“What made you do this? I can’t believe it,” my neighbor said. “I would never have imagined you going this route.” And this is what I told her.
Well, you know those commercials for the red Cadillac CTS where the gorgeous red-haired actress from Private Practice smiles seductively while driving around a curve? Then she looks into the camera and asks, ‘When you turn on your car does it do the same for you?’ Well, I fell in love with that car, way out of my price range, because it was red. Red was always my favorite color. I’ve always owned a pair of red shoes, which I referred to as my ruby slippers since I was about 9. Then I saw this sleek red Cadillac—my favorite luxury car maker—and thought, “I want that.” It was totally irrational. I didn’t need it. My gold Ford Focus gets me where I want to go just fine. And still that red Cadillac CTS haunts me.
I am a person who wears concert tee shirts, specifically from various Eric Clapton and B.B. King tours, with a Willie Nelson and Leon Russell one thrown into the collection (none of which are red, by the way). I do wear some red tee shirts showing my loyalty to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, and let’s face it, they were named for a beautiful red bird—or at least the male is a beautiful red bird while the female is just kind of brownish. I am not the type of person that would drive a Cadillac CTS. I certainly do not in any way resemble Kate Walsh, the tall, sophisticated red-headed actress who plays an obstetrician on TV. Perhaps Kate, or Addison, her character might be driving this car, but me? A two bit writer of articles about local people who make changes in our community?
After all, she’s famous and on TV. I just write stories about a determined Gulf War veteran who has been able to achieve her dream through the Habitat for Humanity program. And how the conductor and musician for Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, a world renowned extravaganza here in Orlando has volunteered his time to revive the jazz band in his son’s public school while he performs ten shows a week, gives music lessons and brings worldwide musicians to perform in his home while a local artist paints a masterpiece on stage during the music.
My job is just to find these special people and write articles about them, not to be seen weekly by millions of people who follow the scripts that Addison—I mean Kate—remember (or read) so well. And she gets to walk down RED carpets. She is so perfect in that car. I want that car. I want to be perfect in that car. I want to be seductive Kate in that car. I want to walk down red carpets after someone helps me step out of that car in my red stilettos and gown slit up to my hip (which would look stupid since I’m 4 foot 10 and my hip isn’t very high off the ground.)
Alas, I am a little, blond writer who has passed the time of midlife crisis although I never really experienced one. Maybe I was just a little slow, busy raising the kids and getting the grandchildren started in their new little lives. And now I have time for a midlife crisis. Perhaps that is what this is all about. Besides, my grandmother was a very successful businesswoman and always wanted a Cadillac. My grandfather was thrifty (that’s the nice way of saying cheap) and insisted they drove a Ford. That woman was my hero so maybe that’s the underlying reason why I want that car. And she had red hair, too. And when it wasn’t quite so red anymore, she went to the beauty parlor to keep it red, almost until the day she died. She had her red hair but never her Cadillac.
So it would seem that my reasoning here is two-fold, maybe three. I have an obsession with the color red that dates back to the Wizard of Oz, an obsession with red haired women which stems from my grandmother, mother, aunt and sister all having red hair and my being brunette (now blond with a little help from L’Oreal) like my father and I have an obsession with Cadillacs, especially this new CTS.
Knowing I could never own the Cadillac, I talked myself out of driving down the self pity route in my Ford Focus. And then I saw this new Dell laptop in the stores. It was red. I decided that since I was planning to buy a laptop anyway I would buy that red Dell computer. I went to the local Staples store that was advertising them, knew the price was within range about $549, then bought the software I needed to work, plus the case and the 3 year extended warranty, a package of DVDs and before I knew it I was checking out. They were still trying to sell me services when I looked at the total which was over $1,100! For a $549 laptop! What had just happened here? I got home looked back over the receipt to see what these extra charges were for. Some of them were ludicrous. I didn’t even take the computer out of the box and install the software. I was in shock.
