I always thought that my vehicle was a means of transportation. Little did I know that it is a statement of my abilities, intelligence, political ideals, religious affiliations and sexual preferences.
I learned to drive on my father’s 1968 VW Bug. It had belonged to his father, and we inherited it when Grandaddy Bell passed away. It was an automatic and I have fond memories of driving around the house and running over my mother’s favorite flowering shrub. I’ll never forget the look on her face as my father yanked me out of the car and berated me for not remembering the difference between the clutch and the brake. Mom was infinitely more concerned with the fact that the Bug was now planted firmly on the flowering shrub that had begun to bloom for the first time in years. It was a while before I drove again.
It was my father’s idea to give me the Bug when I turned 16. I was very excited and on the first day I drove it the approximately four blocks to my high school. I was so proud. At the end of the day, I drove it four blocks back home and had just turned into my driveway when the car stopped suddenly. The floorboard had apparently rusted out and the battery fell to the ground. My dream car was no more.
The first vehicle that was actually mine was a 72 Ford Mustang. It was red. It was actually a faded red with a few spots of rust and an eight-track tape player. I am certain that I was the hold out for the conversion from the eight track to the cassette tapes. It was because of me that record companies continued to manufacture eight tracks. Who didn’t enjoy being in the middle of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” when the track changed? If I search through the attic, I am certain to find my soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, I digress.
My father surprised me with the car on my 18th birthday. It was a bargaining chip. He told me I could either live on campus at MTSU or I could commute and get a car. I probably should have moved on campus… then again, knowing the life I led in college, I was better off at home. My car was not great to look at, but it kept itself together until that fateful night that I started home from my job at a retail mall department store. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, my car shimmied and shook with great intensity. It was as if I had run over some large metal object. As I looked into my rearview mirror, I realized I had run over a larger metal object… namely my transmission.
The first car that I owned was a Chevy Chevette. I purchased it from a rental car sales lot. It was a white hatchback and it had a four cylinder engine in it. I paid $108.00 a month for it, and I was so proud until I brought it home. It was not what my mother wanted for me. Much like the guys I dated were not the guys she wanted for me either. She didn’t want me to settle for cheap, unattractive and fuel efficient. She wanted me to purchase my dream car. But this was the 80s in middle Tennessee and my dream car was a brand new Red Corvette with t-tops. To this day that is my dream car… and I have yet to own one. The Chevette did well for me for a few years until I had to replace the alternator. Then the starter. Then the fuel pump. If I was heading up a hill and I had the air conditioning running, I was barely able to muster enough speed to pass a hitch-hiker making his way across country. By the time I had paid the car off, it was time to trade up.
I was finally working a 40 hour job and could afford the step below my dream car. I had always wanted a Camaro, and was very, very excited that the President of the Credit Union where my father sat on the Board of Directors just happened to have a Camaro that was two years old and he was looking to sell. There was no problem with my loan being approved and in 1986 I drove away in a 1982 Chevy Camaro that was a limited edition Olympic model. How does one tell a special edition Olympic model from a regular car? Why by the small Olympic decals on the side. This car had a cassette player and air condition and black leather upholstery. I learned a lot about black leather upholstery in the dead of a middle Tennessee summer. Gets stinkin’ hot. I’ve never had a car with leather upholstery since, and I doubt that I ever will again.
This baby sat low to the ground and I wore mirrored sunglasses and let my freak flag fly! I drag raced people down the interstate with Motley Crue booming through the tape deck. I drove that car into the ground! It was the very first car I bought AND paid for! It was the first car I had a title to and I wasn’t giving that car up for anything! I replaced the transmission and then the air conditioner went out. I couldn’t afford to have that fixed too… so I drove it for three Tennessee summers before I finally had to move on to my next dream car. A convertible.
I wanted a convertible so bad I could taste it. I had not lusted after a vehicle for years… and I Was. Going. To. Have. It. I found a used Ford Mustang convertible and was in heaven. It was great! I kept a perpetual red nose and sunburned scalp for years. The problem came in trying to keep the fabric top clean and the fact that I had no trunk space. This was the perfect road trip car, as long as you didn’t plan to go so far that you had to pack heavy. I learned early on that ice cream cones were not something you wanted to consume with the top down. I replaced the normal things, battery, alternator, starter, etc. But then, the roof began to leak around the windows and I found that I had to keep towels in the car in the event that a rain storm hit. I was caught on more than one occasion driving through a rain shower with the top down… thinking I could outlast the rain. I rarely did. But the final straw came when the top would go down… but would not go back up. It was, time for a new car.
I was getting older and so were my friends. They were tired of having to climb in and out of a two car vehicle and so my next car desires were simple. Four doors and a trunk. Everytime I walked onto a car lot and was asked what I was looking for, my reply was Four Doors and a Trunk.
“What type of car?”
“No, I mean, what model.”
“Anything with four doors in my price range”.
“I don’t care. As long as it has four doors and a trunk”.
“You’re pretty easy to please.”
“You have no idea.”
So I purchased a used Oldsmobile Alero. It was green. It had four doors and a trunk. And it was the worst car I have ever owned. It was in the shop more than any of the others cars I owned combined. I hated it. I bought a CD player and had my friend Leon install it. It was the first vehicle I owned to have a CD player. The player came with a remote control, which at first I thought was very funny, because truly, the dials are an arm’s length away… until I began to really use the remote, and then I would just laugh at myself. The only redeeming memory of that car was the fact that the Lord worked through its repairs in a profound way. But as soon as I got the note paid down close enough, I paid it off and gave it to my little brother to give to let my oldest niece to drive. It has not given them a bit of trouble. I could have named that car Christine.
I am now the proud owner of my first brand new vehicle. A Hyundai Santa Fe that my friend Lou Ann helped me pick out. I test drove EVERY small and mid-sized SUV on the market and this one won hand’s down. It was the smoothest of all cars and I would endorse it in every way. It has a six CD changer and I love the fact that I have come a long way from the days of my eight track.
Having said all that, I am proud to state that I have never placed a bumper sticker on any of my cars. Nor has there been a fish symbol or a Darwin symbol. When I owned a Ford, I did not belittle the Chevys and when I owned the Chevy, my car did not speak ill of the Ford. I have not seen fit to install mud-flaps with silhouettes of naked women on my SUV. I have been through many a Presidential election without using my car to voice my opinion. I have campaigned against legalized gambling without my opinion affixed on my vehicle.
I don’t have cute, pity sayings that are written so small that you must tailgate me to read a punchline. I don’t threaten you with bodily harm from a 38 special if you follow too closely. I don’t have cartoon characters peeing on another vehicle’s logo or giving you the finger. I’m not bragging about the ability of my pre-school toddler or my high school student. I don’t have praying hands or the name of my significant other scripted on the passenger side window. I do not have rainbows or triangles or a moniker announcing that I am a flaming heterosexual. I just don’t see the need for it.
I love my car. It gets me from Point A to Point B without my having to make any statements about life in general or the state of the world specifically. Alas, but that all cars would speak as quietly.