One of the coolest things I've just learned about my car, after having owned for 10 years, is that it has cruise control.

Strangely enough, my car was not made with cruise control. Nor did I install it. It simply appeared, out of nowhere, as a new option on my car.

I suppose it was some sort of divine compensation for having lost my A/C two summers ago. You see, my A/C became my cruise control. I don't know how or when this little miracle of mechanized evolution occurred, but it's 100% true. Kinda. It's not true cruise control, but it might as well be.

My car, a 1989 Geo Spectrum (discontinued model), is supposed to idle at 700 RPMs. When I hit the A/C switch, my car's idle speed jumps to something close to 3,200 RPMs. I can be cruising down the highway in fifth gear, hit the A/C button, take my foot off the gas pedal and zip along at 65 MPH without thinking about it. Of course, I still have to think about traffic and there's no ACCL button, nor is there a RESM button, but it does cruise.

I have not yet discovered how this is useful, since my car cannot handle long road trips, but it might one day become evident as to why this has happened to my vehicle. For now, I'm totally baffled about the whole thing. I dare not take it to a mechanic- they might change it back and I don't want that. I mean, now I can tell my friends that "Betsy" (my car's name) has evolved into a new lifeform. "She's alive!" I'll scream madly, like a naughty scientist. "ALIIIIIIIVE!!! BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Maybe not.

Also, tonight, I had a somewhat mildly mindblowing experience. I was sitting at the cafe, doing the daily crossword and generally minding my own business. Glen walked up and greeted me. He had an auto accident last night- a hit and run- and his car is out of commission (in a related story, the woman who had left the scene had decided that very self-same cafe we all know and love would be a good place to take refuge and call her husband for a ride. She was drunker than cooter brown, barefoot and rude to nearly everyone. The cops showed up a short while later and arrested her on the spot). Glen proceeded to ask me for a ride to a party, which was being held by a mutual friend of ours. I wasn't doing anything really important, so I agreed. Besides, he'd offered me $10 for driving him there, and I'm not exactly in a position to look a gift horse in the mouth.

So we were on the way there and I informed Glen that I would like to join him at the party for a few moments, to say hello to my friends. Some of them present at the party are people I don't get to see too often, so saying hello would be a good thing, I thought. Glen said, "Uh... Jay... that might not be a good idea." Of course, I asked why. "From what I hear, there's going to be a lot of nudity there. I know you don't go in for that kinda thing. But house rules is that, while you're there, you're supposed to get nekkid, too."

This fact did not surprise me. The party's host has a reputation for holding these kinds of parties. Nothing really tawdry ever happens at them- it's just like any other party or gathering of friends, the only difference is that everyone present is akimbo. I've seen flesh before and I am not daunted by it. "I'm not worried about it, man," I told him. "And I'm pretty sure that they'll make an exception for me. First of all, I'm not going to be there long, just enough to say hi. Second of all, they know that I've got a strict sense of decorum and modesty in that regard. I am by no means a prude, but I have a personal code of modesty when it comes to clothing. They'll respect my boundaries."

"How do you know that?" he asked.

I smiled. "I've known Phil for a long time, Glen. He knows my beliefs and my sense of honor and dignity. He won't enforce the rule on me because I wouldn't do the same to him. I have utter faith in that because he's my friend and he's my friend for a good reason. As for the other people, I'm hedging my bets that they'll be 'the 'usual suspects,' most of whom I know equally well, and they all have the same amount of respect for my boundaries that Phil does. If they aren't bothered by me being dressed, I won't be bothered by them being naked. No big deal."

He remained thoughtfully silent after he said, "We'll see."

So we got there, walk through the apartment complex and came to Phil's door. We knocked and were told, from behind the closed door, to come in... quickly, and "close the door fast as you can, dammit." We opened the door and immediately saw that, yes, everyone present was naked as the day they were born.

