If there is a Los Angeles hipster manual doing the rounds, I wouldn’t know how to get hold of it. More importantly, I would miserably fail to make the cut: the requisite abode in Atwater Village; my very own recipe for kale smoothie; vintage dresses or knowledge of the most au courant night clubs and bars are all things I do not possess. But, as of last week, the LA hipster and I have one thing in common: a brand new Mini Cooper S.
But let’s rewind a few years. Aside from a disproportionate interest developed early in life for Formula One races, I never showed much disposition or interest for driving. I lived in a string of cities blessed with wonderful public transportation – conducting a full on love affair with the London Tube – and aways loved walking about. Until I moved to Los Angeles, where it became quickly apparent that four wheels would be in order if I were to conduct a normal life. While waiting to give the driving exam, I had no qualms about taking the bus to work, much to my co-workers’ horror “You are taking the bus?”, shock and disbelief painted on their faces, followed by kind offers to shuttle me around.
After failing the test – twice – the third time was a charm and off I was. And who knew? Despite the initial ineptitude, I took to driving like a fish to water. It turned out I actually love the act of driving, and, one year, I rewarded myself with a sport car. In a city where a car is a status symbol, where even valets have different attitudes depending on what model you are dropping off, most casual observers would think it was all about being noticed. Not so. My sport cars never had any frills or major upgrades – I don’t care for navigators or extra cup holders: I don’t eat, drink or conduct business in my car. I just like to drive. Sometimes I would switch the radio off and just listen to the engine. I knew by heart which gear every turn down my canyon would require and flying off the freeway at breakneck speeds was as mind emptying as meditating (getting out of speeding tickets a lot less fun).
All good things, though, must come to an end. My lack of a steady income could not justify the expense of such a car; it was time to get something more fuel conscious and if I had to listen to one more person complaining how hard it was to get in and out of it, and how impractical my car was, I was going to blow a hole in my head. My average passenger is not exactly 25. Although Ottie loved being seated next to me, strapped in the seat belt, ears flapping in the wind.
So when the time came to part ways with my wheels, what did I do? Picked another impossibly impractical car that drives like a racing go-kart and is as stylish as a Stella McCartney handbag. Ice blue and black was my color of choice – vaguely retro I thought – until I realized my choice has put me squarely in the would be hipster category. Oh dear – should have done some market research beforehand. In my two weeks of ownership I noticed the annoying habits other Mini drivers have to wave, as if we all belonged to a not so secret covenant. Strangers also feel compelled to ask me questions, sometimes while sitting at a light – it turns out the Mini is as much a conversation starter as a dog.
Speaking of which, since Ottie realized he has to share the back seat with Portia, he has acted very unimpressed with my new car. Might have to let him ride shotgun now and then. As to me, I am still whizzing down the canyon at less than half the price with Jemima. Yes, I had to choose a solid British name* for her because, even if made in Bavaria, is there anything more quintessentially British than a Mini Cooper? I think Austin Powers would agree.
*Jemima is actually a Hebrew name but, for some reason, only the British name their girls Jemima (and then there’s the pancake syrup, of aunt’s fame….)