The security question that popped up on my computer screen when I tried to
access my bank account recently threw me for a loop.
“What model car did
your father drive when you were growing up?”
“What model car did your
father drive when you were growing up?”
You have to love those security
questions; it’s like playing The Newlywed Game with yourself.
your favorite movie?”
“What sports team do you most love to see lose?”
the nickname you gave your grandmother?”
Those questions make you think, trigger
Selecting answers to them is an exercise in self
“What is your favorite candy?”
“Who was your childhood hero?”
“Where do you want to retire?”
The trick, of course, is giving an answer you
will be able to reflexively recall months later. The childhood hero question
really got me thinking. All I wanted to do was get into my bank account, yet
there I was being asked a question that went to the very essence of my being, to
the very core of my self-perception.
What should I answer? Was it Floyd
Little, the great Denver Broncos running back of yore, or Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the
great Revisionist Zionist leader? I know who I should say my childhood hero WAS,
the one that would fit in with the way I like to see myself. But the truth, what
about the truth? Ah, the truth is a complex animal.
THE KEY in answering
these questions, obviously, is picking the query that has only one possible
response. For instance, “What sports team to you love to see lose?” Easy: the
Oakland Raiders. No hesitation there, no stammering, no doubt. Wake me up in the
middle of the night with that question and I would sputter, even half asleep,
What you don’t want is a question you need to think about
later when answering. There is nothing worse – nothing that makes you feel more
dense – than choosing a security question for yourself, and then not remembering
the answer a few months down the line.
Which is how I felt for a moment
when “What model car did your father drive when you were growing up” ran across
my computer screen.
“There must be a mistake,” I thought,
“What kind of question is that? That is not something I would
But then I regained my composure and realized that of course
I had picked that question, because there was only one possible answer:
Chevrolet, always Chevrolet.
My parents didn’t buy Fords, because Henry
Ford was an anti-Semite; didn’t buy German cars, because of the Holocaust;
didn’t buy Japanese cars, because they wanted to buy American; and didn’t buy
Buicks, because they were too expensive. So it was Chevy, they always bought
Chevy. Good old American Chevrolet.
Years from now, when my kids are
asked that same question, they will answer “Japanese cars.”
And their answer,
with some slight variation, will be similar to what mine was: “Not Fords,
because Ford was an anti-Semite; not German cars, because of the Holocaust; not
Chevys, because they were too expensive. So it was Japanese cars, they always
bought Japanese cars.”
THE FIRST car The Wife and I ever bought was 24
years ago, a week before The Lad, my oldest son, was born. First kid, first car
– made sense.
This was a blue, four-door Subaru – that model so
ubiquitous on Israel’s roads at the time. The Wife demanded we buy Subaru
because it was the first Japanese auto company to break the Arab
We are not a family that divorces major purchases from
We sold that car 10 years later, soon after the youngest of our
four kids got so big we could no longer shoehorn all of them all into the back
By then Mitsubishi was also bucking the Arab boycotts, so we bought
a Mitsubishi Spacewagon.
Great car, the Mitsubishi Spacewagon. Room for
seven, power steering, automatic widows, rear suspension: the whole nine yards.
We bought it used with some 15,000 kilometers on it, and sold it last month –
after 14 years – with some 265,000. And when we sold it, I cried.
didn’t really cry, but I should have, I felt like it: that sale marked the end
to a lovely period of our lives.
I’M NOT REALLY sure why we kept the
Mistubishi for so long; it surely made no economic sense. The longer we held on
to it, the more the price dropped.
The car drank gas, we changed the
radiator twice, the transmission once, and it needed regular servicing every
7,500 kilometers, making it expensive to run.
The Wife urged me to sell
it some six years ago, when The Lad went into the army. At that time we still
could have gotten a decent price for it. Besides, she argued, since the boy was
in the IDF, the days of us needing a big car so all of us could pile in for a
family outing were numbered, if not over.
This is exactly why,
subconsciously, I wanted to hold onto the Spacewagon. I knew that by selling it,
by purchasing one of those small cars with the radio on the steering wheel and
good gas mileage, I would be closing a chapter on my life that I was just not
yet ready to close.
No longer would the whole family, reeking of sun
screen, cram into one car together for trips around the country. No longer would
The Lass protest that her brother was looking at her funny. No longer would I
shout at the kids to stop fighting, lest I have to pull over and leave one of
them on the side of the road. No longer would ice cream melt on that upholstery,
or coke spill on the floor. No longer would the kids sing in the back seat as we
headed up the Jordan Valley. Those days would be gone.
So I didn’t sell
the car – hoping that if it was still there in the parking lot and available, we
would all get into it once in a while for family vacations, just like we used to
do. Holding on to that car was my way of trying to slow down the passage of time
and hang on to those all-of-us-together moments.
Indeed, once in a long
while when all our schedules were magically synchronized, we did drive somewhere
for a vacation. The problem is the last time we did that was nine months ago.
And in between, one kid would take the car here, another there, spending an
inordinate amount of gas on a large car bereft now of what made it special –
So we sold it, and bought a used subcompact Daihatsu
(the second Japanese car company to buck the Arab boycott).
worry,” The Wife said, consoling me as I looked at the replacement car that
could comfortably fit only five passengers, meaning that one of our family would
now always have to walk. “For vacations we can always rent something
“I know we can,” I said. “But we won’t. And even if we do, it
will never be the same.”