My mouth is dry. My palms begin to sweat.

Under the glittering showroom lights, the black, sensual lines of imported, hand-forged and hand-rubbed sheet metal glisten like diamonds against a velvet sky. The hand-tooled, Connelly leather upholstery and lacquered, burl-wood trim beckons like a comfortable, form-fitting English club chair...

The object of my almost uncontrollable lust is a 2000 Bentley Continental Azure Convertible -- arguably, the most exquisite motorcar ever built, anywhere, at any price.

Tentatively, reverentially, I reach for the handle of the driver’s door and ease myself behind the wheel. There ... aaah ... I am home. The intoxicating smell, the overwhelming feeling of unadulterated wealth. For one, brief, exhilarating moment I am one with this vehicle. If only this was Pacific Coast Highway! If only my friends could see me cruising down the road in this baby -- ALL my friends...

For one, brief, exhilarating moment I am one with this vehicle.

In Los Angeles, the town that invented the car craze, this Bentley is the sine qua non, the absolute, very last word in over-conspicuous chic. The future owner of this particular ride will be the undisputed King of the Hill -- period!

Unfortunately, reality comes crashing down on me all too quickly. Three things stand firmly in the way of my ever owning this car.

The first is its price tag: $372,600 (before the license, state and federal luxury tax).

The second is practicality. Either one of my beloved children could easily cause ten grand worth of damage to the back seat alone!

The third is my sanity. Anyone who would plunk down nearly 400 grand for a car that doesn’t ride quite as well as a $40 thousand Lexus and costs over twenty times as much to maintain and insure is, by definition, in need of a serious identity transfusion.

WHO BUYS A BENTLEY?

But people do buy them. Every last one of them. Every Bentley made is sold, and there is a substantial waiting list in over thirty countries for each new one.

Head bowed, I slink out of the showroom, stealing one last, lingering glance at the car I will never own. “Who needs it?” I lamely exclaim to no one in particular. “I mean, why would someone actually buy one of them?”

To be noticed, of course. To be seen by others as “someone special.”

The people who buy these cars want others to know they are rich. Really rich.

Isn’t that what we all want? Face it -- the people who buy these cars want others to know they are rich. Really rich. Rich beyond caring what anything costs ... They want to be identified by the car they’re driving!

Everyone (well, mostly guys) with any kind of money eventually succumbs to a beautiful car. We can’t help it, it’s in our DNA.

In a world where every single one of us wants to stand apart from the crowd, to somehow “display” our uniqueness, the car has got to be the most ridiculous status symbol of them all.

I should know. At one time or other I’ve owned practically every one of them. Every new car purchased loses an average of one fourth of its posted value the moment it’s driven away from the dealership. ALL cars decline in value year after year, save for the most highly collectable antiques. Think that ever stopped me? Hardly. At one time in my life I owned two Corvettes, two Cadillacs and a Harley!

DRESSING TO BE NOTICED

Clothes are the other, obvious status symbol of choice. Why else would someone walk down the street wearing a $95 sweatshirt with the words “Tommy Hilfiger” emblazoned across the front in seven inch letters, when the exact same sweatshirt is available at Target (minus the letters) for $12? Are they personal friends of Mr. Hilfiger’s? Been to one of his cocktail parties in the Hamptons, perhaps? Are they being paid a monthly stipend to advertise his clothing line?

Of course, as I sit here smugly writing this article my wife walks by and casually reminds me that I am wearing a Polo shirt with one of those tiny little polo players embroidered on it. “But I like the quality and the fit!” I defensively whine.

“But I like the quality and the fit!” I defensively whine.

Forget it. I lost that one before I even got started. It’s a status symbol, pure and simple. So how do I squirm my way out of this? The lesson to keep in mind when it comes to the acquisition of things has got to be “moderation.” There’s nothing wrong with high quality, non-ostentatious possessions if we buy them to use and enjoy, without the feeling that we are somehow “more special” because we own them.

So given the choice between a $1,500 silver candelabra that will enhance the richness and beauty of our Shabbat and Yom Tov table, or a new, charcoal gray Georgio Armani suit that’s an absolute killer, which one would I choose?

Uhh ... can I get back to you on that?