NORTH PLATTE, NE—When you travel in a car whose audio system makes Judas Priest sound as fine as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on an all-Haydn night, the plateau of central Wyoming, usually a formidable obstacle because of its dreariness, is disposed of with ease. You feel the bass in your butt; meanwhile, those cute motorized tweeters, which rise from the corners of the dashboard at startup, preside over the entertainment like little Enterprises. Getting beamed up might not be out of the question.
Today’s segment of the San Francisco-to-Ann Arbor journey covered only about 600 miles from Draper, Utah. There was a problem, but not with the Audi A7. My iPhone went completely blank after I’d tried to synch it to the car’s Bluetooth. Not having a phone made me feel as though I was swirling down the drain; I felt panic all through Nebraska’s Panhandle and didn’t even stop at Cabela’s home store in Sidney, where I wanted to see if I could find a can of cream of venison soup for my brother, who hasn’t spoken to me since I got divorced. Cream of venison soup—which I’ve purchased for him there in the past—is more likely than jerky to get him going.
Anyway, when I got to North Platte, I found a Verizon store, where a kindly agent defibrillated the phone, and all was well.
But I decided not to go any farther. I checked into a downtown motel room with bugs in the lamp globe and the roll of toilet paper balancing on the towel bar. (After sizing up my neighbor, I decided he just uses his finger.) Obviously, the staff was trying to make me feel right at home. After unloading the car, I went to a Japanese restaurant that’s run by Chinese who speak very little English. For example, I had to point toward Kansas when saying, “Take out? To go? Para llevar? Tanque lleno?” While waiting for the shrimp tempura, I scrolled through photos on my camera’s display. The twenty-two-year-old dude behind the counter—who came from China two years ago—got way interested when he saw the Audi A7 in these pictures, and suddenly his English jumped onto a rocket sled.
“The A7 is my dream car,” he said.
“Really? How do you know about it?”
“From the Internet.”
“Want to come out and see one?”
I brought him to the parking lot and opened the driver’s door, and he seemed all shorts-creamy because of the beautiful leather upholstery and unexcelled wood trim. Meanwhile, I was thinking of the irony that a recent immigrant from China is dreaming of an A7 when there probably isn’t even an Audi dealer in the 500 miles between Lincoln and Denver. And somehow, I doubt that Wyoming, in all its rocky nakedness, will ever be an important market for Audi, not unless they start making a three-quarter-ton chassis-cab that can be fitted with a flatbed and welding rig.
But for some reason—maybe because of the lack of a rib-shaking V-8—it didn’t occur to me to fire up the A7’s engine. In fact, this could explain why Audi has implanted all this razzle-dazzle: upon startup, the display screen emerges and does half a reverse somersault; the side mirrors flip outward, like on-call Swiss Guards; and the tweeters ascend like deployable castrati. Not that the V-6 lacks power. This is a swift and gutsy car. But it’s the equivalent of an underendowed fellow who overcompensates by mastering the oboe. Commendable, yes. Nevertheless, the oboe, admittedly indispensable in knifing through orchestral traffic, isn’t much of a solo instrument, like the sax.
OK, the truth is that I couldn’t be the reason for the waiter’s witnessing all these power-up gymnastics and arias and then Tweeting home to China, if you can Tweet there, that he’d just witnessed a manifestation of the Divine.