Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

   My experience with cars got off to a very rocky start. Luckily, the kid I was paired with in driver training was never at school, so I got to drive the entire time. I needed it. And my Driver's Ed teacher was a saint. The one thing I could do flawlessly was navigate a drive-thru. He always seemed to need a cup of coffee when I was in the car. My mom would never let me practice when she was in the car, which turned out to be for the best. It mostly consisted of her cringing and writhing in her seat, which only served to make me an even more nervous driver. I actually earned a blue slip, and only went and got my license because it was about to expire. Most of my other friends had cars, and never seemed to mind picking me up. My favorite was my friend Melanie's green VW mini-bus, which was dubbed the Pickle-mobile. The radio was broken, so we had a boom box we used. But then the antenna broke, so the passenger would have to hold it and stick their hand out the window to get reception. It became problematic when it was raining. My friend Amy had an old truck with a leaky gas tank. We always had to estimate how much gas it would take to get somewhere, because if we overestimated, it would just leak out while we were wherever it was we were going. Those were the days.

   My family's cars were never in much better shape. My oldest brother fixed up an old Chevy Nova and got it repainted. A few weeks later, my mom hit a post and scratched it pretty well. And then my other brother smashed it into a highway barrier. Oopsie. My middle brother bought his first car for $65 and it had to be started with a screwdriver. The floorboards were all rusted out too, so you had to be careful where you stepped. I learned to drive manual transmission in that car. It was great - it ran like a go-cart. The first time I asked to borrow my mom's car was to meet my friends at a movie about a year after I got my license. Everything went great until it was time to pull back into the garage. I cut it too short and got hung up on the door frame. I didn't know what to do, so I gunned it and crunched in the entire driver side of the car from the driver's side door to the gas tank. I didn't ask to borrow the car for another year. I never bought a car in high school or college. Since everyone else had one, it freed up my dad's truck for me to use. It was a Dodge Ram Charger and I loved it. I have no idea when my dad actually got to use it, but it always seemed to be filled with his treasures - things like squirrel pelts and buckets of tools.

I purchased my first car after I graduated from college and promptly landed my first teaching gig. It was a Chevy Cavalier. I drove it for 9 years, and only got a new one because I got into an accident. I rounded a blind curve and smashed into someone who had put their car in park on a very busy street in my home town. It totaled my car, and I got a very expensive ride to the hospital. Airbags are brutal, but I hear windshields are worse. The police were as flummoxed as I was about why she was parked in the middle of the street, and I didn't get a ticket. The officer informed me it was the first time he had not issued a citation for a rear-ending. I felt special. My current car was purchased soon thereafter.

I got a message the other day from a guy and we started texting. The texting was good - he appreciated my snarky humor, and came back with some funny stuff himself. He called me, and the conversation was easy and nice. We talked about the things we like to do on a date, and what we were looking for in a significant other. They lists jibed pretty well. Then he asked if I wanted to go out later in the week. I said I would love to. Then he asked me if I could pick him up. Seriously. I asked if he had a car and his reply was "not yet." I have no idea what that means. Friends have suggested a suspended license. My good friend suggested maybe his mom won't let him borrow the minivan until he cleans his part of the basement. I still tease some good friends who invited me over for dinner one night and then had me cook dinner. He now trumps that story. Luckily some "friends" came into town and I'm going to be busy for the rest of the week.

My current car is a Honda Element. My students have dubbed it "The Toaster". They don't make them anymore because they didn't sell to the demographic they were designed for. Which pretty much sums up why I've ended up in the clearance aisle.


  1. Make sure he's not actually a junior in high school BEFORE you agree to the date.