Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Fun Times with the Family Cars


I’ve had a driver’s license since I was 18, but I’ve never actually owned a car. When I lived with my parents, I drove one of my dad’s cars. Years later, Ken was the one who bought the vehicles (usually every couple of years), and he was the one who drove them.

It’s probably just as well that I never had the urge to buy a car. Given my history, I don’t think I would have had much luck with one of my own. Whenever the family cars had a problem, I was the one driving them.

Dad bought a new Chevy Bel Air when I was 17. A year later, I was driving the car when the driver of a pickup truck made a left turn into my side of the Bel Air. The collision sent the car into a tree. The impact with the tree threw the car into reverse and sent the vehicle crashing back into the truck.

End of Chevy Bel Air. Dad then bought a Tempest, a little, blue four-cylinder Pontiac.

The Tempest conked out on me one day on the way to work. I was in another town, about five miles from home. I had to have the car pushed to a local repair shop where our wonderful small town mechanics later picked it up and hauled it to their shop.

Of course, I was in the driver’s seat while the Tempest was pushed to the local shop. I had never been pushed before. I was a nervous wreck before we got there.

The Tempest had no park gear; I had to put the car in neutral when I parked it. Dad decided to get rid of the Tempest after it re-parked itself one evening while I was shopping at a big box store. I came out of the store to find that the car had backed into the aisle and was blocking traffic.

Shortly after that, Dad bought a blue Dodge Dart (BDD).

Let me count the ways.

BDD lost power the middle of rush hour. Fortunately, I was on a less-traveled side street in Nearby City when that happened. I left the car in the middle of the street, with the emergency flashers blinking, while I found a pay phone and called home for further instructions.

BDD lost the transmission. I confess that this might have been triggered by my trying to rock the car out of a fairly deep mud puddle. Yeah, I know, my bad.

BDD lost the radiator hose on the Massachusetts Turnpike. I was somewhere between Worcester and Springfield when I noticed that the heat gauge was registering hot. I pulled off the highway and found a repair shop that fixed the problem for me in about ninety minutes and for a reasonable price. Later, Dad checked in with wonderful small town mechanics to make sure everything had been done right.

A year later, on my way to Springfield early in the evening, BDD lost the brakes in Lee, about two minutes before I reached the Massachusetts Turnpike. Trying not to panic, I drove into a used car lot, turned off the ignition, put on the emergency brake, and sat there hyperventilating until the man who owned the business came over to find out what I was doing there.

I’ve always wondered what our wonderful small town mechanics thought when they heard about the brake issue. I visualize one turning to the other and saying, “It’s her again. Every time something goes wrong with one of that family’s cars, she’s the one driving it.”

I love public transportation.

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