My car has a way of drawing attention to itself, particularly after I go to San Francisco.
Last year, it got stolen, sending me on an emotional three-day journey that ended with me getting it back in one piece.
Last week, my black Honda decided to play dress up by adding a conspicuous accoutrement to its aging finish.
A pink feather boa.
I was driving back from seeing my girlfriend in San Francisco when the frilly, colorful garment attached itself to my rear axle.
You might ask, How does a pink feather boa attach itself to a car?
By being in the No. 2 lane of westbound Highway 80, which I was traversing on a Sunday.
I remember seeing it in the road — rolling towards me like a neon synthetic tumbleweed discarded from some drag queen’s closet.
My thought process upon laying eyes on it was something along the lines of: Pink boa. What? Huh? OK.
I mentally shrugged as I drove over it. I gave no other thought to it. I didn’t even look for it in the rearview mirror as I kept heading home to Napa.
The next morning when I went out to start my car, I noticed something peeking behind my left rear tire.
I bent down. My pupils dilated.
I reached under the rear bumper and tugged at the boa. It didn’t budge. It was wound tight around the axle near the wheel well.
It was cold that morning, and I wasn’t in the mood to lie down on the freezing concrete of our driveway and take a serious stab at removing the stowaway.
I figured it would just fall off.
It’s made of feathers. How long can it last?
Long enough to become the talk of my work.
Monday was no big deal. Nobody seemed to notice the fashion accessory while I was at the Napa Valley Register.
I even forgot about it as my mind focused on the stories I needed to finish for the Eagle’s next edition.
Tuesday came, and that was when the pink feather boa started making news.
I left the Register’s office to head down to American Canyon. I got into my car, and drove near the exit when someone honked from behind me.
I spied my rearview mirror, and saw our photographer, J.L., waving his arms madly and gesturing for me to stop.
He got out of his car and walked up to my driver’s side window.
“You got something under your—“
I cut him off before he could finish.
“Yes, I know. A pink boa,” I said matter of fact. “I ran over it on my way back Sunday.”
“Oh, OK. I was wondering,” J.L. replied. “Hope it doesn’t damage anything.”
“I figured it would just fall apart eventually,” I remarked. “What can it do?”
“I thought it might do something to the brake assembly,” J.L. said.
Great, thanks. I now have visions of my car disintegrating on the highway at high speed.
J.L. went back to his car while I pulled out of the parking lot. Something literally as light as a feather was now weighing heavily on my mind.
I considered stopping at Les Schwab and having them remove the boa. But I was on a tight schedule that day, and didn’t have time to sit around a tire shop while a bunch of guys covered in grease got a good laugh at my expense.
As it turned out, it was a bunch of women who got their chuckles on.
Wednesday morning I was back at the Register building, bright and early. I had my head down, focused on reading stories for production and layout when I heard from across the newsroom …
“There’s a black Honda in the parking lot with a pink boa!” shouted my colleague, Jennifer.
In my two-plus years at the Register, I don’t think I ever heard Jennifer bellow something that loud, that excitedly.
It was as though she was harkening some great, breaking news we should all know.
I rose up from my cubicle like a joyless Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.
“That’s my car.”
I explained to Jennifer what had happened. Her delight was still glowing.
“The ladies up front love it,” she exclaimed, referring to the circulation and business departments. “They were all wondering whose it was. I gotta go tell them!”
Off went Jennifer to regale her discovery. Down I went, back to my desk and my work.
My editor, Sean, delighted in hearing the story.
“What is it with you and your car?” he said from his corner office. “First, it gets hair extensions, and now this.”
Sean was referring to my car theft experience, which ended in me finding a reddish lock of hair in my driver’s seat upon recovering the vehicle.
I finished up producing the Eagle that morning, and headed out at lunchtime. But not before another boa-inspired bellow filled my ears.
“Hey, you got something under you car!”
I stopped unlocking my car door and spun around.
John, our tall, strapping, Paul Bunyan of an operations director, was walking out of the building, and headed in my direction.
For a moment I thought he was playing with me. I figured he must have heard Jennifer’s boisterous proclamation earlier. Who couldn’t have?
I walked up to John, ready to be ribbed. But when I saw his eyes, I could tell he was serious. He didn’t know.
Here we go again. Take three on the tale of the pink feather boa.
I swore to myself that I would remove it the next day, no matter what.
Thursday, however, was yet another rainy day. Shimmying my way under my car on wet pavement didn’t seem appealing. And to top it off I was pressed for time to make the annual State of the City address down in American Canyon.
Upon parking at the Doubletree Hotel, where the speech was held, I was greeted by a hotel guest lugging suitcases to his car.
“Ya got somethin’ there under yur car,” he said with a thick, country drawl. “It supposed to be there?”
It took everything in me to not be snarky.
Yes, it’s the latest thing in automotive styling. Feathered chassis.
I gave him what was by now a well-honed, concise explanation, which he was satisfied with.
“OK, have a good day there, buddy.”
While attending the State of the City, I made up my mind to go to Les Schwab and get the damn thing removed once and for all.
But as luck would have it, I didn’t have to. I walked out of the hotel and noticed the boa dangling further than before from under the left fender.
I reached down and grabbed it, and this time it easily came free. The rain must have loosened its grip on the undercarriage.
The boa was not in good shape.
Four days of hugging my car, like Robert De Niro in “Cape Fear,” left it looking haggard and limp. Many of its feathers were gone.
I momentarily thought of disposing of it in the nearest garbage can. Instead, I placed it in my trunk for the time being.
Souvenirs, after all, come in all shapes and forms, and this one certainly will remind me of yet another journey I experienced with my storied car.