Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

I think I've got Maserati envy

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There goes the neighbourhood!

That's what I was thinking over the weekend as my wife and I drove home from the mall with enough chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs and other Easter goodies to send our adult children into a sugar-induced coma.

Not far from our house, I was forced to slow down because a huge semi-trailer was parked on one side of the road. When we eased up beside the semi, we saw one of our neighbours parked in his driveway in a brand-new just-delivered car.

And when I say new "car," I am not referring to the regular sort of vehicle you or I might purchase, a reliable gas-guzzler for picking up groceries or driving the dog to the vet's or ferrying mud-encrusted children to and from soccer games.

No, I am talking about -- prepare to be green with envy -- a brand-new Maserati, one of those awe-inspiring luxury Italian sports cars and the sort of innate sex appeal that only comes with a $150,000 price tag.

After eyeballing our neighbour basking in his gleaming new car, we casually peeked inside the open door of the trailer, which was stuffed from top to bottom with racks of brand-new Maseratis in every (bad word) colour of the rainbow.

"Ooh! I like the red one," is what my wife squealed as we slowly drove by.

I personally was forlorn, because I realized the delicate balance of our neighbourhood had just been shattered.

When we got home, I immediately phoned my son, because he is a "car guy," whereas I am not. When my son was born, he popped out with a can of high-gloss Turtle Wax in one hand and a copy of Motor Trend magazine in the other.

"Our neighbour got a new Maserati," I informed my son.

"Sweet!" the boy replied. "What kind?"

I was confused. "What do you mean what kind?" I asked.

"What kind of Maserati?" the boy sniffed, embarrassed to have sprung from the loins of someone who knows so little about worldly matters.

"There are different kinds of Maseratis?" I demanded, breathlessly.

"Yes," my son sighed, launching into an extensive list of numbers and letters denoting exotic variations of this iconic vehicle. "What kind was it?"

I pondered his question. "It was black," I finally said. "And it had those doors that lift up like a bird's wings."

"Sweet!" the boy repeated. "You should become friends with that guy."

But that's the problem. How do you become friends with someone who has just thrown the fragile gender dynamics of your neighbourhood totally out of whack.

For guys, the dynamics of the neighbourhood you live in are very much like the political dynamics of the Cold War arms race.

For instance, if one of your neighbours buys a brand new four-burner, state-of-the-art propane barbecue, you are naturally going to feel threatened, and so, driven by manly instincts beyond the control of your rational mind, you are going to respond by purchasing a shiny new ride-on mower that will put your neighbour's old push mower to shame.

What with the rising cross-border tension, your other neighbour will attempt to regain superiority by getting a snow blower larger than a recreational vehicle, which in turn will cause another nearby guy to escalate tensions even further by persuading his wife they need to install an in-ground swimming pool.

If I recall my history correctly, this is just how the Upper Canada Rebellion got started.

It is different with women in our neighborhood. They do not feel compelled to buy expensive items just because a woman living nearby has recently purchased something they could never afford.

Instead, women will attack each other with "friendly" gifts. For instance, our neighbour, Yvonne, dropped by on the weekend to give my wife some lovely lilies for Easter. This prompted my wife to retaliate by running up to the grocery store to buy several bunches of daffodils for Yvonne.

But daffodils and ride-on mowers are a far cry from a (bad word) Maserati, which is kind of a nuclear weapon in terms of material items a guy can buy to give him tactical superiority over every other guy in his neighbourhood.

But I think I have found a way to restore the uneasy peace in our suburb.

I have decided to place an order for the manliest vehicle I know. I'm talking about a space shuttle -- a used one, of course, because I'm not made of money.

Unfortunately, they only come in white. Still, a couple of coats of Turtle Wax should bring out the shine.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2014 A2

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