Mid-Life Crisis Mobile

How a sweet set of wheels can make you feel young again.

A body frame that’s practically small enough to fit into my dishwasher: check.

Baseball cap (to cover my thinning hair) and SPF-50 sunscreen (to protect my ever-burgeoning population of moles and freckles): check and check.

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I finally did it. I purchased a pre-owned, cute-as-all-get-out 2002 Mazda Miata. The car’s nifty new paint job is akin to an overripe tomato—or crime-scene red. Shiny chrome wheels sexily envelop her voluptuous 17-inch tires.  

You know she’s a keeper because I even named her. Millie isn’t my first midlife-crisis mobile. No, that was the 1961 Porsche 356B I was offered fair value for by a car-collector acquaintance of mine eight or so years ago. “Bea” was supposed to be my dream car. 

Sure, Bea needed some work (read: a complete overhaul), as the transmission’s linkage had turned to clanky mush, and the better part of the driver’s-side chassis was held together by old, crumbling putty. Her sleek, Euro-styled interior was a mildewed mess. Soon after her unfortunate demise in my driveway, squirrels had taken up comfortable residence under the faded hood. In short, my pitiful Porsche had become the largest paperweight in Chester County.

It took me years to find the right buyer—someone who actually knew how to properly restore a Porsche 356B—a man with keen automotive vision and more than enough financial resources. With the purchaser’s check in my grateful hand, I watched the flatbed truck take Bea away, gazing somewhat embarrassingly at the divots her weight had created in a part of my driveway that I hadn’t seen in the better part of a decade. 

The evicted squirrels were going to miss her, as well.

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Then Millie came along. Looking at me behind the wheel, some might see an aging cliché: a middle-class, middle-aged, exurb-dwelling husband and father of two, a slave to his son’s college loans and three other cars in that driveway of his. 

Have I become prosaic? “Too old to rock ’n’ roll, too young to die,” like the Jethro Tull song says? I think not.

I’m far from 18, but I am certainly not pretending to be young and rebellious. With that top down and the open road zipping by, I’m really quite alive and acting my age.

If you happen to see a red Mazda Miata with a 50-year-old dude sporting a Phillies cap and a satisfied smile, know that Chester Springs-based writer Ken Alan purchased his hot rod on eBay.

illustration by nicholas Little

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