December 22, 2009

Old Bessie et al

I’m not into cars. If it gets me there, I’m okay with that. My first car was a '71 Cutlas S my grandfather gave me in 1978. I called her “Old Bessie.” Her most useful attribute was that she could hold about 10 college students who needed a Designated Driver. And a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts or Sambo’s. At three a.m.

Husband and I have owned numerous cars during our quarter-of-a-century marriage. Right after we were engaged, Soon-To-Be Husband bought a '73 red Volkswagen Beetle. He traded in his '73 beat-up Pontiac LeMans, tying up the muffler with a coat hanger on the way to the used car lot.

He took me for a test drive in the VW, on a wide, multi-lane boulevard in Clearwater, Florida. As soon as we pulled out of the used car lot, I asked him, “Do you know how to drive a stick shift?“

He said, “Not really,“ and peeled out of the lots, squealing the tires. We survived.

My elderly grandmother also lived in Clearwater. One day after work he picked her up and brought her to our house. When they arrived, I asked her, “Grammy, how did you like your ride over here in the Volkswagen?”

Deadpan, she said, “It was great, especially when we turned the corner on two wheels.”

Husband didn’t have much luck with that car. In a two-month period, the VW was damaged while Husband was minding his own business driving on a Clearwater Street. In nearly identical accidents, two huge vehicles blew past him, their heavy doors flying open, and damaging the smaller, lighter Bug.

We paid $500 for the car, had several $500 collision repairs, fixed the transmission for $500, and sold the car for $500. After several years, we had about four grand invested in that little car.

Our “good” car at that time was a 1981 Chevette. Our “good” car didn’t have air conditioning, and we lived in Florida for more than two years without a/c in our vehicles. (The great thing about the Chevette was its rear hatch -- you could literally put a bureau in the car with the back slide down.)

After getting married, we traded in the Chevette. Being married now, and theoretically adults, we wanted a sedan and air conditioning.

For some reason that escapes me now we wanted a “K” car. Yes, the infamous “K” car, the one that comedians of the '80s raised ratings on, the most maligned vehicle of the era. The car was a ridiculous looking square made of old Pepsi cans, aluminum foil balls, rubber bands, and Turkish taffy.

Let me say for the record that Husband now buys our cars, and I don’t even go to the dealership with him. The reason is that I am gullible, easily influenced, and drive my Husband nuts. I trust his judgment.

Then we were newlyweds and I convinced Husband that the Dodge salesman, who told me he was from Indiana, was getting us the best deal.

We bought a new Dodge Aries, one of the legendary “K” cars (K stands for “Klunker” or “Krappy”). The car was a black, 4-door sedan. When you slammed the car door, the entire body shook.

On the way home from the dealership we took a back way off Fletcher Avenue. Apparently someone lost a huge load of roofing tacks because dozens of them punctured our new tires. All four of them. How special is it to get four flat tires on the way home from buying a new car?

A few weeks later I was driving home past a Temple Terrace links. Some duffer yards away hit a beautiful drive that sliced a bit, smack into the right rear door of my car and made a stupendous dent. Imagine tooling along in your car at 45 miles per hour and something flies out of thin air. How do you explain that to the Green Gecko? Imagine the phone call to the police or your insurance agent.

Obviously we paid the deductible on that one. Quoth the raven.