don’t drive BMWs, but I start to see the car in their eyes. I worry the smell of mold will overpower them, and they will be so distracted that they crash into a Bentley. My car also requires two keys—one for the door and one for the ignition. I forget why this is, but I think it can be traced back to when a key broke off in the door lock. I imagine the two keys phenomenon confuses the attendants when they try to retrieve my car. They go for the key that says “Toyota,” when they should use the blank, skinny key. These are things I could communicate, I suppose, but I don’t want to draw any more attention to my car situation.
I intern at the fanciest office building in LA. It’s where CAA (one of the biggest agencies) lives, so celebrities must traipse through there all the time. You can smell the power as soon as you enter its marble halls. Actually it just smells like coffee, but just walking around the place gets me excited. I was certain Francis Ford Coppola was staring me down while I was picking up a lunch order in the lobby. I thought that was my moment. I could tell he was thinking, “Yes, it’s her.” Actually, he was thinking, “What kinda sandwich is that?” which is what he asked me. He wasn’t Mr. Coppola, but he could have been.
I like to make a good impression around this building, so the car of shame presents some issues. The interns share a parking pass, so on certain days you have to hand it off to someone who waits for you to exit the garage and pull up out front in valet land. Here Hollywood bigwigs check out each other’s cars and network as they wait for their limited edition, turbo, 5867 yellow convertible. “How will I know which car is yours?” asked my fellow intern. “Easy. It will be the worst car there.” I thought he would understand my plight, and he did laugh, but when it was my turn to wait for him to hand me the pass, I had a harder time picking out his car. Kid drives a Porsche.
My neighborhood may not have a Starbucks or quaint cheese and wine shop, but it does have car mechanics. They drive by my car and always leave their auto-body cards on the dash. I get the hint. Even in my hood, land of the ghetto bird and taco stand, the car stands out, but why would I want to invest in making the car look better? Its days are numbered, and although I bemoan its existence now, I will hate to see it go. Her name is Gigi, after Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role, and she has helped me get my first starts. Besides, what other car will have a rape door?