This week for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop I chose prompt # 3.) Your first car. I’m pretty sure I’ve probably written about this before but since I have sometimers and can’t remember at the moment I’ll just do it again.
As those of you who have been reading me for a while know, I did not grow up a child of privilege and sometimes not even necessities but what we had we had and having to provide a car for your child was definitely NOT on the list of necessities in our house when I became driving age. Heck, I hardly ever got to even drive the family car. My mom worked full time so she had the car during the week and unless she needed me to run an errand for her, which wasn’t very often, I didn’t drive.
When I first moved away from home after graduation from high school, I first stayed with my brother in St. Louis for a couple of months and then moved to North Carolina to live with one of my older sisters. She worked for the city we lived in for the Inspections Department and got me a job working for the city too. My job wasn’t nearly as “glamorous” as hers. I was an Animal Control Officer which is a nice way to say I was a dog catcher.
My sister would drop me off on her way to work since it was near where her son went to school or I’d take her to work and then drive her car. After working there a while they let me drive the truck home at night sometimes. After someone flattened all 4 tires one night and left me a note that read “From Ghosts Of Puppies Past” they kind of decided it wasn’t such a good idea anymore. Then I, against my own better judgement, put aside my overwhelming fear of bicycles and bought a 10 speed to ride to work since I only lived a couple of miles from work.
I eventually tired of riding the bike and mooching rides off other people and decided it was time for me to buy myself a car. Let’s just say I was VERY naïve when it came to purchasing a vehicle. I had no direction and I had never been privy to the process of buying anything of any consequence. I did however go and talk to the loan officer where I banked and she told me they would approve a loan for a vehicle if everything lined up with what they wanted and what I had for a down payment, etc.
I set out to find a car and I don’t even remember how I ended up at the dealership where I did. I do remember that my neighbor from across the street and her husband took me to the dealership and he dropped us off. The car was an orange (or was it red?) Opel GT probably about a 1973 or so. It had one of those little funny humps on the hood and the headlights popped up. It was a little two seater. Maybe that was subconsciously where I fell in love with German engineering (I now own 4 VWs).
I suppose I must have come by and looked at the car beforehand because I don’t remember a lot of looking, just going in and signing the paperwork and she and I getting in the car to leave and me realizing at that very moment that the car was a manual transmission (4 speed)….and I had NO idea how to drive a manual transmission. Heck I didn’t even know what a clutch was, much less how to use one!
When I went back in to tell the salesman that I thought there was some mistake, that they must have given me the wrong car because I didn’t ask for a manual transmission he pretty much said “Too bad, so sad… your car now.” I guess they had been looking for the perfect Patsy to pawn that car off on and I drew that card! To top the fact that I couldn’t drive a manual, neither could my neighbor who came with me. She looked at me and said, “Well, you gotta learn to drive it sometime. I guess now’s as good a time as any!”
I got behind the wheel and I think we lived less that 10 miles from the dealership and it probably took us an hour to get home and I probably choked it out at least a dozen or more times. As soon as I got it out of 2nd gear I was fine. It was just getting it from a dead stop and then from 1st to 2nd. Once I got going I was okay until I had to stop and I must have hit every single light in that town red. And it got to the point that the last few stop signs I just did a slow roll through unless someone was coming. Thank God I didn’t have any real hills or I’d have been in a heap of trouble. If I remember correctly, when I got home I got the car about halfway up our steep steep driveway and made the mistake of hitting the brakes and then just started sliding back down the driveway so I just stopped it right there in the middle and put the emergency brake on and left it there.
I drove it every day and got pretty good at it but only had it a couple of weeks when the gears got really hard to shift. It got to where I had to put it in 1st every morning before I could put it in reverse which meant I either had to back into the driveway or put the clutch in and let the car drift backwards out of the driveway every morning which really messed with me steering ability and considering that we had a big telephone pole thisclose to the driveway at the end by the road on the passenger side really created a problem.
I only had the car a couple of weeks when I decided to drive it to Virginia to see my parents. It was about a 5 hour drive. Everything was going hunky dory until I stopped at the rest area in Richmond to go to the bathroom and couldn’t get it started again. Thankfully there were a couple of nice guys at the rest area that helped me kick start the car (they pushed it while I had it in second and popped the clutch to get it started….don’t be impressed I didn’t know how to do it until they told me). I was still pretty much fuming when I got to Charlottesville and got off the exit to get gas and go to my mom and dad’s house. The car stalled going down the exit ramp and I couldn’t get it restarted. Not even when we tried to kick start it.
I finally had a mechanic drive by who saw this helpless damsel in distress and he got it started and I drove it to the nearest station. The guy at the station told me he could fix it and he could probably get the parts in a week or two. WTH??? I had to be back in North Carolina on Monday morning ready to work! I don’t remember what he did to finally get it rigged enough to get me through the weekend but he did. He told me to pretty much drive it to my parent’s and leave it until I was ready to leave on Sunday night and not to keep turning it off and on. If I HAD to drive it and I HAD to stop somewhere to just leave it running!
I HAD to go see my friends while I was in…. right? Well, I DID go see my friends and on the way to their house on Saturday afternoon my car started smoking. No, I don’t mean a cigarette… I don’t even mean smoke coming from the tail pipe or even from under the hood. I mean smoke started coming out of the steering column! POURING out of the steering column and I could hear a like sizzling, crackling sound. Yep… my car was spontaneously combusting from the inside out! I pulled over to the side of the road as quickly as I could and turned it off. I let it sit for a while and drove to my friends house because they were closer than my parents house at this point. I had some friends who knew a little (very little) about cars look at it but they couldn’t figure it out either. I let it sit for a while and drove back to my parents and didn’t drive it again until I was ready to leave. Thank goodness I had no incidences on the way back to North Carolina.
I left the car at home while I worked Monday and as soon as work was done I drove my little piece of crap car to the dealership. I think they knew what was up as soon as they saw me coming and they were ready. And I was FUMING… I went in and talked to the salesman and he asked me what I expected them to do and I told him that I expected them to give me my money back and his response was ‘Honey, you wouldn’t expect to buy a dress and wear it to a party and then decide you didn’t like it and take it back and expect to get your money back, now would you? Cause that’s the same principle.” I retorted “No, but if I bought a dress to wear to a party and it fell apart WHILE I was wearing it I would take my dress back and I would get my money back…. THAT is the same principle!”
We argued back and forth for several minutes with him repeatedly telling me that he couldn’t help me and me finally out of frustration telling him that as far as I was concerned I would be just as happy to go get in my car and drive it through their pretty glass showroom windows since it wasn’t doing me any good. I was just the slightest bit miffed because I’m not one to threaten people. After I said that though he went and got the manager who told me there was no need to make idle threats which I assured him I was so angry that they were not idle (besides, all my friends were cops so I was pretty sure they would back me up).
He told me he wasn’t sure if there was any way he could help me and I had just about resigned myself to being stuck with the lemon car when inspiration struck! I asked him if he was aware of where I worked and he said no and I replied that I worked for the city….. Inspections Department (only a little stretch of the imagination) …..and was he aware of all the inspection violations going on in his shop? Did he realize I could probably have his entire store shut down in about 30 minutes? He started stammering and shuffling papers and then said “Why don’t we see if we can’t come to some sort of “understanding”?” I told him the only understanding I was going to have was when I got my money back….ALL my money back. He said “But you’ve had the car almost 3 weeks! And you’ve put over a 1,000 miles on it!” And I said “And do I need to remind you how many times that piece of crap broke down on me in those three weeks? And how it almost left me stranded 5 hours from here?” He responded “Let me see what I can do.” I told him I’d be happy to wait.
After about 20 minutes later he came back with a “buyer’s order” to buy the vehicle back from me and a check made out to me and the bank for the entire purchase price. I ended up losing $10 in the bank transaction. And I gained lessons and memories I’ll keep for a lifetime.