Thursday, January 27, 2011

Get'cher motor runnin'... and don't mind the backfire...

On the commute into our routines this morning, we listened to the radio. I'm a sucker for theme shows, and one of the local stations does a show consisting of 8 songs with a theme. Some are better than others, but this morning he decided to do one about cars, and had people talking on facebook about their firsts. There were some doozies on there, and mine was really no exception.

It had been our family car for a very long time, and was finally passed down to me when I turned 15 and got my learner's permit. A 1981 Ford Fairmount Futura. I'll let you believe that's what mine looked like, because the car in that link? Pure awesome. Mine wasn't quite that cool. It was your standard-issue 4-door, which was pretty popular in the suburbs of Los Angeles in the early 1980s. It was maroon. It had a vinyl roof, bench seats, and a hard plastic steering wheel with fake wood paneling at the edges. I think the jockey box also had fake wood paneling, and so did the interior of the doors, if I remember correctly.

Whatever happened to vinyl roofs and fake wood paneling? Seems like that's something you just don't see anymore, but to me... yeah, that's some class. Pure class. Pure class in a glass.

It also had chrome bumpers, and white wall tires from Montgomery Ward. Remember those?

I learned how to drive in that car. One of my first driving lessons taught me about cockeyed steering wheels. This particular one cocked off to the left a bit. I hadn't realized it was supposed to be that way, even when there was a slight bit of resistance... or... more resistance, because the car leaked power steering fluid, and was often quite difficult to steer, but I digress... for a minute, anyway.

See, my mom got the bright idea that taking me out on a country road with a high speed limit was a good way to teach me on the second trip out. There were deep ditches on either side of the road, and since I had no clue about the steering wheel idiosyncrasy, I kept trying to straighten the thing out, and would veer off to the right... at 55 miles per hour, since that was the road's speed limit. Whoa, mama, what a mistake! My mother freaked out, and so did I! She finally figured out what the problem was, and got me to stop doing that, but we were still pretty badly shaken, because those ditches were deep!

She finally got me to slow down... a lot. And of course, that was when other traffic decided to show up on the road. Naturally, they all honked as they passed me in the oncoming lane, shook fists, flipped me off, (one even did this Russian-style, which caused him to come close to wrecking his car.) But there was no place to pull over... for what seemed like an eternity.

I finally found a place to do so, and my mom took over. She drove us to a store, where we could chill out for a while, and bought me a sweater, and a new pair of shoes. That's how bad it was.

After that, it was back to the Waremart parking lot. (Remember Waremart?) It was a good long while before I felt confident enough to try a street again. When I finally felt up to the task, I panicked as soon as I turned out of the driveway. I hooked the curb, turned the steering wheel the wrong way, somehow sped up, took out a row of juniper bushes, then... plop! Right back into the parking lot, I went!

Lesson... over. Dad drove home.

The car had juniper branches wedged into the undercarriage for a couple of days after that... at which point, I crawled under there, removed them, and decided to try again.

Before long though, I figured out how to drive that beast, and I drove every chance I got. I loved that car. Sure, it had an exhaust leak, and I had to drive it with the windows open for a while, but I still loved it. Sure, the power steering stopped working altogether, and I had to manhandle it just to go around a corner, but I still loved it. Sure, I had to manually flash the directional lights, but hey, I still loved it.

To deal with the exhaust leak until I could get it fixed, I just got a rose-scented air freshener, and life was beautiful.

I remember once, I picked up a friend who lived across town from me. We also gave her friend a ride. When she got in, she said: "Wow. It smells like roses and gasoline in here."

"Yeah, yeah... I know. Getting that fixed soon. You may want to hang out close to the window, so's you don't asphyxiate."

Not long after I got the exhaust leak fixed, it developed an oil leak. We lived on a giant hill at the time, and I can remember driving the beast up the hill, and it just kept getting louder, and louder. By the time I got home, the car sounded like a motorcycle. I can remember seeing my dad come of the house as fast as he could. I had never seen that man move so fast in my life! He yelled at me, telling me that a car like that should NEVER sound like that, and we'd better check the oil. Sure enough, bone dry. So, until I got that fixed, I would buy motor oil by the case, and just keep it in the trunk. Got very good and checking oil, and other things.

Rolls Royce made the Silver Cloud. My friends and I referred to my car as the Rust Cloud. But hey, it got me where I needed to go, and it played tapes!

I eventually sold that car to a friend. I remember watching her drive away in it, feeling a bit wistful, despite the newer, nicer car I'd just acquired.

Sigh... a first, is a first, is a first, 'non?


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