The first time Danny Unger lent his car to his son Michael, it came back covered in potato chips. Not a few potato chips, mind you. It was as if the Potato Chip Fairy had come along and evenly sprinkled the entire upholstery of his 07’ Maxima with a fine patina of Sour Cream and Onion chips (you could smell the flavor). But then Michael was seventeen at the time, and boys will be boys.
The next time Danny gave Michael the car was the Attack of the Water Bottles. How much fluid could one boy drink? There had to be at least seven empty Poland Spring receptacles strewn around the car. It wasn’t as bad as the potato chip crumbs, but still it was annoying.
The third incident was just a few weeks after he had leased the 2010 Infiniti G37. It still had that new car smell. That is, it did until something punky started emanating from the trunk. The culprit was Michael’s gym bag with a wet bathing suit that he had been left there for over a week. The car never fully recovered.
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder had suffered numerous insults from the boy. Milky Way wrappers. Used gum in the cup holders. A constant manipulation of his radio station settings, not to mention a preponderance of base on the stereo system. But when his rear bumper was dented without explanation Danny drew the line. Michael was banned from driving his car. Cindy had the Honda Odyssey minivan, and that would have to do. She was accustomed to her car being abused, whereas Danny wanted to keep his wheels more pristine. Michael objected, but Danny held his ground. There would be no kids driving his car, and the edict was final.
Sometimes Danny’s edict presented difficulties. One time Cindy was out with the minivan and Michael had to get to an interview for a summer job, but Danny held his ground. Much to his chagrin, Michael had to take an Uber.
The 2017 Honda Accord was Danny’s first hybrid, and he was very proud of it. Leather interior. Adaptive cruise control. Heated seats. Wicked stereo system. It had everything. And it got forty-eight miles per gallon. It was his dream machine.
So when Michael asked to borrow it to go on a date, Danny did not think long about his response.
“Do I need to bring up the potato chips?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“How about the gym bag?”
“That was, like, ten years ago.”
“Some things never really change, Mikey.”
“But some things do change, Dad. I’m a college graduate. I’m in dental school and I’m a very responsible person. People trust me with their teeth, among many other things in their lives.”
“That’s why we still have the minivan, Michael. So that you have a mode of transportation that can take some abuse, and I can maintain my blood pressure only slightly elevated.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“Things change, Dad.”
“And sometimes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
“Do you know who you’re like? You’re like Pharoah!”
“Yeah, you know. The ruler of Egypt?”
“Yes, I know whom you’re referring to. I just don’t understand the analogy.”
“Well, at the time of Yetziat Mizraim, when the Israelites were slaves, G-d kept pouring on the plagues, blood, frogs, lice, and so on, but no matter how much the Egyptians were afflicted, Pharoah wouldn’t give in. Even if it led to the destruction of his own people. Of course, the text states that G-d hardened Pharoah’s heart, as if his stubbornness came from an outside source, but many commentaries suggest that it was just Pharoah’s stubborn nature all along. G-d just left it unchecked. Pharoah was acting irrationally, and G-d just didn’t interfere.”
“So you’re saying that I’m being irrationally stubborn?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“Despite everything that you’ve done to my motor vehicles in the past?”
“The far distant past.”
“And you’re saying this could end badly?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. I don’t think that if you withhold your car then darkness will prevail throughout the land, or that your first born—namely me—is in jeopardy. But I do think that my date might start out on more solid footing if I pulled up in your fancy, fuel efficient, vehicle instead of the minivan with the seats that the dog has been chewing on for the last ten years.”
“And I’m being unreasonable?”
“Like an Egyptian ruler with a chip on his shoulder.”
Father and son stared at each other for a few moments.
“O.K., you can borrow the car.”
“Wow. History is made.”
“Well, I have to admit I found your Pharoah analogy compelling.”
“I’m glad it worked.”
“But just know that I’m going to inspect the car with a fine-tooth comb when you get back.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
“And I’ll know if you messed with the stereo.”
“I won’t touch the bass or treble, I promise. Can I change the station?”
“Sure. And try out the Sirius satellite stations. They’re going to blow your mind.”
“Only if it’s really O.K. with you.”
“Go to town, buddy.”