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A testing drive
May 13, 2013
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by Ivan Raconteur

After many hours of online research, I began the test drive phase of my vehicle replacement program.

I compiled a list of models I thought might fit my requirements, and began visiting dealers to test drive the candidates.

It was a fairly mundane process until I got behind the wheel of the winner. Then, I experienced one of those “Eureka!” moments, and I knew instantly it was the perfect fit.

Nonetheless, I believe in doing things properly or not at all, so I was determined to give it a fair road test as I had the other candidates.

The salesman and I set out on a recent sunny afternoon to do just that.

My co-pilot was a recent immigrant from one of those nations that sees a good deal of sunshine, and, while his complexion reflected his heritage, I had the impression he was looking quite pale by the time we returned to the dealership.

I can’t help wondering if he was temperamentally unsuited for his job.

It is true I grinned a lot in excitement as I drove the beautiful vehicle. There may even have been a few bouts of maniacal laughter, similar to those emitted by Fred MacMurray when he was flying his Model T in “The Absent Minded Professor,” but these were simply expressions of my uninhibited glee in finally finding the perfect vehicle. There is no reason a little hilarity should make anyone nervous.

He was fine when we set out. I drove slowly and carefully between the tightly-packed rows of vehicles on the dealer’s lot, barely touching the accelerator, like an undertaker with a hangover leading a funeral procession.

But, when we got out on the open road, I naturally wanted to see what she could do.

Vehicles are expensive, and I tend to keep them for a long time. Before I fork over that kind of dough for a vehicle, I am going to put it through its paces to be sure it is up to the job.

Shortly after we left the frontage road and hit the freeway, I noticed my companion was beginning to appear uncomfortable.

He was shooting me nervous sideways glances, and for some reason, he kept checking his seat belt.

I wanted to see how the vehicle would do in passing situations, so I put my foot down and flicked the wheel to the left and then back to the right, effortlessly sliding between a semi and a dump truck to go from a position behind a van to one in front of it.

I suspect my salesman had something for lunch that didn’t agree with him, because he let out a sort of low, quavering moan about that time.

Next, I wanted to check the vehicle’s cornering ability.

There was a cloverleaf ahead, so I briskly exited the freeway and navigated the off and on loops until we were heading back in the direction from whence we had come. I kept the vehicle at freeway speed during these maneuvers, because I wanted to know if the vehicle’s reputation was accurate.

To my delight, it hung on to the corners like a miser hangs on to his wallet. We sailed around the corners without the slightest roll or tip, and exited the ramp traveling faster than we entered it.

My friend’s stomach must still have been bothering him, because I heard more moaning coming from the passenger seat, and he had begun to squirm like a worm on a hook.

I merged neatly back into traffic, and decided to check the acceleration.

There was a straight stretch of road ahead, although there was traffic merging on and off the freeway. I waited for a gap in the lane to my left, then pressed the pedal to the floor and changed lanes.

The vehicle shot forward like a rocket, the acceleration as smooth as silk pajamas.

I touched the button that automatically opens the sunroof, then cranked up the radio another few notches. As we began to leave the other traffic in our wake, I flung back my head and howled with delight as AC/DC reached the electric climax of “Highway to Hell.”

I shot a quick glance at the salesman, who was perspiring profusely. Whatever he had for lunch must have been toxic. He was softly muttering something under his breath, which may have been a prayer in his native language.

After a few more maneuvers, I drove back to the dealership and parked neatly in a space near the front door.

The salesman sprang out of the vehicle, and he must have dropped something in his haste, because for a moment he seemed to be kneeling next to the car.

Lest anyone should get the wrong impression, I will state now for the record that I (almost) always drive in a calm, safe, and responsible manner.

I abide by (most) speed limits, and I treat my fellow motorists with courtesy.

There are, however, times when one is behind the wheel and evasive action may be required. It is prudent to know in advance if one’s vehicle is up to the challenge. So really, my little test drive was all about safety. If we happened to have some fun along the way, that was just a bonus.


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