When I turned 16 years old, my mom bought me a used car from one of her co-workers. After she brought it home, I gleefully jumped inside to go for my first solo ride.
I went exactly two blocks before the power steering went out as I was turning a corner. All you modern youngsters may not know what I’m talking about, but when the power steering went out on a car made in the mid-seventies, you were no longer trying to drive an automobile. I would compare it to a cruise ship…or maybe a planet. A planet whose orbit you are trying to control with only the power of your biceps.
I got my second car a couple of weeks later (yet, for all intents and purposes it was really my first…two blocks does not a first car make). It was a hand-me-down from my pregnant sister, who could no longer climb over the center console to get to the driver’s seat. Why didn’t she just open the driver-side door? Because it didn’t open. At all.
It was a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and that door wasn’t the only thing that malfunctioned. One time, I went to make a left-hand turn and the entire turn signal stick broke off and fell to the floor. I couldn’t drive over 55 mph without the tape cassette ejecting and flying into the back seat, and once when I was unlocking the only working door, the entire lock mechanism came out with my key.
My mom often tells stories about her first car. She had three young kids when some people from her work felt sorry for her and gave her a very old, very used jalopy. There were no seats in the back so my sisters had to stand, which had an added hazard because there was also a hole in the floor. And, and those three young kids could often be seen giving the car a push to get it started.
Speaking of pushing…my cousin’s first car had a broken gas gauge. Since she was old enough to drive, and I wasn’t, guess who got to push it every time it ran out of gas?
I went through three other used cars before, in 1997, I bought my first new car and have been driving it ever since. It’s the only car my kids have ever known me to drive and they have affectionately named her, “Bessie”.
Coming home from school the other day, Bessie was making some strange sounds when I looked in the rear-view mirror and said to the kids, “Bessie is getting old. I don’t know how much longer she’ll be running.”
My 10 year old daughter matter-of-factly said, “Well, when we get a new car we still have to keep this one.”
I laughed. “No. We won’t be keeping this one. Why would we do that?”
“I don’t know. Just so we could look at it, I guess. Can’t we keep it in the driveway?”
I replied, “No. We can’t keep it in the driveway. We don’t have room in the driveway to keep cars just so we can look at them.”
She said, “Aw! That really stinks!” She was genuinely upset about it.
But, what she doesn’t know is that I’m planning to drive Bessie for five-and-a-half more years…so it will be in perfect condition to hand over to my daughter as her very first car.