Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Driving Ms Livi

Imagine, if you will, sitting in a tank. All you can see out the front is a limited horizon framed by two small glass windows, some of which is used up by a spare tyre on the front. A portion also being consumed delicately by a woven dream-catcher hanging from the rear mirror. You can't see much out the sides - right next to you is yet another small plate of sliding glass, the aft windows are plated up and you forgot to adjust the side mirrors before you climbed in. The back view is half-blocked by a big spare wheel. That's what sitting in Olivia is like.

Add in a very upright sitting position and not much leg room to work pedals - but gears that sometimes require quite a reach to the left, especially the elusive Reverse. A seatbelt of the solid old variety - it doesn't retract, you fling it over the back of the seat or down the side when not in use. No extra cushioning, no plush carpeting, no moulded-to-body seating (and there are only 2 seats) - this is one vehicle made for durability and practicality. You climb up-and-in, not sink down-and-in (especially if you're around 5ft5 as I am).

Now, along with your shrunken view and bolt-upright high-view stance, surround yourself with a big engine and a ton or two of bodywork, and you may start to imagine what driving Ms Livi is like.

However, words cannot convey the unique Landy smell of oil, fuel and dust. Nor the sound of an engine roaring to life. The leaf-springs and shock absorbers ("absorbers" being somewhat of a misnomer, as you do feel every bump) articulating what the road beneath your wheels is doing. The feel of weight moving up a hill and momentum-in-weight going down (hoping the brakes are sufficient to the task - trusting they are).

The first time I drove her I wondered if I would be equal to the task. I was still learning the gears, testing the controls, figuring out the levers and knobs, finding my way around power play and braking distance, gigantic turning circle and steering wheel nearly as large. There were things rattling around all over, guages to decipher, wideness and length to judge.... That first drive in a different vehicle does take some doing! I've always been one to tune in completely to what a vehicle does - it's small sounds, little movements, the "talk" below the noticeable. Some need more listening than others to know their throbbing hearts.

But as I've sat with her, and driven here and there (no long trips until I check one or two things through), and discovered her secret hiding places, found what makes her go (and stop) - I've realized we're going to get along just fine. More than fine. Driving her is a pleasure. An adventure. Nothing to fear, in spite of her size and weight. The more I learn about how she operates, the deeper she works herself into my life.

So I'm driving Ms Livi. Olivia is getting out and about. I'm tuning in - and now that I've adjusted the mirrors, who cares about the limited view. I can see all I need to, the rest is pure instinct. Melded to machine, and off we go.

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