Driving a 2008 Porsche Boxster RS 60 Spyder Limited Edition is an exercise in ridiculous, indulgent impracticality. But it’s fun — and it might get your name written on the inside of teenage girls’ pants.
Through no effort of my own, a man I had never met drove that car — number 296 out of 1960 ever made — into the office parking lot last week, and handed me the key. When he had called out of the blue offering the car as part of a Porsche marketing and promotion effort, all I’d done was tell him I’d drive it and return it in one piece. I made no promise to write about it, and only a vague verbal assurance that I could drive a stick-shift car. (For the record, my regular car, a 1995 Subaru Impreza wagon, is a stick-shift. So I wasn’t lying.)
On the very first night, it failed utterly as a utilitarian object. My wife and I were slated to pick up a friend (who was in town on business) at her hotel and take her to a restaurant for dinner. But the Boxster has just two seats, so within hours of receiving the key to a $65,000 car, one of just 800 in North America, I had to leave it parked in the garage while we picked up our friend in my wife’s 2000 Subaru Impreza Outback wagon.
That was the first of a few downers. Other low points were general paranoia about police officers — my uncle, a genuine “car guy” — had reminded me, when I called to gloat, that “a ticket is wasted money.” And then there was the horrific downturn the nation’s economy took, almost from the moment I received the Porsche’s key. At various points I drove past the panhandlers near the Deering Oaks Park I-295 on-ramp, and along the social-services end of Congress Street, in a car I did not own, could not afford, and could never imagine myself ever actually owning, even if one day I do have that kind of money just sitting in the bank. Don’t ask me what they thought of me — I was studiously avoiding their eyes.
Let’s move on to the high points.
Some of the people I took for rides surprised me, and even themselves. A freelancer who normally bums around in a 1980s-era Volvo with more than 300,000 miles on it turned out to also own an ancient sports car he keeps in good repair. And an utterly grounded, down-to-earth college friend became totally flighty upon sitting in the passenger seat, and spent much of the ride extolling the just-discovered virtues of expensive cars (except when she was feeling guilty for being so materialistic).
Better than enacting my high-school fantasy of driving the coolest, fastest car on the block was giving someone else that feeling — a guy in a Pontiac Firebird spotted me in Cape Elizabeth and tailgated me for a while, hoping to race. Eventually he gave up and roared past me, earning the right to truthfully tell his friends how he totally dusted a Porsche.