The next day I returned it all except for the software which I knew I would have to keep because I had in fact broken the seal. I needed help so I went to Best Buy to talk to a geek or two. I expressed my obsessive desire for the red Dell computer. The salesman understood—he owned one himself! Then he asked me what I would be using the computer for and I told him. I’m a writer. I write articles and short stories. I am working on a book but it’s not War and Peace or the Brothers Karamazov.
“Do you download movies?” he asked. I thought he was joking. “Do you do a lot of gaming? How about programs, do you download a lot of them? Are you planning on loading a lot of specialized software?” No, no, no, no and no. “Then you don’t need this computer. Why don’t you go with this nice little HP Compaq that has a lot of gigs of memory and RAM and a DVD slot, etc. for $399? If you want to buy the extended warranty you’ll be insured against breakage from dropping the computer, spilling water on the keyboard, lightning strikes or anything else.”
Similar to my experience at Staples, I was asking myself what just happened here? I came in to buy the pretty red Dell and the salesman DOWN sold me to a less expensive model that will meet my needs and make me happy and be insured, with a case all for under $750 including tax. Ah, but there was that one little thing that I played down—it wasn’t red! I took my extra money and got over that fact in a hurry.
So now here I am again about to make a fairly large purchase. Larger than a laptop but nowhere near as large as a Cadillac CTS. Did I happen to mention that the car was red? This should be a simple decision.
We need a new sofa. My husband and I had made a final decision to buy leather this time. He said he was leaving the decorating to me because I’m the one that’s good about that stuff. We’re putting in walnut colored laminate floors and I took the large sample of the flooring with me today when I went to the furniture store just to start looking. The salesman approached me as I knew one would. He asked me if I knew what I was looking for and if he could help me find it. With no hesitation whatsoever I told him matter-of-factly that I was looking for a red leather sofa—oh and it had to have recliners on both sides. Yeah, right. Like they would even make such a thing.
“Right this way,” he said. I was starting to tremble. I had even gone online and Googled red leather sofas and came up with very little. The salesman led me to the most beautiful red plush back sofa with soft cushy arms and POWER reclining seats on each end. POWER! You sort of push a button similar to putting up and down your windows in your car. The foot bar goes slowly up until you stop it at the desired height or you can push the other way and it will go down a little or all the way. All I would have to do is plug it into the wall. And how much would this little baby cost me? $1,500, plus $99 delivery and $200 for a 5 year extended warranty that covered any spills, ink, marks, stains or damage to the sofa. For $200 less I could get the regular old fashioned recliner where you grabbed something on the side and the foot bar sprung up into place. It was just as comfortable but not as sexy.
When I got home it was time to tell the hubby that I had found the sofa I wanted. Then I showed it to him on the website. Even though we had discussed the topic and I had informed him of my intention to get a red sofa, he never thought I would find one so he had happily agreed. Surprise!
We got past the issue of color and started talking about floor plans and how I would like to move the furniture and then I told him about the power recliner as opposed to the standard one.
“We don’t need power. That’s silly. The old way works just fine. For $200 I think the price is a little steep but with the 4th of July discount it will be manageable with the zero percent interest for one or two years.”
I had only one word. Wrong! I can’t get the Cadillac CTS and I couldn’t get my red Dell laptop. By golly, or more to the point, Damn it! I want the new power recliner. I don’t want to compromise. I want the red one and I want the power one and I’d better go buy it tomorrow before I am utterly overtaken by rational thinking and the realization that we’ll have to paint walls and maybe buy a chair to go with it. The area rug we had already planned on would be easy to find and I’m creating the wall art myself, some abstract brush strokes on canvas using the colors in the room to tie things together.
I hadn’t thought it through beforehand. I just knew what I wanted. Now I know I am obsessed with the color red ever since equating a pair of red shoes with being home, wherever that was at the time. I am obsessed with my grandmother—her red hair and desire for a Cadillac the first of which she did not pass on to me but the second she obviously did. I even named my dog after her. And to some degree I am craving luxury, thus the power recliner as opposed to the manual. Now when they come out with wi-fi version I will really be impressed but for now I think I will be happy for a long time.
And that, my dear neighbor, is the answer to “Why?”
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.