Column: Plain old black & white but red all over

By SCOTT SAALMAN

I bought a new car.

I was thinking Lamborghini. I settled on Corolla.

It could’ve gone either way.

Well, OK, not really.

I’m an A to B kind of guy. The style with which I connect the journey’s dots doesn’t really matter. As long as I get there.

This is my third Corolla. I have hundreds of thousands of miles of reliable Corolla driving experience. I’ve always made it to point B in my Corollas. If I was the new James Bond, I’d trade in the Aston Martin for a Corolla. Better gas mileage, I bet.

Besides, Lamborghini sounds like pasta. Who wants to ride a noodle car? Corolla sounds like a beer you’d squeeze a lime wedge into. My Tasty Toyota.

A coworker called my new car a “’Rolla.” It sounded really cool, hipster-like, the way he abbreviated the brand name, severed the first syllable from the rest, like the way people call a Corvette a “’Vette.” ’Rolla rolled smoothly off his tongue, as if my roadster of choice was really rad — amazeballs even!

But then I detected a slight smirk, making me realize I had actually been car shamed by a coworker.

OK, I get it. There’s nothing showy about my ’Rolla. Except that it is red. The showiest of colors on the car lot.

My first red car — ever. 

I can’t believe how many people have cautioned me to be careful on the streets now, telling me that red cars are the likeliest ones to be pulled over by police, as if I had actually purchased a jelly donut on wheels.

“Cop magnet,” another coworker said, appraising my car. On the bright side, though, he added that red cars could also be “chick magnets.” There was surety in his voice, as if speaking from experience. I responded, “C’mon, man, it’s just a Corolla.” I can’t even get a bird to crap on it.

It’s odd how the car salesman didn’t alert me about this red-car-cop-conspiracy, sort of like how a real estate agent doesn’t tell you about the ancient Indian burial ground that your newly purchased house is built on; you buy it, then the walls bleed.

I feel like a matador waving a red cape. It’s only a matter of time:

Dispatcher: 1 Adam 12. 1 Adam 12. Armed robbers in a pea green Ford Placenta heading your way. Has hostage. Last clocked at 120. Over.

Policeman: Negative, dispatch. We’re tailing a red ’Rolla at the moment. Over.

Dispatcher: A red ’Rolla!

Policeman: Roger. He’s holding steady at 40 mph. This could get ugly. Over.

Dispatcher: Do you need back-up? Over.

Policeman: Roger that. Over.

Dispatcher: Calling all units. Forget the Ford Placenta. We have a Code Red Car in progress. Backup requested. Over.

Policeman: Dispatch. Tell my wife I love her. Over.

Dispatcher: Godspeed. Over.

As a red car owner, I’m driving on eggshells. It’s been 31 years since my last ticket. 1987. I was on Highway 41 harmonizing with a new U2 cassette. I couldn’t help but accelerate with Bono aboard. During “Where the Streets Have No Name,” my blue car was clocked at 72 in a 55. The fine was a financial blow to my cub reporter paycheck.

The last time I was pulled over — in the early 2000s — I had just picked up my kids from the sitter. My daughter Delaney, strapped in her car-seat, was demonstrating her entitled terrible-twos windshield-cracking hysterics. She was in her Damien The Omen phase. Her high-pitched wailing likely beached whales hundreds of miles away and forever altered the migratory flight path of monarch butterflies. I sped through Jasper, racing home not just to escape the claustrophobic rolling cry chamber that I was sentenced to but to save dear Mother Earth as we knew it. Police lights flashed in my rearview mirror. Of course, Delaney stopped crying.

“Oh no you’re not, Delaney! You’re not going mute on me now,” I growled.

“Austin,” I instructed my 7-year-old. “Pinch. Her. Leg.” A dream come true for Austin. Boy did she cry. The policeman quickly stepped back as I rolled down the window, as if I was brandishing a gun. He empathetically studied my pained look, probably noticed the incriminating pinch mark in back. “I’m having a rough day,” I said. “Just go home,” he said. I bet he had a 2-year-old.

My previous two Corollas were white. I’m still not used to the color change. I accidentally walk by my red car in parking lots, searching for white. Once I walked past it in my own driveway.

Little Red Corolla. Sounds like a Prince song. I’m not sure why he chose Corvette. More people own Corollas. He could’ve had a major hit on his hands with better word choice. Silly Prince. I bet Prince didn’t even own a Corvette. I bet it was a Corolla. I bet it was custom purple.

So, here I am, a gas-pedal-shy owner of a bitchin’ new red ’Rolla cop magnet. I only go half the allowable speed limit through the mean streets of Ferdinand now. I have a 31-year ticket-free streak to keep growing. Delaney is 19. There’s no one left to pinch. Beep beep’m beep beep yeah . . .

The Will Read and Sing For Mentors For Youth benefit show is Thursday, 7 p.m., Sultan’s Run. Admission is $10 donation. Cash bar. Featuring the WRASFF players, plus a salute to Wilson Flowers’ Beth Seidl and the art of Kit Miracle.




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