Today I parked between a car with a severely flat tire and a car with a bullet hole in the side. I am not a car snob but I do like a car with four inflated tires and without life-threatening bullet holes. Simple demands really.
My first car was a hand-me-down from my parents. It was a convertible Mustang. It sounds like a sweet ride, yes? I had a friend who mercilessly called it "The Shit Mobile." It was that bad. Toward the end of my tortured relationship with the Mustang I think I pushed it more than I actually drove it. Once, I actually had four men push it out of an intersection so quickly I had to run alongside it and jump back inside Dukes of Hazzard style. Though, I don't ever remember a Duke boy bonking his head on the door jam in his quest to keep his heap of junk from running into a streetlight.
I drove that car for four long years. I dumped money into it to fix everything from a cracked engine block to a rear window that just fell out one day while driving. I even had the alternator locked up and catch fire while driving. When I popped the hood to see the source of the smoke a gust of wind came through and gave the fire new breath. I seriously debated with myself over whether I should just let the whole thing burn or if I should seek a fire extinguisher. My good side won out and a businessman from the building I was near got the thrill of his life when I asked him if I could borrow a fire extinguisher to extinguish the fire in my car. He bolted out like Superman in his suit and tie. He wanted to be a hero. Later he sent me a bill to have his fire extinguisher re-charged. Some hero!
I met a lot of interesting people in my time with my broken down speedster. I met a man who lived in his truck and drove around the states wherever he pleased. I met a kid with a Mohawk that promised to take me home if I would just get in his car - I did not. I met a tow-truck driver named Ace whose phone number I memorized because I called him so often. You know you are down on your luck when you have a favorite tow-truck driver. I met mechanics and service attendants. I even met used car salesmen I pleaded with to take my car. Only one actually did and he called me later to come pick up my lame car because it would not start for an interested buyer. I went, jostled the key, and drove off the lot.
I had many conversations with my father that sounded like alien garble. He would say, "What did it sound like before it died? Did it go rib-a-rib-a-knock-knock?"
"No," I would answer. "It sounded more like clang-a-clang-a-bop-bop."
"Hmmm...The bop-bop again? What can that be?"
I learned more about car repair than I could possibly ever want to learn. I changed spark plugs and belts. I watched my Dad spend weekends trying to get the thing to run before he would sigh and tell me which repair facility to take it to.
The car was a lemon. I think it came off the line with some defect that no one could ever pinpoint. My parents had trouble with it before the bestowed it upon me.
Finally, my grandparents gave me $2,000 to put toward a new car. That was a requirement. It could not be used. It had to be showroom new. I was a young adult with stellar credit so I marched down to the Saturn dealership and drove away in my first car that was my very own. It had just seven miles on the odometer. It was wonderful. Well, except the part where they sang to me. Saturn used to do this thing where the entire staff would sing to you when you bought a car. It was horrifying. They even took my picture and sent me a calendar with a picture of just my new car and me with a pained look on my face. After their joyful singing they lined up so I could drive my car down the platform while they cheered and waved. Seriously painful.
My parents hung onto the Mustang for a couple more years before finally giving up on the thing and selling it. My dad told the young fellow buying it about all the issues it had and the dummy still wanted the thing. As he drove away my dad wished the kid well. It was less that a week later that the kid called and asked what the heck my dad had sold him. My dad reiterated that he told him all the problems the car had.
"You didn't tell me the windshield would fall out while driving down the freeway!" the young man hollered.
"It what?" my dad could not stop laughing. He apologized to the kid and told him he hoped he could find a good repair shop...he would need it!