If you haven't noticed, I love my job.
To be around cars and engage in the industry that you're actually passionate about is something few people get a chance to do.
The job is simple really: you use your writing skills and apply it to automotive topics ranging from news gathering, reviews, features and opinions. Along the way, you get some pretty cool perks like being invited to some pretty cool parties in the hottest locations, travel to the best hotels available, get served only the best plates of food from the best chefs with free flowing drinks to loosen things up. You also get to interact with the movers and shakers in the automotive field ranging from professional racers, government officials, even top executives and engineers from various car companies.
Perks or not, I'm in it for the cars, and in my line of work you get to borrow some of the nicest rides to try out for a while at a time. Ranging from new, expensive models like the E-Class and the Lexus LX, powerful street fighters like the Lancer Evo X and the Genesis Coupe, fun ones like the Mini Cooper to even the most mass-market econo boxes like the QQ from China, I consider myself pretty fortunate to have been behind the wheel of them all. Well, maybe except for the last one.
Now the general consensus for a press car borrow is that “if you break it, you pay for it”, in a manner of speaking. Since that's not something I want to put to the test, so as long as any press car is in my name, I'll treat it with more care than my own ride. The last thing I need is debt that my yet-to-be-conceived-children will probably end up paying for.
This, however, is about one particular borrow. For the sake of the story, let's name her the Car... later on you'll understand why.
With the Car sitting outside on a beautiful (read: boring) Sunday afternoon, I thought why not take a relaxing drive up to Clark (formerly a USAF base) for some fresh air and some nice photo opportunities. Before you know it, I had my driving shoes on, stepped outside, fired up the Car and went on my way.
There are few feelings that can compare to cruising on an open road with the windows down, elbow out and listening to some nice tunes, and to do it in a relatively fast, comfortable and luxurious car made it all the more enjoyable. I enter the former American air base (now a hub for trade and leisure), and begin to scout for nice location to take some shots. I was technically on-the-job, after all.
After completing what I had to do, I began to cruise the boulevards of Clark and savor the satisfaction of driving the Car. The feel of quality, the power, the balanced handling and, best of all, the proud emblem from one of the most prestigious brands around all combine to create a such a great experience. And I wasn't the only one noticing it.
Women tipped their sunglasses to get a peek at this guy who's beaming with pride inside the Car while their dates ponder what he does for a living to drive such a nice, expensive ride. Anywhere the Car and I went, security guards wave me to the best parking spots and be extra courteous the moment the driver's door opens. Sweet eh?
As you can imagine, this feeling is addictive, and even easier to get carried away with. Then the reality check came, and there it was: the Fly.
I spotted it on the corner of my eye, buzzing obliviously inside the cabin of the Car. I know what you're thinking. I was too.
First I swatted at it with my right hand, missing again and again. I grabbed the newspaper on the passenger seat and continued to hunt it down, but as you already know, looking for and swatting at something isn't a good idea when you're behind the wheel. At 60 km/h. With a right turn coming up. Now.
Finally I look up, and what happened next will probably be the three longest seconds ever.
In an instant, everything just went into super slow motion. My right foot instantly leapt off the throttle. My hands reacted, jerking the wheel hard to the right. I heard the tires begging the road for grip. I felt the suspension fighting the car's weight. A light on the dash blinks madly, telling me that all the electronics were working every megabyte to survive. I was practically willing it to turn, and the Car was giving everything she's got. Insert Hail Mary here.
Then I felt it. The Car was turning! All four tires were continuously screeching, but it was steering the car away, harrowingly avoiding the curb by a hair.
The look on my face, the cringe that anticipated the brutal metal-to-concrete contact, instantly changed into a look of relief. My palms were sweaty. My knees were shaking. I wasn't going to be on the World's Dumbest Car Crashes after all.
It's almost funny how something that can be easily sent into the afterlife with one quick swat was instrumental in nearly turning a 3 million peso ride (U.S. $65,000, more or less) into a very expensive collection of spare parts. Call me crazy, but the price was the least of my worries, as returning a car with it's airbags deployed will easily dissolve the trust that car companies place on you. In this business, that's all you have to go on.
Reality checked. Lesson learned. I'm just glad it didn't turn out to be a costly one.
Thank you, fly.
I'll get you next time.
Vince Pornelos received the "Best Motoring Column" award at the 10th Henry Ford Awards for this article.