A bunch of us guys were shooting the breeze the other day when the topic of conversation inevitably turned to cars. I know that many wives believe that whenever guys gather in groups, they talk about women. Sorry, but that simply isn't true - at least not for guys our age.
We do our best to hide this from our wives, of course. If a group of us are hobnobbing about cars and one of our wives approaches, a secret signal will be given and we will quickly switch to talking about women. The secret signal is usually something like the meaningful clearing of a throat.
As the wife in question draws near, we try out best to look guilty. But not too guilty, as that might arouse an undue level of suspicion. Nor do you want to appear too blithe, or the wife might suppose that it would be OK if she joined the conversation.
If done properly, the wife will walk up to the guy group just in time to hear a few vaguely incriminating mumbles. She will instinctively search the faces of the gathered men, her eyebrows arched with suspicion. Each guy will, in turn, suddenly become fascinated with his shoelaces.
Satisfied that she has put a halt to our nefarious nattering, the wife will soon depart, looking for other wrongs to right. We guys can then relax and resume our conversation about cars.
Our group the other day included a guy who was a bona fide old-timer.
"How was it back in the day?" I asked him. "Were things really simpler and better than they are now?"
"That's a load of hooey!" said the old guy. "If anything, it was worse back then. Talk about high maintenance! You couldn't even think about starting a new relationship without first discussing rings! And temperamental? You never knew what to expect from one day to the next! The constant worry was enough to make you blow a head gasket."
We all silently nodded, appreciative of the older guy's insights. Presently, another of the guys said, "When I was in high school, I fell really hard for this sleek little foreign model. It still hurts just to think about it."
The entire group grimaced. We have all been in those shoes.
"I knew from the get-go that she was out of my league," he continued. "But I couldn't help myself. She was glamorous and low-slung and exotic. And I'll admit it: she was also incredibly fast!"
A hush fell over the group as each of us quietly reminisced about a similar experience of his own. Finally, someone quietly asked, "So what happened?"
"She broke my heart, of course. I thought she would be 'The One,' you know? I imagined that we would spend our years together traveling, seeing sights or just tooling along down long stretches of empty highway. But it turned out that she only wanted my money. Or what little I had of it," he said.
We all tried to hide our winces.
"How much did she get?" I murmured.
"All of it. And then some. I paid for that experience on the 15th of every month for years and years. In many ways, I still am," he said.
"I'll take an American made model any day," chimed one of the guys. "Something solid that won't let you down and doesn't need a lot of fuss and bother. A four-door sedan or a station wagon. With heated seats and a remote start!"
All heads again nodded in silent agreement.
"Flash and gaudiness are for the young guys," I said. "What really counts is dependability and trunk capacity. We need to think about kids and luggage."
"She also needs to have a lot of heart under the hood," said another of the guys. "You want her to be able to respond instantly when you give her the gas. A little something to make you breathe faster and remind you that you're alive!"
"I really appreciate a well-made rack-and-pinion steering system," said someone. "There's nothing like the feel of a quick response from the slightest touch!"
All agreed that these things were important, but that a sturdy suspension was also crucial. Then we were suddenly startled by the sound of a woman clearing her throat!
One of our wives had been eavesdropping on us! Quickly recovering from the initial shock, we put on our best shamed faces.
"Men!" she muttered as she walked away, "Is that all you guys think about?"
Silence reigned for a long moment after she left.
"That was a close one!" said the old guy.
A set of heads nodded in quiet agreement.