What is there about a BMW?

I’ve devoted my adult life to helping people heal so they could stop living in pain, and learn to embrace joy and possibility instead. This was not an easy work.  It could have been, if I’d done it halfway, seeing people on the hour every hour for the fee alone, but that was not my style.  The work was intense and deep so I could do little of it, which often resulted in living hand to mouth.

I drove economy cars, my favorite being a Nissan Sentra, which I bitterly grieved when it broke beyond my ability to fix.  I was married at the time with a holiday trip to Los Angeles planned, so we scurried about searching for a vehicle in our price range. At the last minute we found a 2002 BMW which drove like a dream. The used car guy gave us a deal and the credit union plugged us in at $200 a month. It was doable. The car was definitely a boy car with black leather interior, glowing jet plane dash and sports tires hugging the road on every curve, the price of gas and repairs astronomical. The car was a thoroughbred race horse in need of exquisite care.

One year after purchase, my recently married husband split, offering car payments as a parting gift. Then my mother died, leaving me enough money to move from Oregon – bless her generous soul. And so I arrived in my new California home looking like a rich lady with a fancy car and some bills in her pocket, instead of the single welfare mom I’d been most of my life. 

The thing is – I am just me, the same country girl I’ve always been who is not afraid of hard work, dresses for comfort instead of fashion, and has no airs at all. But apparently my car speaks louder than I do.

People believe that folks who drive BMW’s are rich. They just do and I used to too. I remember when a young doctor came for sessions, asking for a sliding scale. I considered his school loans and said yes, but when I saw him speed off in a vintage Beemer I was furious. “That’s the last time I’m giving anyone a sliding scale,” I said aloud. I felt had, taken advantage of, resentful, and all because of my beliefs about his car. 

Let me back up here and share some of my BMW interactions.

First there was my client, Susan, who drove a brand new BMW while speaking of her financial woes. Her abusive husband had more money than God, but kept her on a tiny budget, causing her to steal grocery money for our sessions. “Things are not always as they appear,” she told me.

Over dinner, a woman from my writing group expressed how much she hated those BMW drivers – those people. “They always push ahead of everyone else on the freeway and have no manners at all.”

“But I’m not like that,” I countered. “Maybe it’s because the car is a race horse and doesn’t like to be reined in.” She was unconvinced. I had crossed a line and there was no way back.

My own daughter was uncomfortable driving the car to her daughter’s environmentally conscious school where the parents walk, bike or arrive in old Volvo’s. “What will people think?” she said “That car is not the image I want to convey.”

The BMW stigma baffled me, so I asked a client to share his thoughts as we made conversation on the way to his KIA station wagon. “Why do you think folks dislike BMW drivers so much?”  He didn’t hesitate. “Those people think their crap doesn’t stink.”  Those people.

Another client, a world famous rock star who tours the globe making several million a week often used sessions to lament discrimination toward the rich. At the time I thought I’d like to have such a problem. Only now do I begin to understand. Folks in Oregon have yelled at me, tried to force me off the road or made nasty slurs as I’ve driven by, things they never did when I drove the Sentra. 

In Ojai, at a recent yard sale, a man drove off in his BMW, and the woman having the sale was upset. “I don’t believe it. Here I was giving him deals and he drives away in a BMW.” I remembered the young doctor I’d felt the same way about and decided to explain that all BMW drivers were not rich. She was unconvinced.

Only yesterday my friend Barbara, being sympathetic to the 99% movement, waved her support through my car window, then felt embarrassed. “Oh my gosh, here I am saying I’m supportive while driving around in a BMW. How ridiculous that must seem.”

And this morning my friend Julio recoiled when I offered to drive him in search of employment. “No, no Karen. If I show up in a BMW, no one will think I need the work. I’ll take my bike.”

So that’s my story. Ordinary girl buys extraordinary car and gets stuck in a societal box. Don’t you think that’s a lot of authority for a car to have?  I sure do.

Truth be known, a pick up truck would serve my wants much better for the hauling, gardening and transporting I need, but I do love the way the car drives, its elegant spirit and beautiful interior.

And sometimes I have to admit that its fun and even helpful to have folks believe that I’m wealthy and successful, because in many ways I am. So for the time being, I’m that rich lady who drives around Ojai in her Beemer. Sometimes in a twilight zone of prejudice, but all the time enjoying a car that handles like it was made in heaven. 

Age appropriate

  blk & white

Gib and I bought a BMW before we drove to LA for Thanksgiving last year. We needed something. My car was pronounced dead and his was an old Honda Civic without shocks or creature comforts. Well, some creatures found it comfortable, like the mice in the pole barn, but I never did. Anyway, the Saturday before we left we found a beautiful Beamer the color of the sea. It stood out like the amazing machine it was. I am a sucker for beauty in people and machines, so I was sold. But it is definitely a guy car! We got the sports package. I don’t exactly know what that means, except it has performance tires that hug the road and make it hard to steer. The inside is black, the dashboard looks like it belongs in a private jet and the seats have more positions than a thousand piece puzzle. My neighbors have named my car, Jumping Jack Flash, which is a good masculine name and suits his spirit. 

