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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Road map to self-realization unfolds when foot hits gas pedal

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Staff Writer

As dog is man's best friend, so it is with cars and women.

Guys love cars for reasons like speed, style, power and technology. But for women, cars mean one thing.


This is less the case in Honolulu than on the Mainland. Where I grew up, it was a God-given right to drive like a maniac all day or night, in my own little seat, listening to my tunes, until I felt like stopping.

Beginning with joyriding in Dad's convertible at age 15, a car put me on equal footing with anyone. It doesn't take strength to push the pedal to the metal or squeal around a turn. And Lord knows I never lacked the aggression.

I can tell that women who grew up in Hawai'i don't think of their cars in quite the same way. Their cars are mostly for carrying things, and that should be done lightly and carefully, as with precious cargo.

That must be why to me their vehicles look like spotless waiting rooms or tidy nurseries, complete with Beanie Babies, Winnie-the-Pooh shades and Kleenex.

I know that women here are expected to drive carefully and politely, give way to other cars, always wait for a wave to merge, and show the patience of a lamb and the will of a sheep.

But I have no patience for this kind of driving. To me, a car means getting somewhere — preferably fast. The point is to stay in motion, which means going around stationary objects, like the minivan that been waiting an eternity to merge onto the H-1 from a dead stop.

Growing up in a place where the only way out is in a car, you come to appreciate what it symbolizes. To be without a car in America is to be literally tied down, dependent on other people, going where they go. You can't go out and make it in the world without wheels.

And that, after all, is the American way: "Go West, young motorist." The road trip is our road map to self-realization, from "The Grapes of Wrath" to "Thelma and Louise." Our great country was forged on the freedom to go — by train, plane, but especially by car. And because we drive in America, we have choices, like regular or super premium. That's got to be worth sacrificing a few thousand lives for.

I've noticed that living out of a car can be a popular alternative lifestyle with runaway women. It allows us to nest while staying on the move, carrying all our best brand-name goods with us. And we're safe, as long as we don't really stop.

That's why finding a souvenir of some impulsive excursion always makes me smile. Amid the empty coffee cups, moldy T-shirts and ancient phone books, an old map or empty matchbook under the seat testifies that I am an equal on the great highway of American opportunity, that I can get there as fast as anybody.

Do women in Iraq, with all that country's oil wealth, have the same opportunity?

Of course not. That's why they need to be liberated. Because in Saturn country, as we ladies know, a stylish chassis is a girl's best friend. And a firm grip on the stick shift is a woman's best defense.