Going by Colour


That’s my mother. Her involuntary expostulation combined horror/disgust/amusement/outrage/bemusement/disbelief and still rings in my mental ears. What had I done *this* time to warrant a not-entirely unprecedented reaction? Merely announced my car-purchase intentions, if idle-but-genuine musings can be dignified with that name.

I think I’ll buy a green car next time.

Mom liked cars, so she paid attention to them. She was honestly horrified that anyone might buy a car based on colour. She was a little disgusted that I would joke about it. She wasn’t quite sure that I *was* joking.

I wasn’t. I don’t like cars, particularly, so I don’t pay attention. I do like colour.

Most of the time that lack of attention poses no particular problem. After all, I can usually find my vehicle in our garage or on our driveway. But sometimes — as when I emerged from the Elections Canada polling station into the parking lot — it poses a wee problem. I am, after all, looking for a charcoal grey SUV whose overall shape and window configuration I could not reliably describe or distinguish from similar options if my life depended on it.


Now, when I look closely, of course I can see that these vehicles differ in minor matters like their heights, angles, and window shapes. One, I think, might be a van, not an SUV. But at a quick glance, squinting against the sun, they’re all dark grey-ish.

Thanks a bunch, Detroit and similar dens of design silliness. And thank goodness — no sarcasm this time — for unique license plates.

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12 Responses to Going by Colour

  1. Tom Watson says:

    I like any colour of vehicle providing that it’s some shade of red.

    Although, my first new car was a 1959 Plymouth (remember those big tail fins?) and it had an orange body (actually they called it Mohawk rust) with a white top. Pretty snazzy it was.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Hahaha – We used to say of one family member that he liked any colour as long as it was brown. And my mother once bought what she called a red sports car – it was a burgundy Nissan/Datsun. Close enough.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    My current car (actually, Joan’s car, but it’s now mine) is white. Not only white but exactly the same shade of white as countless Toyotas, Fords, and Subarus. Several times, I have gone out into a parking lot — church, store, or mall — found my car, pressed the “unlock” button, and wondered why it wasn’t working. Dead battery? Again? Already? Only to find that it was someone else’s white mono-shape car.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I’d say that I’m glad it’s not just me, but I’m not really happy for anyone else to be caught in this bind. Between my long-standing car-shape blindness and a growing inability to remember exactly where I parked, it’s likely to be an increasing problem. At one point I swore I’d get an artist to apply a Frank Lloyd Wright pattern to a front fender. I haven’t quite gotten up my gumption to do that, either. Maybe I’ll just start parking at the far end of the parking lot, and take the added steps as a bonus.

  3. barbara carlson says:

    When my sister and I (in So. California) came out of anywhere we’d been for more than an hour, we’d forget where we left her silver-coloured car.
    Betsy would say, “Have you any idea, any idea AT ALL, where we parked the car?”
    Me. “No idea.”
    Betsy, “If it weren’t for my dirty hubcaps, I’d never find it.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I’d been living in our latest/last house for maybe 5 years before I realized that the large grocery parking lot had row designators on the lightposts at their ends. That helps a bit, if I remember to look and remember aright.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    “… while in London, Mrs. Charles Hunter [an Edwardian hostess, in excelsis] lived in beautiful, rare, characteristic rooms, painted by a French Singerie* painter of the early eighteenth century… furnished with her own possessions and it is unnecessary to say that she imparted a decorative intent to all she touched: even her motor-car, modelled on a hansom cab, but with a body painted to resemble wicker-work….”

    *A type of humorous picture of monkeys fashionably attired and aping human behaviour.

    from Osbert Sitwell’s autobiography, Great Morning (Vol. III)

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – as you say, thank God for license plates. At least we are no longer in the days when every soccer/hockey mom or dad drove a maroon colored Dodge or Plymouth mini-van. I can distinctly remember going with my friend to watch his daughter play hockey about 20 years ago. When we left the arena one day, all 23 vans in the parking lot were maroon Dodges or their Plymouth stable-mates.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – LOL – I don’t remember the maroon mini-van stage, but it would have been a killer for me. I might still be standing in a parking lot somewhere.

  6. Barbara’s marvelous quotation gave me pause for several minutes until I realized that the decorative paintings existed long before Mrs. Hunter chose to live among them to impart her decorative intent to everything those paintings gazed upon as well as the vehicle (likely in the port cochí¨re). What a delicious bit of writing! I sometimes feel I was born into the wrong era, which is famous for promoting prose that eliminates every “extraneous” word.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes, it’s an entirely different pace from my usual reading – and even more so from my professional writing, where “scannability” was the objective, not readability.

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