Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stars and Cars

How did Anne Alamets get my name? And how could she have known I was jonesing for a Renault?

On May 22nd Anne’s email arrived which informed me that Lenna Kuurmaa traded her two-door coupe for a four-door Fluence (starting from €15,450), and Koit Toome swapped his Twingo for a Grandtour (starting €14,650). According to Anne, Lenna sold her old car on Facebook in an auction last March and needed a new one, and Koit needed a bigger vehicle to cram in all his band’s stuff! How could Anne have known I’d identify so much with Lenna and Koit? It was Kismet or something. Some stuff you just can’t explain.

After reading Anne’s email, the first thing I thought of was how Koit and Lenna must really love Renault if they were willing to tell me about their cars. Since the Estonians I know pride themselves on being well above mere commercialism, I knew that Koit and Lenna’s messages were from the heart. If they said it, it had to be true: Renault really does have a car that satisfies every need!

But just as I was about to race down to the dealership and buy the most expensive, biggest Renault on the lot under the most unfriendly financing terms I could organize, a tinge of jealousy entered my head. Why hadn’t Anne asked me to plug Renault?

Since I was not born in Estonia, I am no stranger to consumerism and its attendant savage western habits. In the early 1990s when I tried to get a coffee in a paper cup to go, restaurants treated me like a stinky beggar. “Coffee to go?” a waiter scoffed. “We Estonians are cultured people who drink sitting down. You will never see coffee to go here.”

Around the same time a real estate agent asked me how she might sell more homes (not that she really wanted or needed to sell – I am sure it was just curiosity), and I remarked that in the west the agents try to heighten their profiles by putting their photos on their business cards and for-sale signs. “That will never happen in Estonia,” she laughed.

So from early on I knew Estonians were a superior race impervious to the powers of advertising. And I also knew that for that reason I could never really become one. I would always remain a simple Canadian, one born with no special powers for resisting consumerism. As kryptonite brings Superman to his knees, as the color yellow makes Green Lantern powerless, a well-crafted commercial message can induce me to open my wallet and let you take all that’s there.

So for a little bit of baksheesh, or even by being asked nicely, I would have gladly lent my name to Anne Alamets’ ad campaign. Just as Lenna and Koit did, I could have made a video.

Imagine me advancing toward the camera as I explain why I traded my Skoda for Renault’s Megane Grandtour. The camera pulls in close as I remove the Grandtour’s door panels to reveal thousands of cigarettes with no tax stickers. The consumer is struck by the car’s amazing hidden cargo capacity as I deliver the line: Whenever I cross the Narva-Ivangorod border, I do it in a Megane Grandtour.

Or imagine me trading down in cars for something smaller. The viewer sees me in the driver’s seat, my two-year-old Robert jumping up and down in the passenger seat trying to break off the rear-view mirror. The camera then pulls back to reveal Liina, barefoot in the back seat smoking a cigarette and reading a gossip magazine. I turn to the camera and say: In a few short years Estonia’s population will be only 900,000. Twingo was made expressly for the Estonian family.

So what’s wrong with me, Anne Alamets? All the years I’ve written this column why have you not tried once to exploit my celebrity?

And what about my readers? Proprietary Postimees research repeatedly confirms that Vello readers are Estonia’s opinion leaders, the nation’s most intelligent, the most beautiful and virtuous. The nation’s ├╝bermenschen.

You should also consider, Anne, that those who listen to the music of Koit and Lenna don’t have the money to buy cars, yours or anyone else’s. The Vello demographic is far superior: my readers are actually old enough to drive.

Or, Anne, if you don’t like me for some reason, why not choose another cultural figure? Imagine a billboard of Tiit Aleksejev accepting the keys to a Grandtour stuffed with a fresh printing of Valge kuningriik! Or Annely Peebo paying for a Megane Cabriolet with her American Express card! Or Jelena Skulskaja or Mihkel Mutt, two writers whose faces are more ubiquitous than any politician, arriving on the HeadRead festival’s red carpet in a Laguna Coupe! Or Epp Petrone – whose readers are more like groupies – packing away her 17 children into a Kangoo Express Maxi.

Not to take anything away from Lenna and Koit. I know they are really hard workers. And I sympathize with anyone who earns his living as a performer in Estonia. Since no one can be on the Eurovision stage 365 days a year, half the time you’re performing at some redneck’s wedding or a businessman’s 50th birthday party, or some Reform Party event where a cabal politely applauds and then returns to plotting how to make Edgar Savisaar experience so much pain he will lie down on the ground and plead, “Mommy, mommy, take me back inside you.”

In the videos attached to Anne’s email, Lenna and Koit talked about the Renaults they love. Despite my personal preference for Lenna, I found Koit to be the better car spokesman. Lenna seemed perturbed that she had to make the video and her performance was tinged with an undertone of “Just finish the fucking video, will you, so I can get out of here with my free car?” If Lenna weren’t Estonian, I might have suspected she was lying.

But since Estonians are the world’s most savvy and skeptical people, a race of man who lives above commerce, possibly the only people left on the planet who have not given themselves over as slaves to consumerism, because of this I know that Lenna and Koit’s messages were sincere. They would not drive a Renault if it weren’t the perfect vehicle for them. That’s just how it is.

But I myself can no longer resist. The day after this column is published I’m going down to City Motors to find Anne Alamets and purchase a Renault. Maybe even Koit’s old Twingo.

Dept. of Shameless Commerce: Get the complete Vello here.