I was supposed to go to Las Vegas last weekend but ended up inside a Ferrari instead.
My wife and I meticulously planned a weekend escape to visit dear friends, only to have those plans derailed when our son suddenly showed signs of a frightening illness.
To say this was a weekend of tremendous highs and lows is like saying Vegas’ New York New York roller-coaster is slightly pulse-quickening. We were supposed to leave for Las Vegas on Thursday. On Wednesday, I planned to take my son to our local Porsche dealer, where a 2006 Ferrari F430 had recently been offered for sale.
Of course, I couldn’t buy it. But I made plans with the dealer to surprise my 10-year-old son, a rabid Ferrari fan, with a visit so he could finally see a real Ferrai in the sheet-metal. Instead, Wednesday welcomed me with a son who could barely move or talk, and a visit to the doctor where the word “meningitis” shot through my heart like a blunt dagger. Forget the Ferrari. Forget Vegas. I just wanted a healthy kid.
I told my son about the Ferrari, and said that when he’s better, I’d take him to see it. As sick as he was, his eyes lit up in anticipation.
Lucky for us, his illness was of the viral variety, which meant a few days of rest at home, lots of fluids and plenty of love. By Sunday he was back on his feet, and wanted to see that car. I didn’t hesitate.
We arrived at the dealer and could see the gleaming red car through the dealership’s front glass. He giggled. We entered the store and circled the supercar. He’d brought his Hot Wheels F430 and marveled at the details his model included that were featured on the real thing. The word “Pininfarina” in script, the famous logo on the front fender, the visible engine behind the front seats. He looked at me, and asked in a whisper if he could touch the car. I nodded. He tentatively extended a finger and traced the Prancing Horse on the car’s rear end.
A salesman approached and offered to open the engine bay and the front doors, but said we probably shouldn’t sit in the $136,000 car. That was OK by us, we were just there to look. We took in all the details of the car, from the stitching in the leather to the steering wheel paddles to the switches and knobs on the dash. We were ready to head home, when another voice called out.
“Are you the guy who wanted to come in last week?”
It was the dealer’s sales manager, the guy who I set up our original appointment with. I explained why we didn’t show up for our appointment, he made small talk with us, then excused himself. He returned with a set of keys, looked my son in they eye, and said, “How would you like to go for a ride in a Ferrari?”
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bigger smile on a kid’s face. He lowered himself into the passenger seat, closed the door and gave me a thumbs up as the F430’s V8 roared to life. They were gone maybe 10 minutes, but when they got back it’s like any hint of sickness or pain was wrung out by the car’s 490-hp and replaced with a new passion for life, and for cars.
Our drive home was in stark contrast to the few days prior. He laughed, giggled, was nearly manic as he recounted for me the sensory experience of his Ferrari ride. How he could feel the engine scream through the seat and reverberate into his chest. The feeling of being pinned back as the car accelerated to 60. The sound of the V8 surrounding him. All he could sum it all up with were these words:
“That was unbelievable, unexplainable, and pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. I think I’m addicted to Ferrari!”
When a severe illness has your child in its sights, an emotional roller-coaster of dread and uncertainty quickly replaces any other priorities you think you have. We’re lucky that this sickness wasn’t more severe and the recovery was fast. I truly believe the thought of seeing that Ferrari helped him. And the moment I saw his smile through the window when he returned from his ride is the moment that I knew everything would be OK.
That might sound silly. But people sometimes question why automakers build supercars. The cars are outrageously expensive, are wasteful in nearly every way and provide a level of performance that can’t be enjoyed on normal streets. At the same time, though, they provide something to aspire to. To dream about. To hope for and to direct a healthy passion toward. And, sometimes, they just make a person feel better!
Even if my son never sits in another Ferrari, I know he’ll treasure the memory of this one and, maybe, grow into a healthy car-obsessed adult.
Just like his dad.
If you were sick, which car would make you feel better?