City Desk

Iceland: The Red Mustang

Editor's Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band's American tour. Justin isn't on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.

"A red Mustang," observed the rental-car attendant. The time had come for me to return my rental car. This attendant was all too happy to oblige.

"A red Mustang," I confirmed. I watched the rental-car attendant punch numbers into a mobile rental-car check-in unit strapped to his belt. "I must admit that I did not request a red Mustang from your rental car agency!" I exclaimed. "Though I requested an economy car, I was given this red Mustang instead and, not wishing to make a scene, accepted it. Yet, I find this red Mustang objectionable. First, this red Mustang is an American car. I do not favor American automobiles. As a youth, my family routinely bought American cars and, as a result, experienced automotive difficulties. When I came of age, I resolved to purchase and drive Toyotas whenever possible. This red Mustang is no Toyota.

The rental-car attendant stared at his keypad and continued to punch information into the device.

"Second," I continued, "I must object to this red Mustang's aesthetics. I do not like red cars. Many believe that red cars attract the attention of police officers, and I do not appreciate this attention. In addition, the word 'Mustang' is written on this red Mustang in many places. 'Mustang' is written across the steering column. 'Mustang' is written across the back seats. 'Mustang' is written in gigantic letters across the side of the car. Such persistent self-declaration is unnecessary and déclassé. Must this ridiculous car further announce itself?"

The rental-car attendant stared at his keypad and continued to punch information into the device.

"And third," I concluded, "I have learned that other drivers on the road believe that anyone who behind the wheel of a red Mustang is—to employ a popular, vulgar expression—a 'douchebag.' Thus, while parallel parking, I was given the finger by a young punk rock enthusiast behind the wheel of a red Honda that sported a Black Flag bumpersticker. My parallel-parking maneuver was legal and, I may add, perfectly executed. I excel at parallel parking. Still, this young anti-Establishment rogue singled me out for criticism simply because I was driving a red Mustang."

For the first time, the rental-car attendant's hands strayed from his keypad. He looked up, stared into my eyes, and spoke. "But, tell me," he implored. "Was there not one sublime moment where you were at one with this red Mustang? Was there not one instant—when passing a slow-moving car on the highway, or peeling out of a driveway, or rolling up to a party, or cruising through a neighborhood—that you felt at home behind the wheel of this red Mustang and thought perhaps that you had never had and never could have had any other home? Was there not one second where you felt that this red Mustang was the perfect automotive expression of your all-too-human soul?" The rental-car attendant was no longer looking at me, but was staring at some distant, unknown point.

I considered the rental-car attendant's vision of man-as-machine. "Perhaps," I admitted. The rental-car attendant did not respond. "The gas mileage was also better than expected," I added.

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