Gib drove to LA, feeling manly, he had found his inner stud and its real world reflection. The car responded by doing whatever he wanted and more, while I declined driving. But it was supposed to be my car, so when we got back to Portland I got behind the wheel. The thing is, the car and I really never got to be friends. I even asked the dealer to take it back but everyone agreed that with enough time I could learn to love it. I do admire its beauty and capabilities, but in real life, it’s beyond me. 

It’s like when I visit my son, Clay. At home I can manage because my life is simple. I write on the deck under the tree with pad and pen in hand, then type it into my very old version of Word Perfect and send it off, but when I visit my son, he owns the best of the best in computer technology. He is the graphics king and uses machines and software I have no right being in the same room with. Honestly, I don’t even know how to turn his system on. Well, that’s how it is with the Beamer. It should belong to someone who understands it. 

When my daughter told her friends I had a BMW, they shook their heads and said, your mom? That just doesn’t seem like your mom. I definitely have a classy elegant side that loves fine things, but fine machines are a tad beyond me. And why am I bringing all this up now?…because Kristen has borrowed my car to go to Seattle. She likes to borrow my car, and has NO trouble seeing herself in a BMW at all. That means we trade. When she takes my car, I drive her 1989 Volvo which has 300,000 miles on it. It is elderly, friendly, white, needs a new transmission, has torn seats, and is basically as comfortable a car as I could imagine.

Kristen’s car is sort of a Clydesdale’s mare, while the BMW is a high-strung thoroughbred. He wants to run fast and does. I spend all my driving time reining him in, which is not easy, because he tricks me. I think I’m going down the highway at 55 and look down to find it’s 80. That car is just like a spirited horse, and horses always know when someone inexperienced is on their back, and will throw them off or take advantage of them every time. 

The Volvo on the other hand is a feminine spirit. She putts down the highway with aged integrity, not pushing in line or showing off like Jumpin’ Jack Flash. She is, in a few words ‘age appropriate.’ I also like her because she is not precious like her brother. The BMW shuts down in snow, refusing to leave the corral. If I coax him out, he slides in the ditch and says, I told you I don’t like cold feet. Put me back. The Volvo on the other hand will fight to make it up the driveway and succeed. She’s wise and snow-worthy. She’ll also allow children to stand on her roof to pick the plums, cherries and apples along the road, while Jumping Jack would not lower himself, for fear of scratching his perfect surface.

 Jumpin’ Jack is not thrilled to have me on his back. He’d prefer a 30 year old jockey with growing testosterone levels, but for now, we have each other and need to co-exist. He’ll be back in my driveway soon, a target for bird poop and cedar branches. I even found a slug on his windshield last week. That really pisses him off because he knows he should live in an upscale neighborhood with his own paddock, not be left to rot with an old girl who fancies broken down Volvo’s.


clockwork1Machines and I are not friends. I basically hate them all. If I could live in the 18th century, I would be happier. My husband loves machines. His veins flow in gigabytes and moving parts. He is happiest when he falls asleep on the couch, his face inches from the unnatural glow of the computer screen.

He updates my equipment for me. I know I should be grateful, but I am not, because I don’t know the difference. I don’t have a single brain cell that jumps forward to say, time to update your hardware, time to update your software. I understand updating my underwear.

Gib will spend his last dime on electronics, while I would pay him the same amount to keep them out of the house. I have never lived with electronics, partly because the spirits around me don’t like them. When I made tape recordings for my clients, there would be a buzz in the background making it nearly impossible to hear. Clients would suggest buying new equipment, but the machine was never the problem.

When Gib came to live in my house, he was respectful of my need for electronic free living , but I could see it was killing him, so I relented. I compromised but have never been comfortable with it. I explained about my spirits, but of course that all sounds like so much mumbo jumbo. He was having an impossible time getting a computer to work that sat in the corner of the living room. He worked on it for an entire month, but nothing he did kept it running. I knew it wasn’t working, because my spirits did not want it in the living room. In a moment of monumental frustration on his part, I asked if he wanted my help. He smiled and stepped back. I grabbed my shamanic rattle, cleansed the corner and talked with the spirits. It’s not forever, I told them. It’s just for now. He needs the computer to work just for now. I stood back and the computer sprang to life. I’ll never forget the look on Gib’s face. He looked like the dead had risen. I explained again what had happened, even drawing a picture of the energies that were against the placement of the machine. They are not bad, just not compatible, I said. Later that month, my friend Kim came by and gave us the solution of putting the computer in the entryway where we could close the door behind it. That worked beautifully.

Gib just bought me a BMW. Imagine. That is the most complicated car-machine there is. The seat alone has 27 different positions, and if I lose my keys, like I do when too much is going on in my life, it’s nearly $200 to replace them. Yipes!  Gib is dear, and as foreign to me as an Arab. He says BMW stands for Be My Woman. Charming.

If I was going to feel at home with transportation, I’d move back to upstate New York and acquire a horse and buggy like the Mennonites that crowd the highway. I understand having a horse and wagon, a barn and a garden. I understand a woodstove, making preserves, canning and quilts. That is who I am. I need to live simply, cuddled into a quiet piece of earth, not pushed against cutting edge technology, but he is the opposite. Ninety per cent of our relationship is a huge challenge. Being married is a huge challenge! It’s like having company that never goes home.

Gib just brought me a new laptop so I can write my blog away from home. It’s a different keyboard and a new machine to make friends with. I want to be grateful, and I sort-of am, but really, I am mostly a dyed-in-the-wool ingrate.