Faking It

The two guys manning their ipads and clipboards under a wind-snapped awning size me up a mile away.

She’s not a live one, I’m sure they think. I don’t sweat money. I’m just another average someone at WEG (world equestrian games), who spied the obstacle course, and wants to cruise around in a car that costs more than twice the average American’s salary. A joyride in a Land Rover.

“What kind of car do you like to drive?” the short, bald guy asks me.

What kind of car do I like to drive?? 
A car that doesn’t have granola bar wrappers scattered on the floor boards. A car without my dirty gym clothes in it. Or crushed Cheerios. And a training potty.

I stand there staring blankly and the guy sighs. He gestures toward several cars, glinting in the sunshine, fanned out like cards in a deck.

“I don’t know,” I finally say, dumbly. “The normal one.”

The two guys exchange a look. “Why don’t you take the sport model. It’s our smallest one.”

I snap out of it and straightened up. “No, I don’t want the sport model. I want that one,” I say, pointing toward one of the full-size cars.

A third man — the driving assistant — smiles mildly and holds open the door. Sitting shotgun, he’s seen it all in 10 days. “A lot of people haven’t a clue what that little circle is in front of you,” he says, pointing to the steering wheel. “And marijuana does not increase reaction time on this course.”

“Have there been some scary drivers?” I ask.

He nods vigorously, but relaxes when I confirm I’m not sloshed or stoned. And he’s downright relieved when I mention that I drove 13,000 kilometers through western Australia in a Land cruiser. 

I drop my bag and my Walmart polar fleece in the back seat. As if the car’s mine and I’m running errands.

The interior is bathed in a soft buttery leather, the color of ivory tusks. And I’m mesmerized by the buttons, controls and digital dials on the instrument panel.

But as we glide up the first part of the course — a short steep hill that crests into a plunging descent — it’s clear that the car can drive itself.

“Take your foot off the gas and the brake,” the assistant says as I hesitate at the top.

“Off the brake??”

“Yup.”

I wait for the car to plunge down the hill but instead, a braking system kicks in, easing us down the path.

We talk about Australian wildlife as I plunge through the water obstacle and white-knuckle it through a rutted, lopsided track that practically tips the car on its side.

Finally, it’s time for the teeter-totter — a log-lined ramp with a pivoting stump of wood in the middle. I creep up and for a moment the car balances in the air, before its weight pull the teeter-totter down with a “whump.”

Only when I’m done do I ask how much the car costs.

“About $105,000,” the guy answers.

“Oh,” I say offhandedly. As if I have to think about it. I take my free hat and traipse back to the horse show ring.

Maybe it’s for the best that I can’t afford a Land Rover. Luxury cars and crushed Cheerios don’t mix.

But I’ll wear my free hat and think about that car when I’m driving Chitty and toting stuff to the dump.