Took a little vacation recently, which might be news in itself, being as I rarely use the weeks alloted here, partly due to economic reasons, partly owing to a car that's rolling on its final pins, while leaving me in needles about how much it's going to cost to repair THIS time.

But I had the impetus, the location, the company, and so decided what the heck. Take the break. Life's too short for excess hand-wringing and whinging.

Take the jaunt, just in the rental.

My actual car is still waiting on parts from London. London Mars, possibly, or mayhap elsewhere in or outside our galaxy, because it can't just be London England, after all these weeks. You can get a book sent from London within about two days. Surely Jaguar has Amazon-level capabilities?

In Tuscaloosa, you've got to get around, and not just in the Beach Boys sense, because whatever virtues of our taxis, buses and various ride-sharing services, truth is if you don't have access to a car, you're jammed. A lot of work can be done from a phone, or a computer, sure, but to live in the flow of an Art Night or Bama Art House film or symphony concert, or just to, you know, check out a movie, hit the bookstore or meet a friend for coffee, you've gotta have car. Miles and miles and miles of car.

I'm renting from Hertz/AAA, who by the way give good service. Check 'em out. And no, I get no discount for an endorsement. Just something positive to share, for a change.

But then — as in the plot to all stories — something happened. 

They were out of economy cars, but for the same price, offered me a midsize. "Sure," I said, "more space is fine," as I'd be driving sevenish hours to and fro across the Georgia savanna to Savannah.

Up revs the AAA rep in this Hot Wheels of a Dodge. I'm standing there, baby-fishmouthed, gawping like "Duh, what's mine?" Expecting a Camry or Taurus. Do they still make Taurus? Anyway.

This beast humps up front like a basking shark crossed with an early geologic mishap times prime Sean Connery's breastplate. It's constructed as if the engineers couldn't possibly prep for massive testosterone buildup oozing from underneath, and so, late in the game, welded on slabs of excess metal to (barely) constrain the beef.

Whoa Charger! Down horsepower! Too much pork for just one forklift!

Spoilers, fins and other extraneous slapped-on silliness romp up and down the chassis. The wheels roll like a dare; lights snap on like a threat.

Somewhere in a treefort or basement playroom gather a gaggle of greasy 12-year-old boys, jacked up on Mr. Pibb, Bubble Yum and Doritos Cool Ranch, all of whom have JUST slammed face-first into puberty, designing cars like this, cause yeah, man.

But I rolled with it: vacation. And yes, it felt like I understood bro-country songs, for the first time. Still don't like 'em. But I get 'em. And thanks to satellite radio, will never have to listen to 'em again. Except during soundcheck at three-quarters of shows at the amphitheater. Even funk bands don't need that much kick drum, folks.

The drive out was pleasant enough, thanks to satellite radio for entire Broadway shows, for Verdi and Mozart and Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, oh my. Though there's nothing much across mid-Georgia except more mid-Georgia, the combo of caffeine, un-ad-interrupted music and a game — though honestly, it's a mushy ride for such a muscular auto — vehicle helped time fly by. Maybe people were staring on the Interstate, but if so, I didn't spot, too busy looking for some sign of less Georgia ahead.

The spectacle didn't truly become funny until I met up at Savannah. Consensus from people who know me: Yeah, that's not you.

As we rolled onto the beaches of Tybee Island, a fellow traveler gamely dangled her foot — one of them; she possesses a pair — out the passenger window, though she doesn't possess the burnt-blonde flowing locks to whipblind from passing wind, ala every rock video ever featuring humpbacked shark man-cars, while I feverishly scanned satellite radio for the All-'70s-Aerosmith RAWKS station.

But what's chilling — aka hilariously weird — has been the gawk-reaction from random dudes.

Not-so-stellar-looking guy outside the grocery store, or the beach sushi joint, or the kayak rental place, or the dive bar where the claw machine rakes out suspicious-looking plastic novelties:

"Heeeey."

Initially I'm concerned I might have to fight for or about a woman, because, you know, dudes. But no, turns out they're flirting with me, or this machismo machine, or both.

"How you like drivin' that?"

Which could also be misunderstood fightin' talk, but by intention and direction, all such gents made clear the dame of their intent was indeed the Dodge. This happened four times within the span of one day, that, or close variations, all from complete strangers: "You likin' that car?" "I liiiike that car." "How you doin' ... with that car?

Can't remember how many approaches like that I've heard in total. Feel kinda bad letting 'em know it's just a rental. "But my real car's a Jag!" I wanna stage-whisper, though I then recall, in the nearly 10 years I've owned the Jagster, not a SINGLE DUDE has ever whistle-admired its sleek, sophisticated, yet understated curves.

Clearly, I am not a man-car kinda man.

Now that the X-Type's costing more to repair than a monthly payment, I'm a-shoppin' for new wheels, and man will it sadden dude-brigades when I buzz up in a taut, economical but barely bulging Fit.

Ah well. Bro'hood — with a hump — while it endures.

 

Reach Tusk Editor Mark Hughes Cobb at mark.cobb@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0201.