Then I saw her. The girl that has been making not-so-subtle overtures to date me. We've been out a few times, innocent stuff like ice cream or dinner and the like, nothing serious. I've found, lately, that I like her quite a lot. I'm still not sure if I want to date anyone just yet, but since she's expressed an interest in me, I've been giving it some serious thought. And she was sitting there, on Phil's floor, without a stitch of clothing on her. Everyone was sitting in a circle and beer bottles were scattered everywhere. I didn't see any clothing, so I guessed that it was probably sitting in a pile in one of Phil's bedrooms. Anyway, there she was, and she looked up and saw me. I would swear that I saw the thoughts run through her mind. "Oh my God, Jay's here. And I'm nude. And he's seeing me nude. And he probably knows by now that I'm really interested in him. And I really do respect this guy a lot and value his respect for me. And I'm naked. And my clothes are too far away, and if I get up to get dressed, he'll see more of me anyway, and... oh, to hell with it. The damage is done. Let's watch him and see how he reacts. God, I hope he doesn't stare."

These thoughts were painted on her forehead, as though in day glow. I couldn't have missed them if a spotlight had shone on them. So, I did the only correct thing. I behaved like she was fully clothed, like they were all fully clothed, even though it was clearly obvious that they weren't. I mean, it was a social gathering and it wasn't like there was an orgy going on. It was just a bunch of friends, drinking beers and enjoying idle conversation in the safe confines of a friend's home and they just happened to be in the buff. No big deal. Glen immediately set to the task of undressing.

The group, not knowing that one of their number was quietly attracted to me, urged me to join them- naked. I, naturally, declined respectfully and they didn't crowd me about it, just like I had expected. Plus, I wanted to get back to the cafe and do some more writing, which had been on my agenda of things to do today. We chit-chatted for a few moments, long enough for me to have a cigarette. I minded my manners and kept my eyes to myself. After all, since I wasn't going to join them, I really didn't have the right to ogle. Naturally, I did glance a few times at this mild romantic interest, answering the occasional question from her area of the room about this or that- I'm not a total idiot. When a naked woman I might find an active interest in is in front of me, that is a golden opportunity to get a "preview" of what I might not see under normal circumstances.

Finally, she piped up. "At least take off your hat and coat." Translation: I'm getting nervous and I want you on the same playing field as me. No one else pressed the issue, but her.

I smiled and looked her in the eyes. "No, really. I'm about to leave. I just came in to say hello."

"Well," she said as she started to stand, "I was going to give you a hug if you joined us. I've been thinking about it, hugging, that is, and decided that I would rather have a hug from a naked person than a clothed one. But since you're about to leave, I'd like a hug from you anyway, before you go." I kept my eyes locked on hers, doing my best not to note the fact that her well-sized endowments were exposed as well as "everything else".

I smiled as kindly as possible and opened my arms to greet her. "Come get your hug," I welcomed her. We embraced and I paid attention to where my hands should and should not be. I was aware, then, that she was testing me and teasing me at the same time. She wanted to see just how far my sense of modesty would carry me. I would not be undone, dammit. I kept my cool and when it was "time" (how do you know when to end a hug?) for us to let go of each other, she pulled back and rejoined the circle of nudity. I tried to ignore her backside as she turned away from me, but couldn't help but notice that she shaves "down there." *sigh*

Phil informed me that he had something to talk to me about, but that later would be a good time. "Okay," I said. "Not a problem. My cell phone is still out until, probably, next week, but I'll find a way to call you in the next day or two. Is everything okay? Nothing bad, I hope." He assured me that he was fine and he had nothing but good news.

"She" cut in to inform me that she had been stopping by the cafe the past few days in an effort to see and talk with me. I was working a lot lately and I haven't been around the cafe much. I had been told by a friend, last night, that she had waited three hours in the hopes that I would show up. "I know," I told her. "I was working late Friday and didn't get there until around 3 AM and last night I was at a friend's house, visiting with them. I work Sunday 'till close, but there's a good chance I'll get off work early, around 10 PM. If I don't see you tomorrow night at the cafe, I'll try to stop by your work and we can chat then."

She smiled at this, got up and crossed the room to hug me again. "I know you're about to leave, but I want to give you another hug." Anvil time. At this point I knew that she wanted me to see her naked and not be able to do anything about it. I just took it in stride, accepted the hug and let her go again. As she pulled away the second time, she whispered in my ear, "You've got my mark now." I gave her a quizzical look. "You didn't stare the whole time. You have now not only earned my trust, but my deepest respect, too. Thank you." And she kissed me on the cheek.

I gave her the best, warmest smile I could muster and thanked her for the compliment. I said my goodbyes to everyone there, tipping my hat to the rest of them, and left.

What a difference a day makes.

And that, my friends, is probably the #1 reason why I haven't been laid in nearly two years. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth