Friday, September 24, 2004

I was driving around town in my little green Jetta today, the air conditioner turned on high to block out the 90 degree heat from outside, I was struck by how far I've come in the motor vehicle arena. Not that a Jetta is a high-luxury car, but compared to some of the other cars I've driven, it's practically a Bentley.

I got my first car when I was 18. It was a combination birthday/graduation present. It was $500, all my parents could afford. What kind of car was it, you ask? A 1972 emerald green Pinto. No, I didn't graduate in 1972. More like 15 years later. But as far as Pintos go, it was pretty cool. White vinyl top with a sunroof. Although you did have to crank it to get it open. But I now had freedom to go where I wanted without having to ask to use my mom's car.

I drove that car for about a year before it conked out. Then I was back to borrowing the car from my parents. Unfortunately, I had to borrow my dad's car this time to get to and from work, because we had more compatible work schedules where I could drop him off and pick him up.

It's important to know that my dad hasn't always made the best choices when it came to cars. I remember growing up, and making road trips across country to see relatives. Every year, there was some sort of problem with the car. It didn't matter if it was a new car or used. We always had bad luck. Like the one year when the car would stall out every time we'd stop for gas. Ironically, we'd always stop at a place called "Stuckeys," where we'd inevitably get "stuck" for several hours. It got so bad that my sister and I would cringe and scream "NO!" if we saw a sign for Stuckeys. (for those who don't know, Stuckeys is like a traveler's haven, you can get gas, cheap food, and any type of souvenirs you can imagine (big belt buckles from Texas, Native American beaded belts, ceramic eagles, etc.).

Another year, we had a used, very big take of an Oldsmobile, that had a lot of difficulties. Believe me, it's no fun to be stuck in rush hour traffic in Dallas in the middle of July with windows that either won't roll down or won't roll up, and not being able to use the air conditioning because the car will overheat.

Anyway, so the car I had to borrow from my dad was a big green van. Inside, it was nice, I suppose, with a sink, and wood carved pillars, with couch-type seating that ran around the sides and back of the van. But it was big and green and loud. And worst of all, had no air conditioning. Not good for the sticky summers in Florida where we lived. I remember one time I had to pick up my dad at lunchtime for some appointment, and by the time I got back to work, my shirt was literally drenched with sweat. I'm sure it made me a pretty popular girl at work.

After a few months of that, I finally saved enough to get a new car. It was actually an 8-year-old car, but new to me. A Honda Accord that had 140,000 miles on it. What possessed me to purchase a car that had so many miles on it, I'll never know. But it actually lasted for 4 years, and had nearly 200,000 miles when I finally traded it in. But not before countless repairs and many dollars invested. In addition to the major brake overhauls and overheating radiators, it also was quirky in the fact that if I turned off the car for more than 15 minutes, but less than 45 minutes, it wouldn't start. So I always had to time my outings to either be really quick, or really leisurely. The trunk also had holes in it from rust, so when it rained (which is a lot during the summers in Florida), my trunk would get wet. So I never carried anything in there.

I finally got a brand new car when I was 24. A blue-black Saturn. Finally, I had a dependable car, even if it was bare bones. No electric locks or windows, no CD player, but I was happy with a car that had a decent radio and that would start when I needed it to.

My Jetta was the first car I had with electronic windows and locks, although it still doesn't have a CD player. But I look at it this way. How else would I keep up with all the latest music if I didn't listen to the radio? I've had her for over 5 years, and she's been a very dependable, fun car. She's taken road trips across country, surviving tornado-like weather through Oklahoma and Texas. She's been to the beach in both California and Florida, and through the mountains in Oregon. She's survived a few fender benders, and scratches from falling items in the garage. She's been a good car.

Next month, we'll be looking for a new car. An SUV. One that will fit two car seats and still have enough room to transport either additional people or cargo. My little Jetta just won't cut it. Not without my husband having to drive with his long legs up around his head. I'll miss my Jetta. She gave me insight into what having a normal car could be like. While other people may strive for fancy cars like Volvos or Mercedes, my humble car beginnings just make me strive for a dependable car, with just a few extras (I WILL have a CD player in the next one!), that I can still look kind of cool driving.