In A Denial of Death, Helen is trying to buy a car, and she tests several that are recommended by the dealer, her driver and assorted other people. None of them is remotely what she has in mind, which suggests that people recommending them see her as someone very different from who she really is.
After the story were written, I had my very own experience with being profiled for the type of car I might drive. I was at a doctor’s office in Boston, where all of the parking is done by valets, with about a dozen cars left in the tiny driveway in front of the building, but most of the cars driven to a separate lot a few blocks away.
So, I dropped my car off, went in for my appointment and eventually came back out into the hot sunshine, leaning a little on my cane, and waited for one of the valets to bring my car around. And waited, and waited and waited. Every couple of minutes, the manager valet would send one of the younger, runner valets over to me to make a note of the numbers on my claim ticket. The runner would race off, presumably to find out why no one had brought my car around yet. After about twenty minutes of this, yet another valet came over to me, and said he knew where my car was: right out front, at the very end of the driveway, just out of my line of sight.
It turns out that they park all the manual transmissions in the driveway instead of taking them off-site. (I don’t have any idea if it’s because the runner valets aren’t all experienced with stick shifts, or if they just find them annoying in stop-and-go city traffic — I’m not going to make assumptions like they made about me!) The keys for those cars are kept separately from the keys for the cars in the off-site lot.
The young valet who figured out the problem had seen me arrive, and had even teased me a little for driving a stick shift. (“Stick shift? Go on with your bad self.”). Apparently, when I came to claim my car, he’d told the older, managerial valet holding the keys for the on-site cars that mine was a stick shift, but no one had believed him until they’d looked everywhere else and finally gave his theory a chance.
I thought it was pretty funny, personally. It was a nice day out, I wasn’t in any huge hurry to be anywhere, and I kind of liked the fact that I was defying expectations about my mobility issues. Helen Binney probably wouldn’t have been so amused.