Daniel Pinkwater in Fat City!
My mother told me to always put on fresh underwear, never eat hamburger away from home, and stay out of small foreign cars. You should always listen to your mother, but... circumferentially challenged readers of a certain age will appreciate that most of us become a bit less flexible and spry, not to mention more challenged, as the years go by.
I was thinking about these matters while trying to get out of my beloved old BMW 735iii, which had served me well...but even it required a special entry and exit technique. This process involved six separate steps, and ended with my ejecting myself like a cork out of a champagne bottle. Getting into the car was akin to putting on a diver's wetsuit.
Not far from my home is Kingston, New York-where there are plenty of fat people. Here, in the parking lot of Super K-Mart, I waited and watched of a Saturday morning. I had that feeling of excitement and anticipation the expert bird-watcher or game-spotter enjoys. I had chosen a prime parking lot location. I had my notepad and pencil, my binoculars, my cup of coffee, my bag of doughnuts-all the impedimenta of the sportsman-cum-scientist. I scanned the lot for my first fat guy.
And here he came! A trophy-quality specimen! He pulled up in a late-model SUV. Perfect! I particularly wanted to see what kind of ease of access those monsters offered. I held my breath and watched through the field glasses. My subject braced a forearm against the steering wheel, and appeared to have to exert some force to get his ample tummy past it, at the same time flinging open the door, and grabbing the doorframe. He then abruptly twisted his torso and slid out of the truck. Disappointing. This was a man who would need a chiropractor sooner or later.
A full-size luxury car hove into view, driven by a double extra-large gorilla-looking fellow. He employed the twist-in-place, push-out-with-both-arms-and-both-legs technique with which I was all too familiar. When he returned to his car, he slid his right leg and posterior in first, then grabbed his head with both hands and sort of tucked it under the upper edge of the doorframe, and then pulled his left leg in. A creative but tortured mode of entry.
I continued observing. I saw many styles and many vehicles. Most impressive were those who more or less ran at the open door, head lowered, and simply hurled themselves into their cars. Others stood up on the doorsill, and seemed to melt downward into the car, like the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Nobody my size, or even slightly smaller, appeared to have a better shot at the driver's seat than I did.
And then, one of those new Volkswagen Beetles appeared. I barely took any notice...until, the door swung open, and there emerged...a giant! A fat giant! He seemed to get out without stress or strain...with dignity even! I waited, astonished, until he came out of the store, eating K-Mart popcorn. Unthinkable! A fat man about to attempt car entry with greasy hands! He settled into the machine as though it were his armchair at home, and drove off, munching.
It seems that in making that cute retro bug resemble its historic predecessor, the designers created huge wide doors and vast amounts of headroom (key.for those whose natural upholstery causes them to sit high). It was minutes later that I was on the premises of Heart Volkswagen, the dealer up the road. Their logo is a big red heart...so cute...they love you. I tried a New Beetle on for myself. It was, like they say in the Manly Man Big-and-Tall catalog, a relaxed fit. I bought the turbo, with heated leather seats, a moonroof, and a spoiler that pops up by itself at 93 miles per hour...very useful.
And that is why I, a maxi-type, am driving a mini-car. It's a case of multum in parvo, the great contained by the small.
Daniel Pinkwater is a popular commentator on NPR, and host of Chinwag Theater, a program heard on many public radio stations. He has written numerous books for children and young people, and is a swell guy.