Hands Off the Ferrari

Being an immigrant in the United States, many times I feel that we are always going to be second-class citizens here. There will always be discrimination, whether it be deliberate or not.

It does not matter how successful we get in our field of endeavor. It does not matter how high the level of our education is. It does not matter how fluent we speak the English language, albeit with a different accent. It does not matter how we dress-up. It does not even matter if we are already naturalized citizens of the US or not. We will still be viewed as “lowly” immigrants. And its hard to break away from the stereotypes of being one.

This brings me to the story of my friend and former classmate, as narrated by his daughter, during his and his wife’s birthday celebration. Their daughter is in college now.

Several years ago, my classmate, while he was in Las Vegas to attend a physicians’ conference, went to a car show. Besides Medicine, his knowledge in other fields of science is remarkable. You can ask him anything under the sun and he has an idea about it. That’s why we nicknamed him Einstein back in our college days. He is also well-versed in car talk and is a true auto enthusiast.

While he was in the auto show, he was looking at all the beautiful and exotic cars on display and was happily engaged in discussion with the car representatives. With my friend was her daughter who was 7 or 8 years old at that time. Perhaps a car show was the only “safe” show he can bring his little girl to, compared to the other shows Las Vegas is famous for.

The daughter got bored and tired, according to her account, and so it happened that she leaned on one of the expensive cars at the show, that his father has a certain interest in. The car was a gorgeous red Ferrari. The car representative then told my friend to please tell his daughter to get her hands off the car.

It may be that it was a gentle reminder or a small request by the car representative. But to my friend, it sounds like a snub, a slight, and a downright slap on the face.

Do you think I am not a real customer and has no interest in buying this car? Do you think I am not deserving to see or touch this car? Do you think, just because I’m an immigrant, I have no capability of buying this car? Well, my friend did not retort that way, but according to the daughter, that’s what he should have said. Instead, he just took it in stride.

It’s not that we are ‘social climbers,’ or that we are forgetting where we came from. It’s not that we are denying our humble beginnings, for just like me, my friend also used to ride the bus and jeepneys when we were in college, back in the Philippines. What we only asked for, is give us the respect we deserve.

As my friend’s daughter recounted the story, she said that that day, his father made this resolution: that this child, this very child that has a snotty nose and slimy hands, will one day own, and ride on this very car that she was not even allowed to touch.

Several weeks later, a beautiful red car was delivered, and rolled in into the garage of my friend’s house. When the daughter saw the car, she asked his father: “Dad, is this the car?” The car that she was forbidden to lean on.

My friend then proudly said, “Yes, my beloved daughter, this is the car.”


Vintage Driving

I was scooting from one patient’s room to another in our clinic the other day as it was a busy day for me. Our schedule was full and our clinic was busting at the seams with patients. I think that’s good. Not good that many people are sick, but good in the sense of job security.

Then in one stretch of time in the afternoon, I saw three nonagenarians (person in their 90’s) back to back, to back. They were there for asthma follow-up and regular check-up.

Two patients were both 94-year-old ladies, and one patient was a gentleman who was 93. If you don’t look at their records and peek at their birth dates, you would think they were much younger. Decades younger.

All of them were in remarkable shape despite their advanced age. They will put to shame some of my 40 or 50-year-old patients.

All of them still live independently. All of them were spry and sharp, and were still quite active. And all of them still drive. Not drive their family crazy. But they still drive a car! In my opinion, there’s no reason why they cannot.

I know that driving nowadays is getting easier and easier. With most of our cars with automatic transmission, it does not take a lot of skill to drive a car. And now with our advancing technology, there are “smart” cars that will automatically stop and avoid collision, or keep you in lane, or adjust your distance to the cars in front of you, or warn you of your blind spot, or cars that even park itself.

I know not very long from now, we will have self-driving cars, which are already being tested, cruising in all our highways. Then driving ability and skill will not even be necessary.

But still having a very old person at the back of a steering wheel can be a scary thought. If you think about a frail 90-year-old lady with failing eyesight, very poor reflexes and perhaps lapsing memory too, barreling down the road in a big Buick, and you’re in the crossroad, and you wonder if old grandma will be oriented enough to release her foot off the gas and step on the brake.  Will she be able to stop in time not to run you over?


(picture from classbrain.com)

Back to my patients, out of curiosity I asked one of my 94-year-old lady patient what kind of car she drives. A vintage automobile perhaps?

She told me proudly that she drives a bright yellow, German-made, convertible with an accompanying vanity plate. I bet you with a car like that she does not drive slow like a grandma.

Great grandma was still driving in style!

When I came to examine the other 94-year-old lady, I was more than curious to ask what car she drives. As a jest I asked her if she also drives a convertible? Her answer blew me away.

She told me that she used to drive a convertible until 2 years ago, but traded it for a more subdued style of car. She does not care about convertible anymore as it just messes her hair.

Yet she said that she cannot give up though the type of car that she was used to drive, all these years. So even though it was not a convertible, it was still this kind. What kind?

She still drives a stick shift! Ageless indeed.