You Never Forget Your First . . . Car, That Is

I remember it like it was yesterday; I mean really, 1989 wasn’t that long ago!  With a red exterior and beige interior, I thought it was absolutely perfect.  It didn’t matter that until then I had never even heard of a Renault Alliance.  My mom and I had compromised.  My first year of college was a nightmare.  I had been so homesick and without a car that 135 miles might have well been 1000.  In order to convince me to go back, my mom scraped together enough cash to buy this car from someone we knew from church.  My sister still laughs at me each time I say, “I loved that car!”  She compared it to Fred Flintstone’s car.  Maybe I can see the resemblance, but I still love that car!  After all, it was my first, and it gave me the opportunity to come home from school whenever I wanted.

So why does my sister laugh at me?  What was wrong with the car?  Well, I admit there were a lot of things wrong with it, but driving it was always an adventure.

It was quite innocuous at the start.  The first thing I noticed was that the rewind button on the cassette player (I did say it was 1989) would fly into the backseat if you didn’t hold your hand there to stop it.  This resulted in either fishing around the floor of the back seat for it while trying to keep your eyes on the road or bloodying your finger on the sharp metal prong that was now left exposed should you feel the need to rewind the tape once more.  No big deal, just a small quirk.  Everyone has them.

The next thing I noticed was that the car had a mind of its own when it came to speed of travel.  The route I took from home to college was by no means mountainous, but it wasn’t flat either.  My car decided that it would only be willing to go 35mph uphill and 55 down.  That certainly extended the drive, but when you have your collection of cassette tapes with you, who really cares.  The other stipulation regarding speed was that if it was raining, I could go ahead and press that pedal to the floor.  I was only traveling 5mph.  My car did not appreciate moisture. It didn’t matter if it was pouring or slightly sprinkling.  Like the dog who refuses to step a foot outside to potty if the ground is wet, my car revolted.  The message was clear: I should avoid driving in wet conditions at all costs.  Just in case the speed factor wasn’t enough to deter me, the car eventually decided to turn things up a notch. On a rare early Monday morning trip back to school for my 8:30am class, my car decided to give me a wakeup call.  Have I mentioned that I am not a morning person? Well, things were uneventful until the last five miles.  I entered town and slowed for a red light.  It wasn’t even raining, but I guess it had rained overnight.  The second I hit my brake, my car responded by doing a complete 360.  As if that wasn’t an eye-opening experience, what shocked me even more was that everyone else at the light appeared to be in collusion with my car.  They completely ignored what had just happened and continued to drive right past.  Perhaps I should have dropped out of college to become a stunt driver because after that particular morning, my car decided to make it a habit. In fact, my sister witnessed one such occasion.  I was following her home one afternoon (to her house in the middle of nowhere) and she was taking a route with which I was unfamiliar.  She made a sharp left turn and then made an immediate stop for a stop sign.  Unsuspecting, I was forced to slam on brakes sending my car into a spin.  Once stationary, I looked up only to find my sister watching me in her rearview mirror, laughing, and giving me a thumbs up.  She apparently had no concern for the fact that I could have rammed her Mustang or gone into a rather deep ditch on the right side of the road.  She thought it was hysterically funny.  Perhaps the sibling rivalry went deeper than I had previously thought.

There are so many other tales to tell.  My radiator started acting up requiring me to stop halfway between home and school to add water to the tank.  Once, when my roommate came home with me, I happened to mention that her cigarette appeared to be generating a lot of smoke.  She replied by saying she had put her cigarette out five minutes earlier.  My car had decided to take up smoking.  My friend, Jen, always had the bad luck of being with me when my car obnoxiously refused to budge an inch.  Of course, since I was rather petite back then, it was only logical that Jen would be the one to get out and push while I steered us out of traffic.  She was with me, along with some of her other friends, the night my transmission gave up the ghost.  The car had been running fine.  We went to McDonald’s and were on our way back to her house when we had to stop for a light.  One of the boys in the backseat decided to be funny, reaching forward to shift the car into neutral.  When the light changed and I hit the gas, my car said, “Nope, not budging!” So many memories! Sigh, I told you it was always an adventure.

Even the last hurrah went off in grand style.  I had been at the Navy base visiting my boyfriend and was traveling home via the interstate at two in the morning when my car decided to simply coast to the embankment on the side of the road and die.  In the absence of cell phones, this required me to put my life in jeopardy by walking a mile to the next exit and then an additional mile to Frank’s Truck Stop in order to call my mom.  In fear that I would be carted off by a truck driver and never seen again, I called Jen from the payphone and demanded she stay on the line until my mom arrived.  Though we had the car towed home, it was unable to be revived.  The timing belt had snapped and subsequently resulted in engine failure.

Man, I LOVED that car!!


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