My friends, if I had any, would tell you I’m not famous for charitable enterprise. In other words, if someone were to recommend we spend the day helping little old ladies cross the street, that someone likely would not be me. Grace, the Drive Away Cancer Austin Healey we’ve been following these many months, on the other hand, cares not a whit for any personality issues. She cares only about people in need.
So, when I told John Nikas, Grace’s caretaker, my fee for a week’s worth of the Moss Motors’ Austin Healey Mechanical Works and Auto Spa would be to drive the car, John responded on Grace’s behalf, “I’m sure you can find an appropriate venue for her.”
My vision of tire squealing blasts up and down Old San Marcos Pass probably did not jibe with what Grace, as translated by John, had in mind. She heard a rumor the American Cancer Society was holding their annual Relay for Life event in Solvang, and as her caretaker for the weekend, Grace and I, of course, should go there.
Early Saturday morning, we drove all four blocks to Solvang Park, chose a “pole position” parking spot, and prepared for battle. I had Sharpies out and ready for car signing duty. My “Explanation of Grace” spiel mentally practiced to the point of Blue Angels demonstration team precision…
Have any of you ever worked in a trade show booth? After four days standing in McCormick Place, or the Las Vegas Convention Center, etc., you’ll feel as though you just walked across half of Europe, carrying rifle, pack, and a couple of mules. As an experienced trade show campaigner, I prepared in the expected manner.
With Grace, however, I wasn’t selling anything. Having spent the last 35 years of my life connected with the sale of British sports car parts, for the first time ever, it wasn’t about selling parts. This time it was all about people, and empathy for strangers who through no fault of their own have battled or watched friends/family/coworkers battling to stay alive.
Fortunately for this fish out of water, Grace took the lead. She drew people in. Some had seen her on TV, or read about her in the papers. Others, wondering what it was all about asked if anyone could sign the car. The non-sales pitch seemingly wrote itself. When folks asked if they could sign the car, my response was to say go ahead, and why not sign on behalf of someone you know or have known who has battled cancer. That pretty much covers everybody.
On Sunday we drove down to the Wheels and Waves car show in Santa Barbara. Although I wasn’t sure if they would take walk up registrations, John had previously assured me Grace could talk her way into any show. We spent another day together, offering support and consolation as needed. I signed for my cousin and grandmother, helped find spots for others to sign, and even convinced Grace to let me drive her over San Marcos Pass with the windscreen down. FYI. Juicy bugs are the best, they’re easier to swallow.
By Robert Goldman