Mr. Half pimping up a Toyota

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

If you've met The Other Half, you'd probably agree that the pimp side of him doesn't exactly shine through.

By pimp, I mean the cleaned-up definition kids are using nowadays, as in MTV's "Pimp My Ride" and Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin." Today's pimp need not fear the vice squad -- he's simply a man with a fine car, a large home, pretty girlfriends and fabulous clothes.

Frankly, The Other Half doesn't fit the definition.

He's outwardly conservative, with a military-type haircut, a workweek wardrobe consisting of khaki pants and polo-style shirts and a nine-year marriage to a woman that, while beautiful in her own way, isn't going to grace your average music video.

But Mr. Half has been pimping his ride, a white 1994 Toyota Tercel with nearly 100,000 miles on it, a dent in the rear fender and some paint missing from the driver-side door.

Don't get me wrong. The Tercel is a fine vehicle.

Other than putting in a new water pump back at 75,000 miles, it has been problem free. And it has another plus: We made the final payment years ago.

However, a 10-year-old compact car is not a chick magnet under any definition. It is basic transportation, perfect for my husband's 35-minute commute.

But lately, Mr. Half hasn't been seeing it that way.

Last year, he purchased a sheepskin steering wheel cover. If you are unfamiliar with these, read the following description from online retailer AutoBarn. com: "This genuine sheepskin steering wheel cover is luxurious, rich and elegant. It offers a personalized look to your vehicle as well as superior cushioning and insulation. It keeps your hands warm in the winter and cool in the summer." If you still can't picture it, just drape some sort of dead animal over your steering wheel.

For Christmas, Mr. Half asked for new speakers and a CD player, which put the value of the sound system well over the value of the car. I figure it will be boosted within the month.

In January, he put in a new, oversized gear shifter knob in some funky geometric shape. Last week, he had reflective tint put on the windows. This week, he bought a rubber mallet to pound out the dent in the fender and checked into some estimates for replacing the missing paint on the door. On Monday, he mentioned Neoprene seat covers.

So I finally had to ask. "Sweetie," I said, "why are you putting so much money into a car with that much mileage on it?"

He looked perturbed. "If I'm just going to drive this thing until it quits, I want to be comfortable."

I didn't press, but isn't this stuff more about appearance than comfort? Of course, the sheepskin wheel cover "keeps your hands warm in the winter and cool in the summer," but I can't see how the oversized gear shifter knob is any more comfortable.

I think it might just have a little more to do with the fact that my man is 33, he's got a few lines around his eyes and his hair is getting a little thin.

Then, to add insult to injury, he's driving his wife's old economy car.

And here we are in Florida, the land of tan men, pretty girls and fast cars. Maybe he doesn't have $50,000 for the current model Corvette convertible, but he has $150 for fancy seat covers, darn it!

I just hope he finds out that, unlike some, he doesn't need a pimped-out ride to be a terrific guy.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor of the Southeast Missourian who now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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