Walking to the library the other day, I found myself for some reason remembering the car that my father had when I was a child, and I started to list all of the cars which I remembered my father owning. People often have very interesting relationships with their cars, and it’s sometimes neat to become caught up in various car tales, as almost everyone remembers something odd about at least one car they or family members have owned. I fact, my relationship with one of my cars was the subject of a college admissions essay (I got in) which I stumbled across the other day.
When I was very young, my father had a bright red Saab. I don’t really remember very much about this car, so this tale comes secondhand, but apparently I was heartbroken when the Saab finally died, its clutch cable giving out along with an assortment of other parts. The car was deemed a piece of scrap, and allegedly when the tow truck arrived to remove it, I was quite distraught. Obviously the Saab was replaced with another car which was later sold when we moved to Greece, but for some reason, I don’t remember that car.
I do remember the Volvo. The Volvo was a white sedan from the 1960s, and we picked it up at the Salvation Army in Litton Springs when we returned from Greece. My father drove this car for years, and many of my childhood car memories take place in this very vehicle. As time wore on, the car slowly decayed. The first thing to go was the mechanism for the driver’s side window, causing it to fall alarmingly into the door one day. After fishing it out, my father taped it into place so that it couldn’t fall again. The floorboards in the back also rotted out, allowing us to see the road as we drove, and my childhood friend and I loved to drop things onto the roadway and shriek with glee. In the front, the carpeting on the passenger’s side grew a delicate meadow of gently waving grass.
Alas, someone sideswiped the Volvo driving home from the Caspar Inn one night. We actually pulled the frame back out with the tractor, but the hood kept popping open as we trundled down the road. Remember this, because it is foreshadowing.
So, one day, my father came to pick me up from school, and pretended that the Volvo had gone mysteriously missing, and “stole” a Nissan stationwagon. I was still young enough for this ploy to work for several days, but eventually I figured it out. The Nissan was a piece of crap. It was light golden, sort of like an anemic cat turd, and it drove like a boat. It also had a woman with an obscure accent deep within its innards. She would say things like “your door is ajar,” and “your lights are on” until I bashed the center console in a fit of rage one day.
I remember at one point someone had it out for my father, and they loosened the screws on the driveshaft, causing to to plop out of the bottom of the car one day, thankfully when we were driving down Caspar Road at a relatively slow rate. When my father went to fix it, he discovered the tampering, and the police came. It was very exciting. Then someone slashed his tires. Who knew the world of college English instruction was so cutthroat.
The Nissan’s downfall came when we were playing soccer in the street one day, and Tommy Brown kicked a soccer ball right through the front quarter panel. I remember the ball sailing all the way through the engine compartment, but I think my brain has embroidered the event a bit for the sake of dramatic flair. At any rate, it was obvious that the body of the car was completely rusted out, and it was time for a replacement.
The Honda, which my father still drives, is a bright red sedan. It was a fairly unremarkable car when he purchased it, and it continues to be unremarkable, except for the lopsided grin it has acquired thanks to an, er, unfortunate incident.* I think it’s rather rakish, personally, but it irritates the hell out of my father because it squeaks like a demon and the hood is rather difficult to open.
My very first car was a Ford Escort, in a delightfully nondescript shade of blue. The Ford and I had a number of exciting adventures, like the time I accidentally stole someone else’s car because apparently Ford ignition keys are not entirely unique. The first sign of trouble in our relationship was when the passenger side doorhandle stopped working from the inside, leading to tactless jokes about “rape doors,” although most people just thought I was insanely courteous for jumping out and opening the door for them.
The real trouble came when it developed a stealthy carbon monoxide link in the intake manifold and almost killed me. I have to say, I’m not a fan of capital punishment, but I really enjoyed watching the Ford get crushed at the salvage lot. Mmmm. Yes, I did.
For a very brief period after I crushed the Ford, I drove Jeep. A big, giant, honking Jeep Grand Cherokee. Which paired really well with my vanity plates, in that way that people catcalled at me and threw eggs. I decided to embrace the situation, and I added an “I’m changing the climate, ask me how!” bumpersticker. After about six months, I ended up selling the Jeep and entering my current carless state, which has endured for two years as of today, according to the bill of sale squirreled away in my chaotic filing system.
In high school, several friends had Volkswagons. My friend A had a shiny black Jetta, and I remember we used to put the back seat down and have picnics in the back, often with tirimisu from the Meat Market. I also remember going on reckless driving races which pitted A against Tristan and his silver Volvo stationwagon (a car about which I also have fond memories). Another friend, Kat, also had a Volkswagon, a black Golf, which she still drives to this day, although apparently it is dying an ugly death at the moment. We used to listen to terrible pop songs, eat tirimisu from the Meat Market (see a theme?), and have deep conversations on the Headlands. Later, Tristan acquired and briefly drove an ancient white Jetta, which is still hauled out on special occasions (like when he’s home), thus perpetuating the Volkswagon theme.
When I was in college, a friend had a Lotus. If you don’t know what a Lotus is, go look it up, because you won’t understand how remarkable and excellent it was that I was able to drive said Lotus until you know what a Lotus is. Lotus. Oh, yeah.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in other cars, of course, but these are the ones which I think stick out, worthy of their own history. A lot of Hondas, Volvos, and Volkswagons, and a few flashier cars like Maseratis have passed my purview, but for such brief periods that most of them don’t really stick in my mind. Cars for me bring up memories of long trips, singalongs, dark nights, thinking, discussing, arguing; the American culture of the car is really quite unique, and while I am not a fan of cars, I’m kind of glad to see that it’s still alive and well in some corners of the world.
*I am going to keep referencing the Great Honda Incident until I feel like writing for it. It really deserves a post all its very own.