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How to (gracefully) disembark from a Carrera

Monday, December 21, 2015

By Beti Spangel

My husband had broke the news to me that he’d purchased a 1999 911 Carrera. This was his dream, not mine, but I knew it had been a long-standing desire of his to own one. I was happy for him. I assumed it meant my truck would not be getting to stay in the one-vehicle carport now.

The moving company who brought us lock, stock, and barrel from upstate New York to southern Mississippi was gracious enough to transport Larry’s new acquisition for us. This was a huge logistical relief. The car arrived about a week after Larry did. I came home one day to see a sleek, shiny, low-to-the-ground sports car in our driveway. 

I was struck by its pristine condition. Larry hadn’t been kidding; it was in beautiful shape and a great deal for the price. The interior was immaculate, but it smelled funny. Really funny, and not in a good way. I attributed it to the fact it had been sitting dormant for so long. Like a kid dying to get on his new bike on Christmas Day, Larry offered to take me for a ride.

I’d like to forewarn any passenger who has no experience in such things that getting in and out of a lowered Porsche takes practice. I’m not an overly coordinated person to begin with. Add to that the fact that I’m used to stepping up, via running board and handle, into my truck. I’m not used to sinking into a vehicle.

The first time I got in, I landed with a thunk onto the seat. I felt like I was sitting on the floor. I looked at Larry, who was gleefully studying the dashboard. “How do you adjust the seat?” I asked.

“Well, I’ve got mine squared away,” he said. “You’ll have to play with the controls and see what you can do.”

Nothing I turned, pressed, or pulled seemed to change anything. I’d have to work on that another day.

Larry put the key in the ignition (to the left of the steering wheel, how odd – is that a German thing?), and the car roared to life. (Ed.: Beti, it’s a Porsche thing.) He worked his way through the six speeds as we cruised our back roads. The sunroof was a delight, especially since my eyes were beginning to water from that weird smell.

Larry commented how the aftermarket clutch had a lot of resistance and he really had to step into it to shift. It seemed like a jerky transition through the gears, but I figured it was just the learning curve. I leaned my head into the headrests when going through gears one through three to save my neck from whiplash.

Once we got home, I had to figure out how to get out of the car. I immediately regretted not keeping up with my yoga and vowed to start doing lunges and squats every morning. I swung my legs out, splayed them at a very unladylike angle to get some leverage, and half pulled, half pushed myself up to a standing position. 

I imagined this was what just-born, long-limbed animals, like horses and gazelles, felt like, trying to get their feet under them before something starts chasing them — not that I’m comparing myself to a gazelle, because I’m sure they aren’t embarrassed by their efforts.

Incentive for getting my methodology down came whenever we pulled up someplace. The car would naturally turn some heads, which meant people were watching. I had to get out of the car eventually. 

This would take some practice. I thought about watching some YouTube videos of celebrities getting out of limousines for pointers.

Practice didn’t make perfect, but it did make it better. My quadriceps gained some strength and eventually I could stand up out of the car without feeling like I had to get on my knees first. I could keep my legs in a more modest position. But it’s still an awkward proposition.

Given a little time, the smell (which was never diagnosed) began to dissipate, Larry got smoother at shifting, and I could get in and out of the car without overly compromising myself. Maybe this Porsche thing was okay after all.

Then came the day Larry told me about a driver’s education course for Porsche owners, to be held at NOLA Motorsports in Avondale, Louisiana. He was super excited, and I was super excited for him. Then he said, “It’s the weekend of October 31st.” And smiled his handsome smile.

That was our wedding anniversary. Our 10th wedding anniversary. The mistress was already testing our vows.

Beti Spangel and her husband, Larry Phillips, recently joined Porsche Club of America after Larry’s purchase of a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera. Determined to support her husband’s passion for 911s and find her own, follow Beti’s stories of their (mis)adventures from the perspective of a Porsche greenhorn. Read her previous column here.

Photo courtesy Beti Spangel

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