A conversation at work today got us talking about our first cars. I had a car before this one, but I didn’t have it long, and there was no emotional attachment to it. This little beauty had personality and character. My Datsun looked only vaguely like this one, it had rust, dings, one of those classic gas station post dents in the back, and the words, “The Orange Thing” painted on the passenger side.
It was a “gift” from my high school girlfriend’s dad. When he bought her a new car, he offered me this one, saying he thought I should have it, because it wasn’t safe for his daughter anymore. He realized how that sounded and laughed, saying that I’d be more inclined to fix it up and work on it, but I often thought back then that he meant it exactly the way it sounded.
That car was everything everyone ever sings, writes, or tells about a kid’s first car. It was the freedom to g0 where I wanted, when I wanted, and to take whoever I wanted with me. It was often full of kids, pizza, and loud music playing from the biggest, cheapest, self-installed speakers you could find at the time. It forced me to learn to drive a manual transmission, (and I’m still driving a manual). I learned how to change a tire, bleed brakes, take chances, and how to not take some chances. I even managed to not die when the gas pedal stuck down coming down a mountain pass, clutch in and engine off. Lots of driving firsts, and many firsts in that car that had nothing to do with driving.
It’s always amazed me the emotional attachment people, including me, have with their cars. Some of the vehicles I’ve owned have been primarily transportation device, but this one, and few of the others have been part of my life. Someplace I spent a good portion of my time, and the first and last parts of days out, dates, and vacations.
The orange thing got left home for the senior prom. It wasn’t good enough to make the grand entrance into the parking garage next door to the hotel. We opted to take her parents Ford LTD, which had to be back home later that evening, although she didn’t. I’m sure the car had no feeling about going or staying home from the prom, but I do.
Then there’s getting rid of our rides when they finally give up the ghost, or we just give up on them. I understand how people can trade their cars in every few years, but I just can’t seem to do it. The orange thing sat in a parking lot for a long time, because I couldn’t bear to call someone to tow it away. Our mini van, which just died an unfortunate unmaintained death at 235,000 miles was towed from our driveway recently. I wasn’t home, but my wife took a picture as it wheeled out of our lives. That car had some great memories in and around it. It took us on various trips between L.A. and B.C. and was as much a part of our family as any of us. I get teary thinking about it.