Thursday, November 16, 2006

Here's your one chance, Fancy

My parents are such lovely, law-abiding people. They’re good with their finances, they save adequately for retirement and they normally keep their vehicles through at least three presidential terms. They do things like pay off their auto loans and replace the clutch in the truck when it goes out. Even more specifically, my father is normally the one changing the clutch or the engine or the throttle body, because he’s all mechanically inclined like that. And if it gets down to it, he’ll even change the oil.

When I got my first car at sixteen I had to show my father that I was competent enough to be let loose on America’s highways. I’d miserably failed the ‘Driving a Stick-shift’ lesson and it wouldn’t be so much of a stretch to say he wasn’t terribly confident in my abilities. After all, I’d somehow managed to rip the driver’s door off my mother’s van less than six months before while reaching out to open the mailbox with the van in reverse and the door wide open. I still maintain that this is hardly my fault. Had they taken the van into the shop and had them replace the window motor, this would never have happened. I am so not to blame here. *cough

My father-created Driving Test involved me, a 1993 Ford Tempo (white), a lug wrench, a jack and one very hot concrete driveway. My goal: to remove and replace all four wheels by the end of the day. Looking back on this, it seems much more like a punishment and less like a Test. But that’s how we roll in my family. Why change one tire when you can so obviously change four?

I got through two of them before my then latent piss-and-vinegarness rose to the surface. I would not be removing any more tires, I decided. The first one proved I could do it and the second one showed that the first wasn’t a fluke. Statistically, I had a very small chance of blowing all four tires at once and should I someday encounter that kind of circumstance then changing them would not be my chief concern; escaping from the gun-wielding officers after having just run over a police barricade and making it across the Mexico border would be my chief concern.

I managed to stick with Tessa the Tempo until I was two months away from leaving for college. Then came Gidget the Jeep, a 1993 Daimler-Chrysler creation that sported a lovely, if enigmatic, sticker on the rear hatch that read simply: Please Use Tongs.

After that came Anabelle, a Mitsubishi Montero with leather seats. I don’t really need to go into what happens during an Arkansas summer when bare leg meets scorching leather. After my senior year in college, Anabelle languished at my parent’s house during my stint in New York. I guess she knew I’d come back for her.

Then Dulce, a Grand Cherokee that had no real problems other than the fact that gasoline had suddenly risen to a staggering price per gallon. Plus I became less concerned with carting friends around in a vehicle that had headroom. If you want to bitch about it, I decided, you can take your own car. It was time I purchased something sensible and sedan-like. Something that would boldly proclaim to the world that a) I had a steady, reliable income and b) that I was a steady, reliable adult.

I’ve never named the current Accord. Not from any lack of names, more from the fact that this reliable and sturdy sedan was just that: reliable and sturdy. Every other vehicle had strange quirks and dings and behavioral patterns. Tessa the Tempo used to activate her automatic seat belts when I was driving down the interstate. Gidget the Jeep used to fake you out with her lagging starter. Anabelle would screech her locking motors in a chorus of pain if you happened to touch the automatic locks from the driver side.

As of Saturday I will have added another one into the mix. This one will more than likely be just as devoid of quirks as my last one has been. I’m not terribly upset by this, however, because what this new car will lack in quirks, she will make up in gas mileage and warranty coverage.


Carl from L.A. said...

The tire-changing exercise your Dad gave you should prove handy when you blow a tire when you least expect it and usually at the worst possible times.

I blew a tire one time on my way to teach a class so I just pulled over the freeway, got down on my hands and knees in my white shirt and tie and change it to the spare. Only 10 minutes late.

Another time when it happened it was at night time, raining cats and dogs. This time it took 15 minutes because I could hardly see.

Jason said...

I can't believe the Tempo lasted that long...

...I like Accords...they've been pretty good to me...

Ally said...

ha HA! I had Lucille the plymouth acclaim that would make an owl hooting sound whenever I drove over 45 miles per hour. Very exciting, and her quirks were the only reason she got a special name as well! :)