The Cheesiest Car on the Lot


When I was 27, I bought my first car, a used stick-shift, and I drove it until I got married. Later, I treated cancer with equal pragmatism. For me, it took a used-sedan-mentality to fight cancer. Since purchasing that down-to-earth car, I’ve insisted on a no-nonsense approach to other vehicles. They need to start when I turn the key and go where I point them, but they don’t have to look good doing it.


After I snagged a husband, we bought a heavy-duty truck and fitted it with a lumber rack and a tool box. On its final day, it had three hundred thousand miles on it, slightly less than our other vehicle. When I travel, I take my sense of practicality with me and ask for the cheapest rental car available. In San Francisco, where I go for my bi-annual cancer checks, I always have the same exchange at the car counter. This time around was no different.


“I can upgrade you to the next level for just two dollars a day,” the salesperson coos.


“No thanks,”  my unwavering reply.


“Would you like the specialized GPS?”


“Nope.”


“How about an SUV for the price of a mid-size?”


“I’ll pass.”


So I hand over my credit card and paid for the cheesiest rental on the lot. It suits me fine. But this week, the attendant directed me to an unusual line up. “Pick one,” she said.


I didn’t understand. Three shiny vehicles gleamed in front of me, but none of them matched my style. “Um,” I said, “are you sure this is right?”


She nodded. “These are the only three cars we have left.” So I rolled my suitcase to the red Camaro convertible, sliding into its leather seat and feeling my “cool” factor escalate. “God must be smiling at you today,” she said when she saw my mystified face.


I’d been looking for evidence of God all month, looking but not feeling.


At these check ups, I learn whether or not my deadly disease has returned. Statistically, I’m at the point when it is most likely to come back, and that thought has nagged me for two weeks. I feel tension in my neck, jaws, shoulders, and stomach. Though I take walks, practice deep breathing, and pray for peace, it has been elusive. It feels like I’m going through the motions of spirituality without really living it.


In that moment, though, I focused on the attendant’s spontaneous comment and felt the benevolence of God. I willed that feeling to carry over into my appointment.


Then, I put the top down, timidly at first, until a thought occurred to me. “What the hell, why not me?” Then, I drove that flashy red car to the hospital, where a smart, kind nurse told me that I am still cancer free.

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