First cars are like first lovers. They are rarely the best you’ll ever have, you’re still learning what it is you’re supposed to do with them, and (try as you might) you can’t forget them.
My first car was nearly identical to the one above. It was a hand me down from the folks–my stepmother had driven it for four or five years before I had it. You might recall that I’ve said before she doesn’t always have the best luck with cars. So over the course of the 100,000 miles she put on it, it collected a number of battle scars.
It came to me with its check engine light on, its cassette player broken, and a few shades of light blue paint covering it’s body panels (more evidence of past “oops” moments). Much of the money I got for my high school graduation went into that car. A new coat of “light crystal blue metallic” covered up all the scratches, dings, and scrapes. A new CD player was installed, which gave a decent enough sound to the tinny factory speakers.
Amazingly enough, the 90 horsepower engine still ran pretty well, and with the paint and CD player, I felt like the car was pretty close to new condition. And for the next year and a half, it got me everywhere I needed to go. But not without incident.
Just weeks after I got it, my friend Red and I (you’ll remember Red as the unlucky dancing partner I exacted a revenge on) left our summer job to get lunch for the office. The sunroof open, we enjoyed the wind in our hair as we made our way to get the take out. Red stretched, her arms exiting the sunroof. Her hand hit the metal track the glass slid on, knocking it loose. I snapped it back in place, and off we went. As we pulled into the parking lot of our office, a summer shower opened up. I hit the button to close the roof, and it stopped halfway. The track Red had hit was off…and the roof was going nowhere. A stream of obscenities left my mouth–wafting out of the stuck sunroof and into the ears of the very religious, very conservative director of another division of our company. I pulled away before I could see if she clutched her pearls or not. Still aggravated, I parked under a tree, and with my hands full of my coworkers drinks, slammed the car door shut. Only, I didn’t. The hand I used to shut the door also held a vanilla milkshake, which caught between the door and the car frame and exploded–sending vanilla ice cream all over the dark blue interior.
A friend from home (you might recall he has been a guest blogger here) and I took off after my first-ever college midterms to visit another high school friend who lived just a bridge and a tunnel away from the Big Apple. We set off from WV to NJ late one night, tossing the stale doughnuts we purchased somewhere in Virginia out the sunroof and into the beds of passing trucks as we went. We were young and naive, and too stupid to realize that you do NOT drive in the city. We set off on the supposed 15 minute drive from our friend’s house to Times Square. Three hours and $30 worth of tolls later, we finally arrived. An equally fruitless attempt at finding our way back landed us at LaGuardia, where an off duty cop was nice enough to escort us back to the proper freeway.
A few months later, while I was home on my Christmas break, my sister, a friend, and I decided to go see a movie. As I maneuvered down the driveway, careful not to hit any of the other cars that lined it, I was met with a sudden THUD as the drivers mirror snapped back against the fender. I had backed the entire driver’s side of the car down the pillar at the end of the driveway, scraping off half the paint I’d had put on just a few months before. Luckily the shop still had the paint, and were able to fix it for almost nothing.
Then, at the end of my first year of college, some friends and I went to catch a late movie. One friend and I got into my car, the rest of the group took off in another. I engaged the clutch and pushed down the gas as my friend and I argued over which CD to put in.
And I drove right into the concrete base of the parking lot lights. I was horrified.
“Oh God!” I said to my friend. “Go see how bad it is.”
“Yeah, my knee is fine!” she said, clutching the knee that had just buried itself in the glovebox. She got out, limped around front, and returned a moment later carrying a fog light and the front license plate. “It’s fine.”
I shreiked and got out, going around front to see my bumper hanging in pieces. I calmed down enough to try to drive on, but the car wouldn’t start. (The collision had shut off the fuel pump.) My friend and I looked around. We were the only ones in the parking lot. We walked to the nearest grocery store to use the phone, and as luck would have it ran into another friend who correctly diagnosed the fuel pump had shut off, and assured us that there was a switch in the trunk that would make it right again. We walked back to the car. Only to discover that I had locked the keys in it.
A few weeks in the shop, and it was good as new (again). But not for long. I put 42,000 more miles on that little blue car–burning out the clutch, a few sets of tires, a thermostat, and set or two of spark plugs. It finally developed a problem that the shop couldn’t diagnose, and off it went to the used car lot–replaced by my first brand new car.